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.

Open Thread, 02/04/2019

Most of you know about The Insight, my podcast with Spencer Wells. Some of you may not know about the BrownCast, associated with the Brown Pundits. I’m on about two out of every three podcasts, but it’s a group effort. We cover a diverse array of topics. The latest episode was a conversation between myself and Carl Zha, and we talked about Chinese colonialism (or lack thereof), casual racism among Asians, religion, and what American publications cover China well.


Because editing and hosting the podcasts cost some money, we set up a Patreon page. One podcast that I recorded this weekend has already been posted there for “patrons”, involves discussion with a Hindu nationalist about their viewpoints. We didn’t resolve anything, but it was nice to get to the point of understanding the sort of questions that need to be asked in the first place!

That cast will probably drop by the end of this week.

In the near future, I will be having a chat with Zack Stentz. Though most of you might think “oh, he was involved in the screenplay for X-Men: First Class,” I’m more excited about the fact that he was involved in Andromeda!

The New York Times has an op-ed up, Why You Should Be Careful About 23andMe’s Health Test. It’s not a bad op-ed, though I think it definitely is slanted. But this sentence jumped out at me: “But doctors and geneticists say that the tests are still more parlor trick than medicine.” First, unless the M.D. works in genetics who cares? But the term “parlor trick” has too strong a connotation for me, and I think most geneticists would agree. I think this part of the op-ed is plain misleading to the general reader. Steve Salzberg probably reflects the views of most geneticists, NY Times, Why Are You So Worried About 23andMe’s Genetic Tests? He has the exact same issue that I do: ‘Who are these geneticists who call DNA testing a “parlor trick”?’

Evidence of Austronesian genetic lineages in East Africa and South Arabia: complex dispersal from Madagascar and Southeast Asia.

Ancient human genome-wide data from a 3000-year interval in the Caucasus corresponds with eco-geographic regions.

Ancient human genome-wide data from a 3000-year interval in the Caucasus corresponds with eco-geographic regions.

The influence of gender stereotype threat on mathematics test scores of Dutch high school students: a registered report.

Compound-specific radiocarbon dating and mitochondrial DNA analysis of the Pleistocene hominin from Salkhit Mongolia.

Can War Foster Cooperation?

Mysterious human relatives moved into ‘penthouse’ Siberian cave 100,000 years earlier than thought.

Neanderthal introgression reintroduced functional alleles lost in the human out of Africa bottleneck.

Many years ago I read the book The Cultural Creatives. One aspect of the book was how old people have a lot of information and knowledge that Western cultures ignored. I thought it was funny at the time. But perhaps because I’m getting older…I appreciate it more. I think part of it is the fact that so many older scientists are now dying who are taking with them a lot of knowledge.

Speaking of old scientists, Robert Trivers’ Twitter account is lit.

I predict that by next weekend it will become clear that what we were told happened to Jussie Smollett is not what happened. The press won’t care, and neither will the politicians.

Open Thread, 01/28/2019

If I haven’t made it clear, I highly recommend The First Farmers of Europe: An Evolutionary Perspective. A very readable book. One thing I haven’t emphasized is that the early European farmers seem to have been big consumers of cheese. This is curious as it doesn’t look like they have the modern European lactase persistence allele. Cheese is different from milk because the proportion of sugar is lower, as the fermenting process exhausts some of it. But cheese-base agro-pastoralism seems to have been common in many places before the arrival of Indo-Europeans.

David Reich is on giving talks in India. He has stated that the draft of the Indian ancient DNA paper is complete. This doesn’t speak to when it will be posted on bioRxiv, but we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Also, I assume the Iberian paper showing mass male-mediated migration ~2000 BC will arrive at some point this year.

A friend pointed me to a new book by Edward Dutton on J. Phillipe Rushton. After watching clips of Dutton speak about the contents of the book, it is not a flattering portrayal. Dutton depicts Rushton as a bit of a general sociopath (though he seems to couch it as part of Rushton’s individual “life history strategy” of being a “user”). More concerning than his personal life is that Rushton was clearly willing to fudge facts in regards to his science, which was of such a controversial nature regarding race and life history that ultimately he should have been much more careful than is the norm. Dutton documents some instances apparently in his book, but I can give another specific example.

Read More

Open Thread, 01/20/2019

Peter Turchin recommended The First Farmers of Europe: An Evolutionary Perspective. It’s dry. But good. It is also one of those academic books where the cost of the Kindle version is $50 less than the hardcover version.

Two for Tea is a good podcast. One the most recent one they interviewed two anthropologists, both known to me. It was a nerdy but informative conversation and convinced me to not take up Sex at Dawn (it’s in my stack).

We’ve got 9 episodes now on the Brown Pundits podcast, the BrownCast. The latest is on Sanskrit. The current plan is to range over a lot of topics. If you have ideas, shoot them my way.

People have been asking about my other podcast, The Insight. It will be back soon!

The transferability of lipid-associated loci across African, Asian and European cohorts.

Genetic Nature or Genetic Nurture? Quantifying Bias in Analyses Using Polygenic Scores.

Nathan Glazer, Urban Sociologist and Outspoken Intellectual, Dies at 95. I read Ethnicity about 20 years ago. Glazer was a giant.

Tiny animal carcasses found in buried Antarctic lake.

The last two episodes of Tides of History on the War of the Roses have been some of the best. I really recommend them.

Justin Murphy is leaving academia. Murphy is way too much of an oddball to ever fit in. Probably for the best.

Genes lost during the transition from land to water in cetaceans highlight genomic changes involved in aquatic adaptations.

Estimating recent migration and population-size surfaces.

Approximate Bayesian computation with deep learning supports a third archaic introgression in Asia and Oceania.

Killer whale genomes reveal a complex history of recurrent admixture and vicariance.

Macroevolution of dimensionless life history metrics in tetrapods.

Sacklers Directed Efforts to Mislead Public About OxyContin, New Documents Indicate.

A Classic Genetic Model of Sexual Selection.

Open Thread, 01/15/2019

Update: Forgot to open comments on this. Fixed.

Robert Alter has a new translation of The Hebrew Bible out. I really like Alter’s work. In particular, Genesis: Translation and Commentary. But read all his stuff!

NPR has an interview with him up right now. He admits that he did the translation in longhand!

Genome-wide association analyses of risk tolerance and risky behaviors in over 1 million individuals identify hundreds of loci and shared genetic influences.

Changing environments and genetic variation: inbreeding does not compromise short-term physiological responses. At least in Arabidopsis lyrata.

Saudi Woman Who Fled Home Embraces All Things Canadian. (O.K., Maybe Not Winter.). Women in Saudi Arabia basically live in a form of slavery, in that they are somewhat the property of the paternal lineage.

Almost all of the actresses who’ve played Cleopatra have been white. But was she? This is in Vox. There are some good writers at Vox, but they also produce click-bait for mildly above average IQ liberals. So I’m curious when articles like this come up how they justify giving their audience the conclusions they want.

At one point, the author says “The researchers believe Arsinoe’s remains, found in Ephesus, Turkey, indicate that her mother (also likely Cleopatra’s) was African.” The link goes to the BBC, and a 2009 article: “But remains of the queen’s sister Princess Arsinoe, found in Ephesus, Turkey, indicate that her mother had an ‘African’ skeleton….”‘ Looking even deeper, I found the conclusions about Arsinoe’s mother comes from old measurements of the skull. In other words, Vox is citing research on skull-shape which indicate African ancestry!

This is really weird. But I guess not surprising. A conclusion in search of an argument.

Arab Christians clash violently with police in Haifa over ‘McJesus’ sculpture. Honestly, not surprising that they got angry. Can you imagine if a McDonald’s had a depiction of Muhammad?

Evolution of the mating type locus with suppressed recombination.

Hunter-gatherer genomes reveal diverse demographic trajectories following the rise of farming in East Africa.

7-month-old Japanese girl with full head of thick hair becomes latest Instagram sensation.

Scientists Are Using CRISPR to Make Spicy Tomatoes.

Exploring deep-time relationships between cultural and genetic evolution in Northeast Asia.

Reading Rulers, Religion, and Riches: Why the West Got Rich and the Middle East Did Not. Skeptical of the thesis, but fascinated by empirical data.

Looks like Quillette event in Toronto was a success. Several friends went, and asked if I was going, but alas, I’m a family man now and can’t just go jetting off to events at the last second! Lots of familiar faces to people who read this weblog in the photos….

Open Thread, 01/07/2019

Because of BookBub I get notified of a lot of book deals. For example, The Roman Empire and the Silk Routes: The Ancient World Economy and the Empires of Parthia, Central Asia and Han China is now $1.30 on Kindle. This is like when The Shape of Ancient Thought was steeply discounted a few years ago. The prices go up and down. But definitely a boon to any nerd.

It is highly likely I’ll try a leaky gated model for this weblog next month as a trial. I’ll try and set it up so a few extended entry posts are free so links from high-traffic sites aren’t impacted (I don’t see gating posts which aren’t extended entry). If it doesn’t work, perhaps I’ll try something else, or, just sunset the blog. There are enough posts that there is still value even if this becomes an archive website.

Twitter is toxic to discussions with any subtlety or depth are pretty. People are polarized. It’s a great place to get links to papers. But not a great place to have a discussion except on a subset of very narrowly delimited topics.

China Targets Prominent Uighur Intellectuals to Erase an Ethnic Identity. Looks like China wants all its citizens to become Han.

One of the major biases of the “chattering” classes is that they are drawn from the upper socioeconomic strata. And those that aren’t, tend to be conscientious and studious in relation to the average American.

The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates. “News you can use.” This is usually on a list of “things doctors know that you don’t.”

The scientist who tried to be as selfless as possible, until it killed him. Props to Vox for putting a form of the Price Equation in the text! Oren Harman’s book The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness is highly recommended. I had drinks with Harman and George Price’s daughters in Berkeley about eight years ago. Unfortunately, it is clear Price’s personal life was a total mess in ways that aren’t totally communicable in books. It’s particularly interesting comparing Harman’s fuller picture with the George Price that you get to know in Defenders of the Truth, which was refracted through William D. Hamilton’s recollections.

Apple’s Biggest Problem? My Mom. Smartphones are utilities now. When was the last time you upgraded your microwave? There are lots of things in computing which are like this now. Until it breaks, why get a new computer, tablet, or smartphone?

Can Sexual Selection Cause Divergence In Mating System-Related Floral Traits?

Genetic legacy of state centralization in the Kuba Kingdom of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Ecological causes of uneven diversification and richness in the mammal tree of life.

Must Writers Be Moral? Their Contracts May Require It.

Hidden ‘risk’ in polygenic scores: clinical use today could exacerbate health disparities.

Effects of phenotypic robustness on adaptive evolutionary dynamics.

Highly Heritable and Functionally Relevant Breed Differences in Dog Behavior.

Whole-genome sequencing of rare disease patients in a national healthcare system.

Locally Fixed Alleles: A method to localize gene drive to island populations.

The One Issue the Left and Right Can Agree On.

The end of the year as we know it

Another one is almost in the bag. Lots of interesting stuff this year, though probably the most important story in “world-historical” terms, the genome-editing of babies in China, hasn’t really ended.

Ushering in 2019 with a $20.19 Tardigrade t-shirt New Years Eve sale at DNA Geeks. And 30% off everything with code WELCOME2019.

I am playing around with Member Pass to create a leaky gated model for this website. Suggestions are welcome in the comments (I’ll say that I’m not going to gate archives).

I think 2019 will finally see the ancient India DNA. They can’t keep putting this off. My review of the new Tony Joseph book is up at India Today by the way.

I think we’ll see more “Golden State Killer” style stories. Well, actually, perhaps not…because it’s becoming so banal.

We won’t be able to predict what happens in the genomics space, because it’s moving so fast. But the stuff that David Mittelmann and I said in our Genome Biology comment will really apply.

We’ll get more ancient DNA of course…but I don’t know what, as it seems Europe is tapped out.

The plot will keep thickening in “archaic hominin” land.

What are you looking forward to?

Open Thread, 12/28/2018

Last open thread of the year. Been busy with life obviously. Won’t be posting this on Sunday as usual, but just making up for missing the pre-Christmas weekend.

Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World is an interesting book because it’s more about the nature of religion in the ancient world than unbelief. Much of the text is preoccupied with the transition that occurred with Christianity’s dominance in the West. Probably good to pair with The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200-1000.

No Invasion Or Migration, But Interaction: What This New Genetic Study Suggests About Prehistoric India. I heard the usage of the word “interaction” was being pushed by some Indian researchers as early as a year ago. It’s less provocative than the term “invasion” and perhaps even “migration.” But a word is a word. Science is not mathematics or religion, where terminology is substance.

The piece linked here puts an incorrect gloss on the research it’s reporting on in my opinion. It is highly likely that about 50% of the ancestral contribution to the population of the Indian subcontinent today was not resident within the Indian subcontinent before 10,000 years ago. We’ll see as more ancient DNA comes out.

The first Indians. An extract from a new book to be published in India. I have a review written for India Today (not online yet). To my surprise, it’s already selling on Amazon, Early Indians : The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From. As per the subhead, it is clearly geared toward a subcontinental audience.

Polygenic risk scores: a biased prediction?

Polygenic adaptation to an environmental shift: temporal dynamics of variation under Gaussian stabilizing selection and additive effects on a single trait.

Genomic Prediction of Complex Disease Risk.

Analysis of 100 high coverage genomes from a pedigreed captive baboon colony.

Most retweeted social science in 2018.

Five Amazing Things We Learned About History From Ancient DNA In 2018.

Inside Facebook’s Secret Rulebook for Global Political Speech. This has been reported before. But it’s finally entering the mainstream because I think the mainstream realizes that there is no longer any mainstream that’s controllable by the Western establishment. In the 1990s some non-Western governments, such as Saudi Arabia, made the argument for enforcing much stricter censorship on the internet. Instead, American standards generally won out, though there were attempts to create regional gardens. Ironically (or not), it is a private American corporation which is enforcing the “lowest common denominator” non-offensive speech, albeit haphazardly and capriciously.

1) Some anti-war conservatives were observing issues with how we recruit our military back in the 2000s when neocon adventures were at high tide. These are the type of people who might know the implications of the Marian reforms in recruitment in the late Republic, and how it empowered generals. Not sure Matt Yglesias is part of that set, though perhaps I’m wrong.

2) Most “centrist” types are usually anti-“identity politics” liberals or moderates who “come from the Left.” That’s why the issues in academia loom large and those in the military don’t. They don’t know many people in the military, just like much of the intelligentsia.

3) The Left dominates the academy, while the Right is the conventional orientation of the American officer corps. Social liberals are probably somewhat more intelligent and intellectual than social conservatives. Social conservatives are probably somewhat more courageous and patriotic than social liberals. But the difference is not enough to account for the disproportionate representation across the professional groups. This is probably a matter of self-selection and sorting.

If you read one Nassim Nicholas Taleb book I would suggest Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets. There was a big thing on Twitter about Taleb’s opinions on IQ. Since he blocks me I saw it through other parties. Someone close to Taleb and myself told me he seems to express himself in the most opaque and disagreeable way possible on Twitter. Sounds right.

He was probably more right than wrong in his disagreement with Mary Beard (again, he blocks me, so hard to know), but because of his online persona, few geneticists would defend him (I did after a fashion). But I knew I was going to be blocked by him because we have lots of mutual followers, and they kept asking me his opinions on GMO. When I said I thought he was wrong and didn’t really know biology as well as he thought, of course, he called me a fucking moron and blocked me. Sorry, not gonna lie!

Historical Genomes Reveal the Genomic Consequences of Recent Population Decline in Eastern Gorillas.

One of the reasons that Scholars Stage is one of the few blogs I still read, Making Sense of Chinese History: A Reading List. Will second Imperial China.

In case you missed it, Tanner was a guest on this week’s BrownCast, the Brown Pundits podcast.

As for my other podcast, The Insight, very proud that we closed 2018 with 44 episodes total now! That’s not quite one a week, but it’s not that far off.

Amy Harmon of the NYT on Race & Genetics, Women in Science. If you enjoy listening to white liberals talk about racism and science. Since all white people are “racist” I guess it makes sense to have experts weigh in. They certainly are never shy about explaining racism to me.

David Frum mentioned offhand that in 2019 he is thinking about doing YouTube commentary on books, etc. My response is simple: in terms of data density, it’s written >>> audio > video (with obvious audio). But in terms of the nominal number of people you reach in a short period of time, it’s probably flipped. I have experience with all formats for what it’s worth.

Also, reflecting on my life and how I allocate time…and if whatever I’m doing here is “worth it to me,” I do want to give readers a heads up that I’m wondering about ways I can increase remuneration from this weblog beyond the trivial (e.g., some sort of gating for readers who follow me regularly).

Finally, this current domain has been active again for about a year now. Here are the top 10 posts of 2018:

Why The Chinese Don’t Buy Deodorant
Intercourse and Intelligence
Making What Harvard Is About Transparent
The Maturation Of The South Asian Genetic Landscape
Traits of men who prefer breasts, booty, or legs
Elizabeth Warren Carries Native American DNA
The Great Genetic Map And History Of China
The Origin Of The Ashkenazi Jews In Early Medieval Europe
The Genome Of “Cheddar Man” Is About To Be Published
White People Are Not Gods, They Bleed

Open Thread, 12/17/2018

DNAGeeks is doing the last holiday push.

The new WordPress post editor kind of sucks. Installed a plugin to get rid of it. I guess it’s easier if you aren’t comfortable in HTML and want to do complex layouts, but I think the site is OK as is (though perhaps I need a better degradation to mobile?).

A lot of people have been telling me that The Three-Body Problem is good. Thoughts?

The latest Brown Pundits podcast, episode 5 on China. Soon Tanner Greer of Scholar’s Stage will be on!

Population structure of modern-day Italians reveals patterns of ancient and archaic ancestries in Southern Europe. The paper points to the fact that it seems that a Caucasus-related ancestry that has been seen in early Bronze Age Greece also seems to have impacted southern Italy and Sicily. There’s a paper that will come out soon with ancient samples from Sicily and Sardinia that confirms this. The same Caucasus-related ancestry is found in the steppe expansion, but that too came into Italy through the north.

Lund professor freed student from Islamic State war zone. One of the craziest stories I’ve read this year.

The untold story of how India’s sex workers prevented an Aids epidemic. About twenty years ago or so there were a lot of stories about how India was going to be the next major locus of HIV infection. That hasn’t occurred.

This week on The Insight Spencer & I talked about African genetics. Already a very popular episode.

Don’t blame Trump for the demise of The Weekly Standard. I’m still shocked that The American Conservative is still around, while The Weekly Standard is not. In general, I think reliance on a patron means you need to be careful about your heterodoxies. Life is about trade-offs. Scott McConnell has a reflection on the passing of The Weekly Standard, What The Weekly Standard Has Wrought:

If the Iraq war was sold to the American establishment by a small elite, the price was borne by many. Estimates of the fiscal costs run from $1 trillion to as much as $3 trillion, (if you credit Nobel prize recipient Joseph Stiglitz’s calculations, which include the long-term care costs for American soldiers with lifelong and life shattering injuries). The human costs to the soldiers and their families was substantial. Throughout the Mideast, the number of people killed, wounded, or turned into refugees by the invasion was staggering. The American “regional dominance” touted by the Standard proved entirely fanciful.

It is hard for younger people to remember what the years after 9/11 were like. The center-Left was broadly in support of the initial invasion of Iraq, though with some qualms, and ultimately turned against it. The Right was different. Aside from a few people at The American Conservative and stubborn individuals like Greg Cochran, by and large, there wasn’t any strong dissent from one of the most disastrous foreign policy decisions in American history. It is striking to me that so many of the people associated with The Weekly Standard are now given “strange new respect” by “resistance liberals” when they backed a war with such consequences (though to be fair, the center-Left which now pays homage to The Weekly Standard were usually in favor of the war before they were against it).

Another Clever Proxy for Quantitative History. If you don’t know who Peter Turchin is, familiarize yourself!

As 2018 turns to 2019 some of you may be wondering about books you should read. If you haven’t, Who We Are and How We Got Here is still very relevant.

Two books on history which will blow your mind, The Fall of Rome and The Fate of Rome. These are works that take material and environmental conditions seriously.

F. W. Mote’s Imperial China is highly recommended as well.

David Warsh’s Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations is well written. If you want to get a sense of ‘endogenous growth theory.’

Justin Fox’s Myth of the Rational Market is good too. There was a period in the second half of the 2000s when a lot of good popular books on economics and finance were coming out (for obvious reasons).

The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World. This book is less crazy reading today than it was years ago when I read it. Some of the predictions have been born out.

If you are looking for scientific biography with heft, I recommend Sewall Wright and Evolutionary Biology.

Wittgenstein’s Poker. An enjoyable read. If you don’t know much about Wittgenstein or Popper aside from sketches, it might be a good place to start (a bit too soft on Wittgenstein and hard on Popper from what I recall by the way, at least for my taste).

The Coming Anarchy. This book was wrong. But it can still illuminate in the wrongness.

If you haven’t gotten a copy of Principles of Population Genetics, not too late. Not a book you need to read front to back. Just read a chapter here and there.

With Christmas coming up, I don’t know how much time or inclination I’ll have to blog. So happy holidays to everyone if you don’t see me around much!

How the Catholic Church Created Our Liberal World. These arguments are not new. I first encountered them in Adam Bellow’s In Praise of Nepotism. I’m not totally convinced…I wonder if the rise of capitalism and modernity in Western Europe was over-determined. One thing to note is that the largest gradient of genetic variation in Europe is north-to-south. Northern Europe from Ireland to Russia is relatively uniform. But the socio-cultural gap between west and east is striking and derives in large part from the difference between a Latin Christian West, and an east which was not Latin and usually Orthodox Christian.