Open Thread, 04/12/2019

Just a reminder for people to check in on The Insight this week. Lots of talk about Denisovans between Spencer and myself. We’ve also got a follow-up podcast scheduled with a researcher working in Denisovan genomics in a few weeks (we’re on Spotify now by the way).

Our three new hires at George Mason economics. These look good.

Sri Lanka Suicide Bombings Targeting Christians Kill Hundreds. The most likely culprits seem to be a jihadist group active in southern South Asia.

A Transient Pulse of Genetic Admixture from the Crusaders in the Near East Identified from Ancient Genome Sequences. I think the “Crusader genes” are hard to find in the Near East because the collapse of the Latin kingdoms was gradual enough that “Franks” and their scions mostly managed to get out and go back to Western Europe.

Whole-genome reference panel of 1,781 Northeast Asians improves imputation accuracy of rare and low-frequency variants.

Anxious Times In Pakistan’s Pagan Valley.

Why One-Third Of Biologists Now Question Darwinism. I’m writing a response to this piece for The Federalist. Rather than a response to Intelligent Design, I want to represent what evolutionary biology really is.

Evidence for Early European Neolithic Dog Dispersal: New Data on South-Eastern European subfossil dogs from Prehistory and Antiquity Ages.

Open Thread, 04/15/2019

After reading Jared Rubin’s Rulers, Religion, and Riches: Why the West Got Rich and the Middle East Did Not I can say I highly recommend it. Not necessarily because I’m entirely convinced by the thesis, which is quite subtle, but can be reduced to the proposition that religious elites in the Islamic world were never marginalized to the same extent that religious elites in the Christian world were, and so there did not emerge and economic elite which dictated changes in cultural and state amenable to their interests (and therefore, economic growth).

I don’t know if I’m going to fully review Rulers, Religion, and Riches, because I’m still thinking about all the arguments. But, I can recommend it because there are so many interesting subsections. Early on figure 1.1 and 1.2 show the most populous cities in Europe and the Islamic world in 800 and 1300. These data confirm that Europe lagged the Islamic world in 800, but had caught up by 1300. You should have already known this, but Rubin’s focus on data clarifies and solidifies much.

Though I was already sympathetic to the assertion that the timing of the Protestant Reformation was causally connected to the expansion of printing, again Rubin’s quantitative analyses convince me further. As a skeptical of Max Webber’s model, I find Rubin’s argument for why Protestantism was correlated with early modern economic growth much more persuasive (read the book!).

This week on The Insight I’ll be talking to Steve Stewart-Williams, author of The Ape that Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve. Most of the conversation revolves around evolutionary psychology, a topic I haven’t thought about much recently to be honest. The Ape that Understood the Universe is an irreverent, and broad-church, take on the discipline (there is not much mention of “cognitive modules” in the book).

On my other podcast, I dropped two recently that readers of this weblog might be interested in. First, one with Phillipe Lemoine, everyone’s favorite French philosophical “edgelord.” He has a blog post which I recommend to you, Polarization and misrepresentation of the outgroup.

Second, I talked to Zaid Jilani. Along with Leighton Woodhouse, he is behind the Extremely Offline podcast. Zaid is clearly a man of the Left, but he seems to have a traditionally liberal perspective on intellectual discourse. The most recent episode of their podcast featured a discussion between Mike Cernovich and Katie Herzog.

Was Thomas Kuhn Evil? Definitely overrated and not totally coherent, no?

Silicon Valley Housing Crisis Ensnares Stanford. More “cost-of-living porn.” Now I’m reading stories of hairdressers buying houses in Arizona and flying back on Southwest to San Francisco periodically.

Loss-of-function tolerance of enhancers in the human genome.

Genomic selection for lentil breeding: empirical evidence.

John Snow Emails 23andMe About His DNA Results. Genealogically he’s 12.5%. DNA is not magic!

Iran’s Revolution Reconsidered. I always thought it was known that the Iranian Revolution had an element of Platonism? Shia Islam did not turn as definitively against Hellenic thought as the Sunnis did after al-Ghazali.

Origin of elevational replacements in a clade of nearly flightless birds – most diversity in tropical mountains accumulates via secondary contact following allopatric speciation.

Macroevolutionary integration of phenotypes within and across ant worker castes.

Defining the genetic and evolutionary architecture of alternative splicing in response to infection.

By the I, I mentioned this on Twitter. 23andMe says I’m 97% “Broadly South Asian” and my parents are 99% “Broadly South Asian.” That broadly part clearly includes people with substantial East Asian ancestry, as is the norm among most Bengalis, especially those of us from the east. That’s fine, but the method they’re using is masking this from customers. I can see why they do this, but the PCA don’t lie, and we’re off-cline…. The admixture is just “old” (~1,500 years old).

Bayesian Estimation of Population Size Changes by Sampling Tajima’s Trees.

Multiple Deeply Divergent Denisovan Ancestries in Papuans. Many seem skeptical about the recent time estimate for late admixture. But the overall finding of structure is probably right on some level.

New Tides of History on Queen Isabella and the Reconquista.

Last week we dropped a podcast about the “missing heritability” with Alexander Young. He wrote a blog post exploring the issue. I also heard that PLOS has now invited him to write a comment on the topic! In a few weeks, I’ll be talking to John Greally about epigenetics.

Interview with Paul Coates, the father of Ta-Nehisi Coates. In the battle of ideas between the “ancients” and the “moderns”, sometimes the ancients were wiser.

New species of ancient human unearthed in the Philippines.

Coupled MCMC in BEAST 2.

Open Thread, 04/07/2019

So Kingdoms of Faith: A New History of Islamic Spain is worth it for the first 2/3 of the book. The last 1/3 is a bunch of stuff about the Emirate of Granada that’s hard to keep track of. If you didn’t know that in 1500 most of the Muslim communities of the peninsula outside of Granada were in the kingdom of Aragon, then this book is worth reading, as it explains the reasons for this.

The Brown Pundits podcast is going to release a bunch of stuff in the next few days (already on Patreon page). Readers of this weblog will probably appreciate the conversation with Zaid Jilani the most. We talk about whether Matt Yglesias really believes the stuff he puts out there. Zaid has some insights. The podcast could have gone much longer because it’s interesting to talk to someone who doesn’t have paint-by-the-numbers answers to everything.

Rulers, Religion, and Riches: Why the West Got Rich and the Middle East Did Not is interesting because it’s starting to convince me of the importance of ideas and doctrine in religion in terms of material consequences! Need to think more deeply on this. But recommended.

China’s Hard Edge: The Leader of Beijing’s Muslim Crackdown Gains Influence. “He promoted education in Chinese instead of in Tibetan, and offered financial and other incentives to encourage interracial marriages.” Forced assimilation and demographic absorption have been a past Chinese tactic.

Quantifying the contribution of sequence variants with regulatory and evolutionary significance to 34 bovine complex traits.

Gene-level heritability analysis explains the polygenic architecture of cancer.

Genome-wide association study reveals sex-specific genetic architecture of facial attractiveness.

‘There are no black people on Game of Thrones’: why is fantasy TV so white? People criticize Quillette for publishing predictable stuff…but the point that’s not brought up is how ‘respectable’ media regularly publish predictable clickbait to pay the bills.

A Mysterious Infection, Spanning the Globe in a Climate of Secrecy. Maybe we’ll die of infectious diseases rather than heart disease or cancer?

Raptor genomes reveal evolutionary signatures of predatory and nocturnal lifestyles.

Genetic Associations with Mathematics Tracking and Persistence in Secondary School.

Genomic Prediction of Depression Risk and Resilience Under Stress.

U.S. Urges Immediate Halt to Military Operations in Libya. What’s going on in Libya again? Another mess we forgot….

This week on The Insight I’m talking to Alex Young about the missing heritability. He’s going to be putting up a blog post this week too.

Open Thread, 04/01/2019

The Birth of Modern Belief: Faith and Judgment from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment. An interesting book, especially paired with The Rise of Western Christendom.

A seismically induced onshore surge deposit at the KPg boundary, North Dakota. This paper is the basis for the article in The New Yorker, The Day the Dinosaurs Died. This paper and the piece in The New Yorker has gotten serious blowback on Twitter.

A likelihood method for estimating present-day human contamination in ancient DNA samples using low-depth haploid chromosome data.

A three-sample test for introgression.

This week on The Insight I’m going to talk to Cosimo Posth about the genetics of Ice Age Europe. I also recorded a podcast on evolutionary psychology, and will be recording one on the “missing heritability.”

Recovery of trait heritability from whole genome sequence data.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence in the case of asserted mtDNA biparental inheritance.

I will be devoting some time to improving the subscription option….

Open Thread, 03/18/2019

Going back to finishing Rulers, Religion, and Riches: Why the West Got Rich and the Middle East Did Not. My general attitude so far is that I’m skeptical, but the author presents a plausible thesis. Additionally, the book is worth reading because of its engagement with the whole literature in this area. It’s got a good bibliography you can follow-up.

We had Shadi Hamid on the Brown Pundits podcast. Really appreciate Shadi’s interest in engaging with a diverse array of people. A real intellectual for our time, and unfortunately all too rare in many places these days (I think Shadi should go on the Extremely Offline podcast, even though he is extremely online).

There’s a Fake Outrage Machine on the Right, Also. Basically, they’re trying to get a professor fired for saying in some forum several years ago that cops should be killed. This is egregious, but one of the features of academia, as it is today, is that egregiousness is defended.

Some people are making the analogy to the professor who is under fire at Sarah Lawrence, who wrote an op-ed suggesting there needs to be more intellectual diversity in academia. That’s a pretty weird comparison, but I guess it tells you something. If you are conservative your very existence is scary. If you are on the Left, suggesting people should be killed is scary. But look, there are literal Communists in the academy. No one is demanding they be fired, and unless you add all sorts of caveats being a Communist often means you believe in violent revolution against a class of people. Being liberal in the broad sense is illustrated only when it’s hard, not when it’s easy.

A conservative assault on academia may need to occur, but it shouldn’t be around small things like a professor here and there. Go for the money. That’s the heart. Crazy professors are like stray strands of hair.

The Stanford professor who rejected one of Elizabeth Holmes’ early ideas explains what it was like to watch the rise and fall of Theranos. If you listened to The Dropout, you get the feeling that Dr. Phyllis Gardner was the hero we didn’t deserve. It must have been difficult to watch what has happened over the past 15 years for her. She knew it was fake all along.

Immune Gene Diversity in Archaic and Present-day Humans. Starting to think that the low diversity and population sizes of northern humans were a long-term problem, and one reason they were absorbed by southern modern humans. Not totally sure though.

Jomon genome sheds light on East Asian population history.

Shared polygenetic variation between ASD and ADHD exerts opposite association patterns with educational attainment.

The Scandals of Meritocracy. Virtue vs. competence. Would you rather have a boss who is evil but competent, or good but incompetent? The reality is you have to balance the two. Richard Nixon was probably smarter that Dwight Eisenhower in raw g, but Eisenhower was probably a better person.

Indian population is growing much faster in the north – and the south is paying the price. Much of South India is below replacement. Kerala’s fertility is similar to Japan’s. The Gangetic core of North India is well above replacement. The state of Bihar has 100 million people and a total fertility rate of 3.41. That’s similar to Pakistan’s.

Classic Mechanism of Epigenetic Inheritance Is Rare, Not the Rule. Some geneticists are in “but we all knew that” mode. But the reality is that going by the popular press the public doesn’t know that. The unfortunate reality is that scientific revolutions don’t come around that often.

DNA Friend. Amusing parody site.

Genome-Wide Polygenic Risk Scores and prediction of Gestational Diabetes in South Asian Women.

Fooled By Randomness is my favorite Nassim Taleb book.

Graham Coop has released a textbook, Population and Quantitative Genetics. Since I periodically get emails to delete comments from kids in high school and college, I knew younger people read this weblog. I’d recommend a resource like this to see if you are really interested in population and quantitative genetics.

Check out the Population Genomics blog.

A History of the Iberian Peninsula, as Told by Its Skeletons.

Survival of Late Pleistocene Hunter-Gatherer Ancestry in the Iberian Peninsula.

Population histories of the United States revealed through fine-scale migration and haplotype analysis. White Americans are the garlic people.

Open Thread, 03/14/2019

Again, recommend Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. Great book.

Creating Christian Marriage in Early Islamic Arabia:

…perhaps the earliest, of a churchman saying definitively that marriage isn’t marriage without a specific Christian ritual comes from an unexpected corner of the late antique world: the Persian Gulf island of Dayrin (modern Tarut in Saudi Arabia) under the rule of the early Muslim caliphate. On this island in 676, Patriarch George I—chief bishop of the Church of the East, one of the two main churches of the Syriac Christian tradition—issued a canon that only unions that received a priestly blessing would be recognized as legitimate, lawful marriage….

…Patriarch George’s writings suggest that East Arabian Christians habitually drank at Jewish taverns and participated in “pagan” funerals—pagan, that is, in their “un-Christian” ostentatiousness. Significantly, interreligious mixing extended into family relations too. George complains of Christian women marrying “pagans,” here meaning Muslims….

I’m not a total revisionist. But not the date. 676. Contrary to traditional Islamic historiography I think it is highly plausible, even probably, that these men would not have been “Muslims” as we’d conceive of them. Rather, Islam, as we’d understand it really, makes sense only from 750 AD and later, with the emergence of the Sunni ulema, the turn against philosophy in mainstream Islam, and the focus on religious legalism. No Bukhari, no Islam.

This brings me to another issue that emerged in a discussion with a reader about Brown Pundits. Some Hindus say that their religion is founded in the Vedas. Similarly, though traditional most Muslims (Shia and Sunni) ground their faith in customs and traditions which accrued organically in the centuries after the death of Muhammad, they will assert that the fundamental basis of their religion goes back to Muhammad and that Islam qua Islam exploded out of the deserts of Arabia under the Rashidun.

From the perspective of the nonbeliever, I think both narratives miss important cultural genealogical features of the development of “Hinduism” and “Islam.” Hindus believe that their religion is the tradition of the Aryans. I hold that the Aryan, Indo-European, traditions that are present within Hinduism are calcified fossils, artifacts which symbolic meaning, but that the core of Dharmic traditions, whether Hindu or Buddhist or Jain, are not fundamentally from the Indo-Europeans. Some intellectual historians suggest that the Sramanic traditions, the counter-Hindu movements, are a revolt of the indigenous non-Aryan components. But I think the same is arguably true of Puranic Hinduism. All of these religions are qualitatively different from the sacrificial ritualism of the pastoralist Aryans.

Similarly, with Islam it is no secret that I am sympathetic with the argument that the emergence of the mawālī, non-Arabs, within Islam after 750 A.D. fundamentally transformed from the religion. Whereas proto-Islam under the Umayyads crystallized was the cult of the ruling caste, an Arab peculiarity, under the Abbasids, who saw the waxing of Iranian culture within the Caliphate, Islam became the religion of the state, and eventually the dominant element of the society. Though I would argue that the influence of Iran and Turan on Islam is probably quantitatively less than that of non-Aryan India on Hinduism, the transformation is great enough that I think one can make a similar case that Islam, a post-Christian Arab ruling sect, was “hijacked” by Iranian and Turanian modalities under the Abbasids.

Again, to be clear, I am not interested in “explaining” to Muslims or Hindus that “actually….” their religion isn’t what they think it is. I’m trying to get a better sense of cultural development and relatedness from the perspective of non-believers.

Biotic interactions affect fitness across latitudes, but only drive local adaptation in the tropics. This surprised me at first blush.

A week ago I had a conversation with Thomas Chatterton Williams for the BrownCast. One thing that we both agreed on: we hate Twitter, but we can’t leave it. Also, lots of people on Twitter are very stupid. I used to think commenters on this blog were stupid, but the reality is that you are geniuses among the dull compared to the Twitter mobs.

Why Elites Dislike Standardized Testing. The reality is that the gains to test-prep are not that great. ETS works really hard on this. But if you read Twitter or many mainstream commentators they act as if test-prep is driving the inequalities. It’s not. The world is full of bullshit.

The Life History of Human Foraging: Cross-Cultural and Individual Variation. Very important paper.

A Bayesian Approach for Inferring the Impact of a Discrete Character on Rates of Continuous-Character Evolution in the Presence of Background Rate Variation. I don’t know much about the details of phylogenetic methods, but the first author is an old grad school classmate of mine. He knows his shit.fopen

Integrating natural history-derived phenomics with comparative genomics to study the genetic architecture of convergent evolution.

Genomic architecture of phenotypic plasticity of complex traits in tetraploid wheat in response to water stress.

Open Thread, 03/05/2019

Thanks to everyone who has gotten a membership. Still working out a few kinks and trying to enable yearly billing and Papyal (I’m messing up something on the Paypal API). Since someone asked, here is my Patreon for the Brown Pundits podcast.

Speaking of that, I’ll be posting a conversation with an Indian middle-class Dalit soon (already posted for patrons), as well as interviews pending for Thomas Chatterton Williams and Shadi Hamid.

The Insight will have Alicia Martin on this week, and then Lara Cassidy on Irish genetic history, as well as something on historical linguistics by Asya Pereltsvaig. Yeah, we’re preloaded for the next month! Then the current plan is to talk about deep ancient structure in our complex species.

I’ve been thinking about Twitter, comments, papers, books, and blog posts recently. And the audacious argument in Christopher Beckwith’s Warriors of the Cloisters: The Central Asian Origins of Science in the Medieval World. Beckwith renames what we know as the scholastic method as the “recursive argument method.” His contention is that this method developed in the viharas, colleges, of Central Asian Iranian Buddhism before the rise of Islam. With the conversion of these Buddhist peoples to Islam, their intellectual traditions were assimilated into the Islamic one. While the vihara became madrassas, which spread from the Islamic east to the west, the disputation techniques were never fully integrated into Islamic civilization, even though Central Asian Iranians such as Avicenna continued the tradition. Eventually, the tradition did take root in the Latin West, being transmitted by Islamic civilization.

Here is the Wikipedia definition of scholasticism:

Scholasticism is not so much a philosophy or a theology as a method of learning, as it places a strong emphasis on dialectical reasoning to extend knowledge by inference and to resolve contradictions. Scholastic thought is also known for rigorous conceptual analysis and the careful drawing of distinctions. In the classroom and in writing, it often takes the form of explicit disputation; a topic drawn from the tradition is broached in the form of a question, opponents’ responses are given, a counterproposal is argued and opponents’ arguments rebutted. Because of its emphasis on rigorous dialectical method, scholasticism was eventually applied to many other fields of study.

Scholasticism is basically enforced nerdiness. Beckwith argues that modernist humans have abandoned this tradition, and he argues that postmodernism is really just a form of late-stage modernism. While in scholasticism the method and substance of the argument are critical, in postmodernism the individual who is making the argument is arguably even more important.

If a wealthy white male and a poor black woman entered into the argument as to whether “income inequality was bad for society,” we (post)moderns would place a great deal of weight upon who the disputants were, no matter the substance of their arguments.

The recursive argument technique is thorough, exhaustive and requires space. One can see scholasticism playing out in the form of a book-length argument, or in an extended paper. But it is almost impossible to imagine that its well-structured method could be format could be fitted to the comments of an article or blog post, let alone Twitter.

Twitter, in particular, is extremely well suited for a who/whom style of argument. Aside from threading it lacks the ability to structure arguments in a complex manner, and, its 280 character limit enforces a level of brevity at the single tweet scale. Deep substantive disagreements are almost never hashed out on Twitter because the platform does not have the capacity, goodwill or no. Rather, short rhetorical bursts and quips are optimized to lift the spirits of conferences in fellowship, ostracize heretics, and demonize the opposition. The laconic sophist is the ideal user of the platform.

Linkage disequilibrium in subdivided populations. Nei hath spoken.

Statistical Thinking from Scratch: A Primer for Scientists. Coming this summer, something new for your dead-tree collection.

Hierarchical clustering of gene-level association statistics reveals shared and differential genetic architecture among traits in the UK Biobank.

Ant collective behavior is heritable and shaped by selection.

Testing for correlation between traits under directional evolution.

Constraint-based analysis for causal discovery in population-based biobanks.

H.I.V. Is Reported Cured in a Second Patient, a Milestone in the Global AIDS Epidemic.

Theranos: How a broken patent system sustained its decade-long deception.

Interesting how similar his take is to some moderns:

Medicare should stop blocking access to next-generation sequencing for people with hereditary cancer.


Will be reading This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution soon. Hope to have the author on the podcast at some point.

Very heartened to see the author of This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution, David Sloan Wilson, rejecting attempts to smear and taint Bret Weinstein with guilt by association. Wilson expressed an old-fashioned liberal sense of fair play and decency which seemed totally out of place in a place like Twitter.

Some of the idiots on Twitter once asked me “I wonder how it makes you feel that Ann Coulter retweeted you” in relation to a tweet that “blew up” (I don’t remember what it was). Now Illan Omar is having her words retweeted by the froggish sect for obvious reasons. How does it make her feel? I assume whatever her feelings are they are sincere and deeply felt, and whatever agreements frogs might have with her is neither here nor there to her. At least she cares about the substance of her beliefs, whether you think they are good or bad, not vague posturing associations.

The cult of feeling and naked emotive reflex reigns supreme today. Reason, for ill or goodwill, is at least bracing in its clarity.

The game is on. Let the disputes begin!

Open Thread, 02/24/2019

Probably don’t watch this if you are hungry. It’s on Netflix.

The latest episode of The Insight featured a very long discussion with Jeffrey Rose. If you are curious about the relationship of southern Arabia to the cultures of northeast Africa during the Middle Paleolithic, check it out!

The Freemasons. Not the deepest book. But interesting.

The Linked Selection Signature of Rapid Adaptation in Temporal Genomic Data.

Accurate inference of tree topologies from multiple sequence alignments using deep learning.

Human genetic disease is greatly influenced by the underlying fragility of evolutionarily ancient genes.

Unbiased estimation of linkage disequilibrium from unphased data.

China’s CRISPR twins might have had their brains inadvertently enhanced. The title is just plain wrong. Unfortunately the piece “traveled” and now I’m seeing it cited at places like National Review, Eugenics-Engineered Babies’ Brains Changed by CRISPR.

Supreme Court Delivers Unanimous Victory for Asset Forfeiture Challenge.

World’s largest bee, once presumed extinct, filmed alive in the wild.

David Slone Wilson has a book out, This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution.

‘Austerity, That’s What I Know’: The Making of a U.K. Millennial Socialist.

Ancient whole genome duplications and the evolution of the gene duplication and loss rate.

Recombination and mutational robustness in neutral fitness landscapes.

We Must Defend Free Thought. This is really about Scott Alexander, who is becoming too influential for the tastes of some.

Reihan Salam new President of Manhattan Institute.

Viruses rule over adaptation in conserved human proteins.

Also, if you haven’t, you might check out my RSS, Facebook, or Twitter (or my aggregator page) if something happens to this domain temporarily.

Open Thread, 2/18/2019

Peter Turchin’s Ages of Discord is now a free rental if you have Amazon Prime (otherwise you will be prompted for a Kindle Unlimited subscription). If you are interested in the kind of stuff I talk about, I highly recommend all of Peter Turchin’s work. For readers of this weblog Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall and War and Peace and War: The Life Cycles of Imperial Nations would be of most interest.

Speaking of Peter, check out his recent blog post, An Anarchist View of Human Social Evolution, which is basically a critique of the two of scholars and an essay, Are we city dwellers or hunter-gatherers? The interesting sociological aspect is that one of the scholars is a pretty unpleasant disputant with critics on social media…and that seems to redound to his fame and influence. Unfortunate incentives.

An Honest Living: What is it like to go from a tenured professorship to an hourly wage driving buses? This piece tries to make sense of an unusual transition. The author is, to be frank, kind of a dick. But there are lots of people with unpleasant and intolerable personalities in academia.

President’s Day sale and DNAGEEKS. Put in the code “PREZ” and you are good to go.

Speaking of presidents, you probably know about The Age of Jackson. A more recent book, The Age of Lincoln is worth reading. And, if you want to get more contemporary views for and against Jacksonianism, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln and What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848.

The post below, The End Of America As The World As We Know It, is gated. But the first two posts should be free. And since the gating is leaky if you want to deal with the hassle you should be able to figure out how to get access (I’m going to make them free after 30 days as well).

The biography of Maximinus Thrax is on sale as Kindle. A lot of the Roman history stuff that is discounted is kind of like a Wikipedia entry, but this biography comes from a serious scholar and has some reviews that are positive from legitimate people. Thrax is a bit of a turning point character, ushering in the period when the Roman Empire was under serious threat from without and within.

Jussie Smollett. I wish there were betting markets for this sort of stuff. Also, those guys were shredded.

More than 26 million people have taken an at-home ancestry test. A bit of an update on the piece David Mittelman and I worked on last year, Consumer genomics will change your life, whether you get tested or not.

What ancient DNA tells us about caste. David Reich was in India for a bit talking about his work. It seems that they’re ready to uncoil their work soon enough. I’ve been told that he said a draft of the paper was written, so it’s probably going through internal revisions with collaborators.

This Mediterranean diet study was hugely impactful. The science has fallen apart.

The Making of a DNA Detective CeCe Moore, an amateur genealogist turned professional, helps police crack decades-old cases.

If you are on Twitter, Thomas Chatterton Williams is worth following.

For those of you who have read this blog since the beginning, you know that Ramez Naam is a friend. How to decarbonize America — and the world.

Mitogenomic evidence of close relationships between New Zealand’s extinct giant raptors and small-sized Australian sister-taxa.

Radiocarbon dates and Bayesian modeling support maritime diffusion model for megaliths in Europe.

A ‘Denisovan’ genetic history of recent human evolution.

A journalist is tweeting out old, and likely false, information, and another journalist is pointing out how you shouldn’t trust this result. Unfortunately, the original tweet-out is getting more RTs and likes than the refutation of the source and the credibility of the result.

I don’t normally read a book such as The Souls of Yellow Folk. First, it’s too much like a memoir, and I don’t care about other peoples’ memories. Second, I am on the same wavelength about most of these sorts of issues as Wes Yang, and I didn’t think I’d encounter anything novel or that pushed me to new views. But Yang is a good writer. Reading on the strong recommendation of a friend.

This week on the BrownCast I’ll be posting a conversation about Native Americans and nationalism with a lawyer.

Noah Smith says replace listening to podcasts with audiobooks. The problem I see with this is when it comes to books I have to give singular attention…so if I wanted to pay attention I’d just read the book. Podcasts are things that are less dense and contingent and I can sample in and out.

New York Did Us All a Favor by Standing Up to Amazon: Yes, Amazon’s departure will modestly hurt the city’s economy. But it’s also a victory against bad economic policy.

The Valentine’s Day episode of The Insight was fun. This was a conversation we could have had for three hours.

Speaking of academics who are irascible, Bob Trivers is burning up Twitter. Worth a follow.

Open Thread, 02/11/2019

Rereading Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, and it’s striking how different Americans today are in relation to development and economic growth. Yes, we want to be richer, but in large parts of the country, there is a strong tendency to want to bake incumbency advantages into the cake. Texas and Florida still retain relatively open development cultures, which explains much of their growth. Meanwhile, of course people are fleeing California due to the expensive (at least if you want to have children).

The Brown Pundits BrownCast is pushing along fast. We’ll probably stabilize to somewhere between 4 and 8 episodes a month. The last two have been very popular (they touch on Hindu nationalism).

Having done these podcasts now for a few months…the BrownCast is quite different than The Insight. On The Insight we’re tackling technical and scholarly topics, and the goal is clarity and density of exposition. Not dialogue as such. BrownCast is different.

This causes issues because speaking is far lower data density and less structured than writing. During every podcast, I take notes but rarely get a chance to follow up. Extemporaneous digressions are common. To be frank, it’s probably interesting, but the quality of insight is just lower on a substantive scale.

It makes me much more appreciative of the thesis in Warriors of the Cloisters that the Buddhist recursive-argument technique led to the flowering of scholarship and thought that was progressive, contingent, and cumulative. Written dialogue and disagreement is fruitful because of the external structure imposed upon it, removing the ability of individuals to temporize, dodge, and digress. It makes human stupidity just a little less stupid.

Speaking of stupid. Last week I was having beers with a member of the “mainstream media” who was coming through Austin. We were talking all things D.C., and I mentioned offhand that a key aspect of Ilhan Omar that is not spoken of enough is that she’s likely not very smart in comparison to the average member of Congress. She graduated from North Dakota State University with bachelor’s degrees in political science and international studies in 2011. Her B.A. likely indicates an ability to parrot platitudes. Not the ability to think analytically, or, to engage in verbal parsing so as to be subtle enough to maintain deniability. Her attempt to lift the ban on trans powerlifters is probably sincere.

Relative stupidity is I think an explanation for these sorts of cringe-inducing tweets:

An Anarchist View of Human Social Evolution. Peter Turchin reviews a tendentious essay. Of course he’s correct. Of course it won’t matter.

I contributed a chapter to the book, Which of us are Aryans? I didn’t think it would be available in the United States, but according to Amazon some independent booksellers are distributing it! Obviously I talk about genetics. At least what we knew in the summer of 2018. I would like to thank Priya Moorjani in particular for detailed feedback on my initial draft.

Walter Jones, congressman who worked to atone for his Iraq war vote, is dead at 76. Jones was an honest and sincere man. That’s why he never became nationally successful as a politician.

There are so few science blogs in the world now that are active. But here is a new one on quantitative evolutionary biology, After Sol.

The Dune Reboot Could Be the Next Lord of the Rings. Unlikely, but one can hope.

Cupertino Mayor: “Build the Wall”.

A Bell Beaker superhighway.

Patterns of African and Asian admixture in the Afrikaner population of South Africa. No big surprise when it comes to the issue of admixture (confirms what I found). But there are some interesting suggestions of really strong selection. I would bet not a true positive, but if I’m wrong, super notable.

If you aren’t subscribed to my total feed, The ghost of empire and the origin of all repression.

Is there adaptation in the human genome for taste perception and phase I biotransformation?

The Bonfire of the Democrats. Related:

You made your bed now lie in it.

Parag Khanna’s new book, The Future is Asian, is out. I also got a copy of Wes Yang’s The Souls of Yellow Folk. In general I seem to agree with Wes, so I didn’t see the point in reading a collection of his essays…but a friend suggested I really should because it’s that good. So there you go.

Tides of History has been on fire recently. Games of Thrones and Late Medieval Politics. Patrick Wyman’s podcast is one where when there’s a new episode I immediately listen and ignore the rest of the queue. It’s that good.

Also, this week’s In Our Time is on Aristotle’s Biology. Highly recommend a listen. Armand Leroi, author of The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science, is one of the guests.

Characterization of prevalence and health consequences of uniparental disomy in four million individuals from the general population.

Several people have asked me about my reduced frequency of posting. A major issue is that I’ve been trying to figure out how to implement the MemberPress plugin to my satisfaction (the Patreon I’ve set up for the BrownCast is easier to manage obviously). I have particular concerns and needs, and it’s not entirely easy to customize in the way I want. But at this point, I think I’ve implemented “leaky gating” for this website in a way I want. I am only gating the long-form essays. They will become free after about a month (and you get a few freebies, so it allows outside sites to link without a major issue). I’m currently set up for one tier, a $2/month membership that renews every month. The registration page is here. You can change your status (pause, cancel), on the account page. These two links are on the top right.

It seems everything works correctly except the password reset email. I’ll try and get it fixed, but if anyone has an issue you can email me until I get that working.