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

Open Thread – 05/10/2021 – GNXP

At Matt Yglesias’ recommendation, I decided to read By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean: The Birth of Eurasia. It’s decent. Recommended from me too.

This Liz Bruenig column, I Became a Mother at 25, and I’m Not Sorry I Didn’t Wait, has elicited unhinged responses. I feel that people invest too much into their various life choices in terms of those choices reflecting on their views and preferences for society as a whole. Americans express a preference for larger families than they end up having. Is that revealed preference? Or is it a cultural and policy environment that doesn’t allow for large families (I think it’s more cultural than policy to be honest, so not sure if it’s soluble)?

In general, people should talk less and just focus on their own life. If you want more kids, have them, figure out how you can have them, etc. If you don’t want to have kids, don’t, but kindly shut up about how awesome your life choice is and how you get to travel (many of us don’t think your life is that awesome and you constantly talking about how awesome it is is weird).

Substack, Steppe 1.0, Going Nomad. The first of many. Also, David Anthony: the origin of Indo-Europeans and RKUL: time well spent 05/05/2021. Kristian Kristiansen and Marie Favereau soon.

By the way, thanks to everyone who has supported my Substack! It’s been a good experience.

I figured out how to link to my Clubhouse account, Razib Khan. Also, I created a “club” for my Substack, Razib Khan’s Unsupervised Learning. I’ve been doing “Rooms” every Friday since the end of February.

Scotland’s Independence Parties Gain Upper Hand as Pressure Builds on U.K. I guess I was mildly pro-independence in 2014, but at this point, it seems like it would be ill-advised for Scotland to do this.

Breaking the Scale: Allometric scaling analysis in Carnivoran families.

Again, I recommend The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World. Reminder: this is a book about the Golden Horde. Not the whole Mongol Empire.

When Covid Hit, China Was Ready to Tell Its Version of the Story. Of course, China is manipulating media. First, the USA does some of this too. Voice of America? Second, I think The New York Times going the way of “moral clarity” really puts it in a worse position to respond and benefit from this expansion of Chinese propaganda. Half the articles in The Times read like biased propaganda as well, and they’re not even clever about it. The shift toward subscription newspapers to becoming “fan-service” for their customers means there’s top-down propaganda (China) and bottom-up propaganda (more and more The New York Times). It’s pretty clear that many of the desks of The New York Times won’t publish things their staffers and subscriber might not like.

These Neanderthals Weren’t Cannibals, So Who Ate Them? Stone Age Hyenas. Cool story.

The role of epistasis in amikacin, kanamycin, bedaquiline, and clofazimine resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex.

Why Did It Take So Long to Accept the Facts About Covid?

43 thoughts on “Open Thread – 05/10/2021 – GNXP

  1. Think Scottish independence is (unfortunately) inevitable. Just too much of these ideas about in Scotland that Scotland, because it “is a country and not a region”, should have co-equal voice with England in state policy – yet a vote of a Scot having 10x weight of an English vote is not consistent with democracy, so this can never happen. Or the equally difficult equivalent of “devolve all Scottish policy decisions to Scotland, but still have Scotland with 10% of votes over English laws and can act as a kingmaker in Westminster coalitions, wherein the SNP will always demand referenda as condition of support from the Labour party”. There’s a significant contingent of Scots who seem to want all these fairly cartoonishly non-democratic things or else vote for the SNP, who claim it as an independence vote.

    And within England, there is a significant cohort of media who’d argue that not calling a Scots independence referenda the minute support for the union dips below 50% is dictatorial and “an example of the dangerous authoritarian English nationalism sweeping Britain”. The same cohort who called for an immediate rerun of the EU ref on the basis that “it’s not undemocratic to allow us to change our minds” but claimed the original 2016 EU ref was “unnecessary, to solve an internal Tory dispute on an uncontroversial treaty issue which the public are not qualified to assess, and we aren’t a plebiscite democracy”.

    Between a large minority in Scotland who want democratically impossible things and a large minority media/academic cohort in England who view with an instinctive sympathy any means to subsume or dissolve Britain (or at least to humble and frighten the symbol of all they hate in the UK, older South East English Tories, the people they’d probably ideally prefer to see in the stocks), it seems inevitable.

  2. I Became a Mother at 25, and I’m Not Sorry I Didn’t Wait

    Perhaps what is most important there is what is not said. “I didn’t wait” used to mean having a child at 18 or 19 or 20, or perhaps right after graduating college. That it now means at 25 is hella important.

  3. I tend to think low birth rates are a combination of other opportunities, the ability to retire on your own income plus a public safety net, low early childhood mortality rates, and good birth control and abortion options. So there’s probably not a lot that can be done to really incentivize it that wouldn’t be socially and politically bad, and that’s why you see low birth rates in countries that have good welfare states as well as rich countries that don’t.

    It’s worth pointing out that there’s nothing new about a significant chunk of people in a society not having children. I just remember Charles Mann in 1493 talking about how a lot of 17th century Chinese men spent their lives as bachelors because female infanticide plus mistress-taking by wealthier Chinese men limited their marriage options.

    If you don’t want to have kids, don’t, but kindly shut up about how awesome your life choice is and how you get to travel

    I don’t blame them for pushing back a bit against the constant societal message that they’ve failed for not having children (especially against women who don’t have children).

    The Scottish National Party is probably not going to get another crack at a meaningful referendum on independence unless Labour needs them for a coalition down the line. Certainly the Conservatives have no reason to humor them on it.

  4. @Matt: yet a vote of a Scot having 10x weight of an English vote is not consistent with democracy, so this can never happen

    Something like this seems to work “just fine” in the US with, say, Wyoming in the position of Scotland and California in the position of England:

    *1 Senator per: 290K people (WY) vs. 20 million people (CA) — roughly 1:70
    1 Representative per: 580K people (WY) vs. 775K people (CA) — (roughly 3:4)
    1 electoral vote per: 190K people (WY) vs. 760K people (CA) — (roughly 1:4)

    *(Figures from wikipedia, using April 2020 figures, and assuming that CA loses a seat in the House in 2022).

  5. @marcel, I don’t think a two state union between Wyoming and California would work either, or one with 3 Wyomings and 1 California. That setup kind of works in the US (for values of work where the Left, with some justice, works into a steadier state apoplexy about it year by year!) because you have a ton of medium sized states and C and W are accepted as the extreme of the distribution, and because you have a desire to keep the Senate small, which forces certain low granularity of representation. But with this disparity and two or four states together? No chance.

  6. This very long, but, very, very important. It is not my opinion but a very well researched and reported pair of articles by well known science writer Nicholas Wade:

    “The theory that COVID-19 escaped from a lab may not be so far-fetched” By Nicholas Wade | May 9, 2021

    This is a condensed version of a much longer article: :”The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?” By Nicholas Wade | May 5, 2021 in “The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists”

    Also at

    The following is from the NYPost article:

    The natural-emergence theory has long held the upper hand, in part because of strong statements made by virology experts from early on.

    … a group of virologists and others wrote in The Lancet on Feb. 19, 2020 … Scientists “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife,” …

    … the Lancet letter had been organized and drafted by Peter Daszak, president of the New York City-based EcoHealth Alliance. Daszak’s organization funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. …

    Virologists have a significant stake in the origin issue because they have for years enhanced the danger of natural viruses in their laboratories. Their rationale is that they could get ahead of nature by discovering the few tweaks that will let an animal virus infect humans. This knowledge, they argued, would help predict and prevent pandemics.

    … virologists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China were doing exactly these kinds of experiments. The program was headed by Dr. Zheng-li Shi, known as Bat Lady in China because of her intense interest in bat viruses. Dr. Shi had gathered many coronaviruses, the type to which SARS2 belongs, from caves in Yunnan in southern China. Her research focused on the spike proteins which stud the surface of the virus and latch on to its target cells.

    … Shi was taking spike protein genes from different viruses, inserting them into a series of virus backbones, and trying to find the combination that would best attack humans. …

    “It is clear that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was systematically constructing novel chimeric coronaviruses and was assessing their ability to infect human cells and human-ACE2-expressing mice,” says Richard H. Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University and leading expert on biosafety.

    “It is also clear,” Dr. Ebright said, “that, depending on the constant genomic contexts chosen for analysis, this work could have produced SARS-CoV-2 or a proximal progenitor of SARS-CoV-2.” …

    How do we know for sure that this is what Shi was doing? Because, by a strange twist in the story, she was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health — channeled through Daszak. And these grant proposals, a matter of public record, spell out exactly what experiments she planned to do.

    Not only was she generating dangerous viruses, she was doing so in arguably unsafe conditions. There are many Internet photos of Shi working in a bubble suit in the highest-level safety lab, known as a BSL4. But these labs are a pain to work in, and all her coronavirus work, she has said, was done at lower safety levels, including one known as BSL2. …

    “It is clear that some or all of this work was being performed using a biosafety standard — biosafety level 2, the biosafety level of a standard US dentist’s office — that would pose an unacceptably high risk of infection of laboratory staff upon contact with a virus having the transmission properties of SARS-CoV-2,” says Ebright.

    So the lab-escape scenario … rests on the specific program of research that Shi was known to be pursuing, and on the fact that she was working in minimal, probably inadequate, safety conditions.

    * * *
    there is a small region of its spike protein called the furin cleavage site, just 12 units of its 30,000-unit genome. … no other known virus in SARS2’s group has this 12-unit insert. … The insert also contains entities known as arginine codons, which are common in humans but not in coronaviruses like SARS2.

    Under the lab-escape scenario, the insert is easy to explain. “Since 1992 the virology community has known that the one sure way to make a virus deadlier is to give it a furin cleavage site,” writes Dr. Steven Quay … At least 11 such experiments have been published, including one by Dr. Shi.

    “When I first saw the furin cleavage site in the viral sequence, with its arginine codons, I said to my wife it was the smoking gun for the origin of the virus,” said David Baltimore, an eminent virologist and former president of the California Institute of Technology. [winner of Nobel Prize in Medicine]

    * * *

    So let’s ask who is to blame, provisionally, if the virus did indeed escape from a lab.

    The first in line are Dr. Shi and her colleagues. They were generating dangerous viruses in unsafe conditions. …

    Second in line for rebuke are the Chinese authorities, who have done their utmost to conceal the nature of the tragedy and their responsibility for it.

    Third are virologists around the world who knew better than anyone the dangers of enhancing natural viruses but couldn’t resist the temptation. …

    Fourth may be the US National Institutes of Health, which funded Shi’s research via Daszak, despite a moratorium from 2014 to 2017. …

    * * *

    The following is from the long version:

    From June 2014 to May 2019 Dr. Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance had a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, to do gain-of-function research with coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. …

    The responsibility of the NIAID and NIH is even more acute because for the first three years of the grant to EcoHealth Alliance there was a moratorium on funding gain-of-function research. …

    The moratorium specifically barred funding any gain-of-function research that increased the pathogenicity of the flu, MERS or SARS viruses. But then a footnote on p.2 of the moratorium document states that “An exception from the research pause may be obtained if the head of the USG funding agency determines that the research is urgently necessary to protect the public health or national security.”

    This seems to mean that either the director of the NIAID, Dr. Anthony Fauci, or the director of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, or maybe both, would have invoked the footnote in order to keep the money flowing to Dr. Shi’s gain-of-function research. …

    When the moratorium was ended in 2017 it didn’t just vanish but was replaced by a reporting system, the Potential Pandemic Pathogens Control and Oversight (P3CO) Framework, which required agencies to report for review any dangerous gain-of-function work they wished to fund.

    According to Dr. Ebright, both Dr. Collins and Dr. Fauci “have declined to flag and forward proposals for risk-benefit review, thereby nullifying the P3CO Framework.” …

  7. Scotland: Will not be independent because it is economically dependent on pensions and doles payed by London.

    There was theory that North Sea oil could pay for it, but that resource is in irreversible decline.

    The EU can’t afford to take in that sick puppy either. Let alone the encouragement it would give to all sorts of sub-national independence movements in Spain and elsewhere.

    Of course dependence breeds resentment. It always does. But, in a few years, Scottish independence will follow the track of Quebec independence into sentimentalism and irrelevance.

  8. One subtext that I took from Liz Bruenig’s piece is that policy could be put in place that would make having a family less economically burdensome.

    So her “I was a 25 year old mother” meme is there to say that she was somewhat fortunate to be able to do so.

    Of course some took this as an implied insult.

    But I agree with you that culture goes a long way to explaining the declining birth rate. I just don’t think it would be that heavily into decline except for the economic issues.

  9.“Bronze Age migrations changed societal organization, genomic landscape in Italy”
    The genomic analysis of ancient samples enabled researchers from Estonia, Italy and the UK to date the arrival of the Steppe-related ancestry component to 3,600 years ago in Central Italy, also finding changes in burial practice and kinship structure during this transition.

    Looks like a must-read and worth comparison with Sardinia. 1600 BCE is roughly a full 900 years after Britain and 1100 after Poland/Baltic. They also say 2000 BCE in Northern Italy.

    It seems likely to me that many Indo-European groups became agrarians in North and Central Europe, then only made impacts to the south once they’d built up in demographic “force” and were looking for more farmland? Steppe people replace thinly dispersed northern EEF with more efficient herding economy, but then only make big impacts to the south when they’re big population agrarians themselves?

    Iberia seems to be completing after 2000 BCE too, and although some steppe ancestry bearers are present in the era 2500 – 200BCE, many samples in Iberia in that era are still I2 with no steppe ancestry. Will have to read this paper to see what happens; may help explain why earlier farmer male y-dna probably persists much more in Greece and Italy than in Spain.

    “In addition, we were able to find a shift in burial practice correlated with the change of relatedness between the individuals in two of the sites, but we did not find any changes in the phenotypes of ancient Italians during the transition,”

    Suggests Italians took on probably about 50% exogenous ancestry during transition (since the pics show about 20% steppe, ergo probably more like 50% replacement?) but were not lighter nor darker, not more lactase persistent nor less persistent, afterwards. Guessing at the phenotypes investigated.

  10. Independence would lead to better political outcomes for England, and better economic outcomes for Scotland… Even without the North Sea oil bonanza.
    It would also push the Scots to more politically responsible positions and end Labour’s dominance.

  11. @Roger Sweeny & Brett

    This may just be a one-generation cultural issue. Millennials were sold the idea that you should always be getting more education and leveling up in your career, that your 20s is the time to do this, and also it’s the time to “figure out who you are” and other social messages. Considering that women especially stayed in college and kept acquiring graduate degrees over the past 15 years, all of it for nought really since double master’s degrees and internships abroad haven’t resulted in high-paying professional degrees with stable employment in most cases, it’s unsurprising that there’s a large number of women approaching 30 or well past it who are fully invested in their singlehood and/or childlessness as an important part of their identity. So a piece like Bruenig’s, and it must be remembered that she comes from a wealthy family as her dad is a major defense contractor and as such she had significantly more opportunities and doors open to her than the average millennial woman, can set them off.

    Gen Z seems to have a much more realistic view of the intrinsic worth of a degree, and are skeptical that “Keep going to school until you’re making $180k” is a path they should follow. Although it’s not an encouraging sign that reduced expectations are common amongst the younger set.

  12. As I’ve said in the past, I think the falling birth rate/rising age for first child is to a significant extent because there is no inherent biological desire to have children. I mean, why would there need to be? For eons all that was needed was an inherent desire to have sex (with desire/consent sadly optional for women), which (presuming it’s heterosexual sex of the normal sort) would result in a pregnancy. Layered on top of this was a maternal instinct to care for children once they arrived. Indeed, maternal instincts really only seem to kick in most strongly shortly after birth – probably so as not to have mothers too horribly troubled when non-viable babies are born, but this was hijacked by many cultures to allow for the abandonment of newborn babes (something which would never be done with older children).

    Regardless, take these two drives together – the drive to have sex, and the drive to care for a baby once it arrives – and you have enough to sustain the species. Of course across virtually all traditional societies there were strong cultural norms which promoted having a family, but once birth control made a sex drive and pregnancy severable, it was quite easy for these norms to warp over time.

    Ultimately, I think part of the issue regarding delayed/absent childbirth is a question of “groupness.” I think the choice to have kids – or when to have them – is probably largely made by most people who “plan” on an unconscious level. If they have a peer group where everyone is breeding, they will feel some pressure to conform. If everyone in their peer group is staying single and childless, they will come up with some after-the-fact rationalizations to excuse their continued lack of children.

    In order to help play into group dynamics, a good “nudge” to help raise birth rates would probably be working to increase socialization between parents and non-parents. Over the last few generations a gaping chasm has opened up between what childless people do to socialize and what parents do to socialize. Parents and non-parents increasingly live in different neighborhoods, socialize at different times/in different places, take different vacations – the list goes on and on. If your only interaction with your “breeder” (former) friends is the occasional Facebook post, it doesn’t seem that real. But the current setup – where we effectively silo away the childless in an alternate social system, which they are more-or-less exiled from as soon as they have a baby – seems set up for failure.

  13. @ marcel proust

    Maybe Wyoming’s Senators represent some of California’s conservative voters who never get represented by California’s Senators.

  14. @ Mekal

    There’s an old saying that, “You can’t beat somebody with nobody.” Even if staying in school a long time only enters you in a lottery for a steady high-paying professional job, you may well choose that over no chance at all.

  15. Is there any tangible difference in levels of support for Scottish independence between highland and lowland Scots (or between Catholics and Protestants)? Is the highland-lowland dichotomy even really much of thing anymore in Scotland?

  16. @Roger Sweeny

    That’s a good point. One thing I noticed among millennials (my generation) that’s different from earlier ones is that for people born in the 50s or 60s, getting married and/or having kids while you were in graduate school, medical school, professional school, etc, wasn’t unusual; nowadays, being married while in school is unusual, and having kids is extremely unusual. There’s a notion that you need to have become firmly established, or have won that lottery you mention, prior to starting family.

  17. @ Mekal

    I think one reason that could be done before and is less possible now is that it was just assumed that the married couple (with or without children) would go where the husband got a job. Now, both spouses have to have one, and they both want a good one. So if you get married, you are committing to somehow finding a location where there are two acceptable jobs–and continuing a marriage where you hope neither party sacrifices where s/he wants to live or what s/he wants to do.

  18. I had to laugh when I saw this comment on your Unherd piece

    Sidney Falco Sidney Falco
    Another essay about how we all used to black, or how wonderful Islam was/is from someone with the irrelevant veneer of “genetics” expertise.
    Would be better suited to the Guardian or the BBC.

    I don’t think Mr Falco is familiar with your writings.

  19. Razib, why do you read the New York Times so much? Especially given your personal experience with that “newspaper.” It’s poisonous. Filled with lies from top to bottom. I believe it reveals a serious lapse in judgment on your part.

  20. What happened to the book club btw? Already over? I got the impression the books were kind of boring and rambling (don’t intend to read them myself), but still would be nice to know if this project has been ended.

  21. The first of my four kids will start college this coming Fall. I’m looking at spending the next ten years working 80 hour weeks so that they can graduate with a minimal debt load.
    To me, that’s the single biggest impediment to having even a moderately sized family.
    Everything else has been (almost) pure joy, but the thought of shoveling money into the gaping maws of people who hate me is extremely off-putting.

  22. I am unclear about why people are concerned about birth rates that are less than the replacement rate. I am aware of 2 sets of reasons for being concerned about them, economic reasons and sociological ones. As for the former, so far as I can tell, they are misguided. The two most oft-expressed economic concerns are: (1) fewer workers having to support an aging population and (2) labor shortages. Dean Baker (a generally lefty, pro-competition DC economist) has written extensively about these concerns. So long as productivity growth is no less than the growth in the share of retirees in the population, per capita income will not decline. This is often overlooked since for the last 40 years or so, the top x% of the income distribution has slurped up all the gains from productivity growth (where x is somewhere between 1 & 20). Had that not been the case, we would no doubt be more likely to keep productivity growth front and center in our thoughts.

    As for sociological concerns, the only one I am familiar with is that in a society in which population is declining, innovation — both technical & cultural — is likely to be rare and the society will be generally conservative and static. This seems speculative, and it’s not obvious to me that global population decline would not be a good thing given climate change and more general sorts of environmental degradation. In any event, if this is indeed a legitimate concern, government and private entities could establish awards for various sorts of innovation to encourage that.

  23. “…kindly shut up about how awesome your life choice is and how you get to travel (many of us don’t think your life is that awesome and you constantly talking about how awesome it is is weird)”

    LOL! Thanks for the belly laugh. Wish I had a tee shirt with that sentiment on it. I would wear it regularly. 🙂

  24. Millennials who had not yet had children and weren’t sure if they would told The Times in a 2018 survey that they didn’t want to sacrifice leisure time, that they hadn’t found the right partner (similar currents seem to underlie the trend of later marriage among younger generations), that they weren’t certain they would make good parents.

    As a pretty young millennial, in my experience a shocking number of people fall into category A. A disgusting number of my peers are hedonists, narcissists; hyperconsumers. In dating, I’ve been with a lot of people who either believe it’s immoral to have children, physically repulsive as an idea, who fear that it may interrupt their ability to have sex, or permanently and destructively distend their vagina. They see no value in rearing a creature that will only steal their time for self-satisfaction and entertainment. Though I’m not that bright myself, I’ve had surprising luck in ending up with a lot of gifted women, including a few who identified as “non-binary”. It has been pretty depressing to witness people who are much brighter than me value nothing more than power (usually derived from a career), excessive media consumption, confectionery, an ever-desensitizing search for novelty and orgasm. Millennials and Gen Z don’t seem to be much different from eachother either, in this respect.

    People aren’t settling down to have kids anymore because they’re too busy seeking validation or some hypothetical ideal sexual partner based on shallow physical traits, on an endless sexual merry-go-round. Their bodies eventually begin to slow down, and they realize that it can’t go on forever, but the conditioning wrought by spending a decade or more commodifying and disposing of their partners will continue to influence their behaviour and wash away any foundations lain. A lot of these people are too spoiled to be saved. Being amongst them is pretty miserable.

  25. Because risk factors for South Asian folks and diabetes and heart disease have come up before – – some large million strong UK study yesterday for BMI thresholds for diabetes risk, and ergo for where we should consider “obesity” to begin, for different groups (“We aimed to prospectively identify ethnicity-specific BMI cutoffs for obesity based on the risk of type 2 diabetes that are risk-equivalent to the BMI cutoff for obesity among White populations (≥30 kg/m2)“).

    “For the equivalent age-adjusted and sex-adjusted incidence of type 2 diabetes at a BMI of 30·0 kg/m2 in White populations, the BMI cutoffs were 23·9 kg/m2 (95% CI 23·6–24·0) in south Asian populations, 28·1 kg/m2 (28·0–28·4) in Black populations, 26·9 kg/m2 (26·7–27·2) in Chinese populations, and 26·6 kg/m2 (26·5–27·0) in Arab populations.”

    Based on that “obesity” in South Asians would start at BMI levels that are still at the edge of “healthy weight” for White Europeans. At 5’10”, “obesity” would begin for South Asians at about 166 pounds and at 210 pounds for WE (a whole third of body weight!). Seems pretty extreme. East Asians (Chinese) are about intermediate. Kind of depressing for anyone managing their weight but worth knowing I guess. (South Asian subgroups are even more extreme). Maybe it is partially moderated by body height but doesn’t say so.

  26. @Roger Sweeney

    Thinking more about your comment, and I am sure you’re right that this is a big part of it, the canary in the coal mine for this baby bust then was likely the furious reply among college-educated women to that op-ed a number of years ago (2015?) by an older female Princeton alumna advising younger female Princeton students and recent alumnae that they should focus on finding a strong long-term relationship, even a finance and husband-to-be, during their time at Princeton or shortly after graduating, while the connections were still fresh. A lot of “How dare you, you old lady, suggest that I should view my degree as a kind of M.R.S.?! It’s not the 1950s anymore, I am going to build my career and establish myself before even thinking about finding a fiance” replies.

    Obviously women who went to Princeton still did ok professionally, but there were a lot of women who went to lesser schools, ones that didn’t offer the connections for a stable career, that still objected just as strenuously to the notion that they should be looking at their fellow college or grad school men as potential husbands. Those latter women are now probably saddled with $40k debt or more, lacking a decent job, and struggling to maintain stable romantic relationships that could lead to family formation.

  27. As a quick thing, taking those obesity thresholds from that study in my last comment ( and then match against available average world scale BMI data ( :

    Some regions and nations would then actually be closer in mean BMI to their ethnic obesity frontier than high income European nations. If East Asians actually “metabolically obese” (and possibly cardiovascularly obese) at 3 BMI lower, then all the East Asian BMI advantage vs Europe is wiped out for’ex, and South Asian “obese” threshold appears to be so low that even places like India are closer to the BMI threshold than Europe (which will be worse if we consider that there might be some higher standard deviation of BMI and some people are malnourished still…).

    If the problem is a lot worse than we think for the current BMI and the current age structure (for example African nations have comparable proximity to obesity frontier as European… but much younger!) then that makes the urgency of obesity treatments (drugs, diet regimes that really work) to avert future world health problem even more urgent than we think. If Semaglutide really works then it can’t come fast enough…

  28. I look forward hearing a podcast with Kristian Kristiansen. He presents some things that were, I am convinced, hidden and not presented by people who knew them, including D.Anthony. I found one his text – Steppe migrant thugs pacified by Stone Age farming women (2017), Faculty of Science – U. of Copenhagen.

    He says in 2017: “There was a heavy reduction of Neolithic DNA in temperate Europe, and a dramatic increase of the new Yamnaya genomic component that was only marginally present in Europe prior to 3000 BC. Moreover, the apparent abruptness with which this change occurred indicates that it was a large-scale migration event, rather than a slow periodic inflow of people.”

    In recent writing he gives more specific description that Yamnaya was the most murderous ancient group what actually explains ‘heavy reduction of Neolithic DNA’, i.e. that they conducted a genocide by killing about 93% of indigenous men. He also confirms that they took local women who thought them the agriculture language which they did not know and that ‘this language created foundations for later Germanic languages, termed Proto-Germanic’ (KK). Kristian still calls this Yamnaya language – Indo-European, although I believe that he will conclude that this is illogical. If this meaningless term is removed it would be much easier to make right conclusion.

    This conclusion (without using the IE term) would be that indigenous European (Vinca) language influenced all later European languages. Simple as that. This language was developing since the beginning of ‘I’ haplogroup, during the Ice Age (which the most people spent in Vinca), 8-9000 years after ICE Age (since e.g. 12000BC), until Yamnaya came to Europe in 2800BC. They are known only as nomads since 3100BC and came to Europe after couple hundreds of years what is insufficient time to develop, neither sophisticated language nor any mythology (not mentioning Rg Veda for example).

    In addition to the previous, it is important fact which KK presents that Yamnaya brought black plague to Europe which contributed to the almost extinction of local Euro people so as that CW pottery was also done by indigenous women.

  29. PS: Previously mentioned, recent KK’s writing can be found at:

    To KK’s ‘…of all time’ I could add – up to today.

    Speaking about languages…KK currently works at U.of.Gothenburg. I recently asked (brown pundits) what the meanings of RG and VEDA are and in which language. I did not get a satisfactory answer. I tried to help by giving them a hint, including the name of the previous University and asked the meaning of BURG (or BERG) in many toponyms (e.g. Bergamo, Bergen, Hamburg, etc) and surnames, where they may or may not uncover the meaning of RG.

    This hint could not help either, but, it seems, people here are more knowledgeable. To find the real meaning of Rg Veda (officially, RG is translated as ‘verses’ or ‘praise’) would be a globally significant contribution. Maybe some knowledge of sc. “Indo-European” language can help?

  30. Finished Michael Lewis’ “the premonition” (about covid and pandemics) and the book “reopening Muslim Minds.”
    I felt they were both pretty average but I did finish them.

  31.“archaeological investigation in Istanbul ahead of the construction of a subway station near the European shore of the Bosphorus uncovered burials dated to between 3500 and 3000 B.C. Archaeologist Mehmet Ali Polat said some 80 burials were recovered among a series of kurgans and rows of stones. “A total of 75 of these 82 tombs belong to cremation, that is, bodies buried by burning,” he added. “Seven of them were direct burials.” Two terracotta figurines were recovered from one of the burials. Polat explained that symbols on the figurines have been identified as runic alphabet symbols from Romania’s Vinca culture, suggesting early Bronze Age migration and trade between Anatolia and the Balkans”

    Bet adna labs would love to sample the direct burials!

  32. Apparantly there will be some news on pre-Natufian Levantine dna in early June.

  33. Vinca (a suburb of Belgrade, 14 km from its downtown) was New York of the ancient world. By witnessing the fall of current hypotheses (Anatolian and Kurgan) its time is just coming. More than 700 localities were discovered in Serbia alone and spreading to the Crete, still little explored (Vinca itself less than 4-5%). Vinca’s alphabet was discovered in 80 localities. The oldest in the world and presented more than 50 years ago, still not fully recognised because, at the time, it was rejected to be named Southeastern European alphabet instead of Vinca’s alphabet. So as Etruscan (i.e. Raseni) texts, written in alphabet derived from Vinca’s, for which the mainstream still does not recognise that were deciphered almost 40 years ago, a book written about this, phd theses analysed their legal content. So many other things. Two minutes about the basics:

  34. @Matt

    Nice article. Here is the full article:

    A very delicate work is done and all the graves are opened and documented during the excavations, according to Mehmet Ali Polat, an archaeologist involved in excavations.

    Kurgan-type graves found dates back to 3,500 B.C., that is, they belong to the era that we call the first bronze period in chronology,” Polat said, adding that nearly 82 graves were found inside and outside the kurgans in rows of stones.

    “A total of 75 of these 82 tombs belong to cremation, that is, bodies buried by burning. Seven of them were direct burials,” he noted.

    “There were some symbols on the figurines. When we did some research, we saw that these were runic alphabet symbols. Symbols are seen in the Vinca culture in Romania,” Polat added.

    When the tombs are evaluated together with the small finds and runic alphabet symbols, it can change the migration map from Anatolia to the Balkans, to the northeast of Europe and the Black Sea, according to the expert.

    Hope to see ancient DNA research on those 7 direct burials. Would be among the most important ancient DNA tests on any skeletons found in Istanbul.

    They could be Proto-Anatolian IE given they had kurgans and show cultural connections with the northern Balkans and the Pontic steppe and given their time period. Would be strange if their symbols belonged to the Vinca culture though since the Vinca culture had already disappeared during their time.

  35. @Onur, yeah that would be the conventional inference (and not unreasonably so).

    Though as far as I know there are all kinds of kurgan (burial mound) type burials in SE Europe / Caucasus of people who do not turn out to have any steppe ancestry I think (GAC, Baden, Maikop).

  36. @ John Massey

    Science isn’t perfect. “Screw ups” happen. From ignorance to knowledge is often not a straight line. But this really pissed me off:

    “Again though, no news conference, no press release.”

    Hey, if the medical authorities admitted they had been wrong, people wouldn’t listen to them so much and people would get sick and die and that would be awful, so the authorities have to give the impression that they’re always right.

    They’re not covering their ass. They’re saving lives.

  37. Seen elsewhere: – Claims some new analysis to refute Henrich.

    (The Henrich Thesis being, in short and in essence, if I may described it in my own way that’s biased against it: ‘Church marriage bans created over time a psychological modernity the Roman Empire lacked, and only then was a true industrial and commercial revolution possible! If the Roman Empire had had access to the Three Great Chinese inventions of paper, the compass and gunpowder, absolutely no economic modernity would have resulted! Didn’t have the weak kinship mentality, see.’.)

    policytensor suggests: “In forthcoming work, David Le Bris and Victor Gay show that the correlation between Church influence and cousin marriage vanishes if you control for Todd’s principle of conservatism of peripheral areas — operationalized by geodesic distance from the center of Neolithic innovation in Sumer. This is consistent with Neolithic time-depth being a mediator between Church policy and cousin marriage. But Neolithic time-depth cannot be a mediator between Church policy and cousin marriage because causes have to precede effects in time. Meanwhile, cousin marriage is more strongly correlated with distance from the center of Neolithic innovation than Church exposure.”

    This is the idea that, to paraphrase is ‘Oh, the patriarchal endogamous family is a feature that is in the long term an innovation of civilization, and this explains the ‘Reversal of Fortunes’ within continents, where long civilized areas within continents (China within East Asia, Egypt within West Eurasia etc) have tended to adapt to modernity less well’. (as in the paper of Putterman 2006)

    Put another way, civilization and urbanization bred Bronze Age patriarchy, which eventually undermined civilization by the introduction of new family forms which were a negative influence on the emergence of a freer and more economically sophisticated society, by creating psychological conformity that inhibited economic modernity and family structures in conflict with the state and so on.

    For evidence of this he (Policy Tensor) cites ancient dna evidence from a Corded Ware burial, and claims it shows evidence of a nuclear family structure (“exogamous, patrilocal and nuclear”). (That raised an eyebrow as in some ways seems a contradiction in terms; strong patrilocality is not thought to coincide with the nuclear family, generally? But anyways).

    Female exogamy does generally seems a common thread in ancient dna sets so that seems reasonably supported. Here’s a broader summation from this week of what a much larger set of ancient dna from the Mokrin study – Surveying a range of studies on different cemetaries they find “It is evident from the few existing palaeogenomic studies on this topic that there is significant regional and temporal variability in the social structures and heredity patterns of Late/Final Neolithic and EBA societies, although one common thread among the different societies investigated appears to be the practice of female exogamy”. Some are strictly patrilineal and patrilocal that they cite, as in Bronze Age post-Indo European farmers in Germany, or pre-Indo-European farmers in Italy as here – – while some have more male mobility as well as in Mokrin. But it seems some level of female exogamy is common.

    However, where I get more negative though, is when it will come to the ancient dna outside Central Europe, which we certainly have. A bigger problem I would guess for what he is suggesting (which seems to be that endogamous and patriarchal families evolved in the Near East over a long time, and are not a fairly recent introduction from Islam) is that we have ancient dna methods that can identify endogamy. In these appears to be, that it was absent among the Roman Italy ancient dna set with plentiful “East Mediterranean” ancestry who to large extent represent migrants from the civilized East (and present in the Italy set only in some odd Iron Age folks from a particular crypt). And I think it was absent also thus far in the much more limited direct pre-medieval data sets in the Near East. Certainly does not seem at anything like the levels Henrich’s regression would predict that it should be based on “Zero centuries under the Western Medieval Church” (which I think would be predict between 1 in 8 and 1 in 5 births should show some recent endogamy).

    Further ancient dna from this region and across the world will bear this out, or not! My prediction will be that we will see a bunch of different societies at low levels of endogamy, with different levels of pre-modern economic sophistication; a reduction in endogamy won’t be seen to be consequential on “Church marriage bans” or causal to the modern “Rise of Europe”. It will be more likely to be an effect and correlated factor than cause, as it falls on the margin from uncommon to rare to ultra-rare as people and economic networks become more mobile and wider, and take in steadily larger populations. (And probably a late influence of Islam and Judaism spiking consanguinity in the last millennium? Orthoprax Abrahamic montheism?)

    One question would remain though about why the medieval church botherered with marriage bans, if cousin marriage was rare anyway. One reason might be that it was precisely because it was rare that they bothered so with it. Rather than the church as moral crusaders imposing a moral norm and changing society and responding to a real condition in society, perhaps they were just “virtue signalling social justice warriors” (in modern terms) getting on the side of conventional morality and a conventional norm and moral panic, to ever more extreme and virtue signalling display? (“Society thinks marrying your cousin is bad and somewhat against morality? Well the Church one-ups that; we’ll ban marrying your 3rd cousin! What would you do without our moral leadership? Now please pay your tithe, we’ve got bishops to support and investitures don’t come cheap.”).

  38. @Roger Sweeny – It’s a bit more than that. But never mind. I hope people have got the message now, although I doubt many of them have. They should have got it a long time back. Our two biggest clusters happened because of aerosol transmission in inadequately ventilated enclosed spaces.

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