Archive for June, 2006

noisrevnI taK

By Razib Khan | June 30, 2006 7:20 pm

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Donors Choose – Last Leg

By Razib Khan | June 30, 2006 9:17 am

Janet has the details, but we’re winding down. Three things:
1) Thanks to everyone who gave, I didn’t raise much myself, but something is way better than nothing and good is accomplished in small steps
2) Mad props to “DS” (you know who you are), as you donated twice, and at least once substantially
3) I’d really like to get some last minute pledges and make it to around $500
But thanks again to everyone who participated! Hopefully I’ll be doing things like this in the future.


Math makes you more conservative

By Razib Khan | June 30, 2006 2:29 am

It is well known that academics tend to be on the political Left. Some people are angry about this, but I don’t particularly care. Members of Opus Dei tend to be on the Right, does that surprise? Nevertheless, I am curious about differences with disciplines in academia. So I found this study which classified political orientation by discipline. Excel below the fold….

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Closeup 1, 2006

By Razib Khan | June 29, 2006 11:08 pm

Closeup 1 has revamped their website and is ramping up for their 2006 edition, though for a poetically inclined folk this introduction does translate somewhat manically into English:

Dreams & Talents
Confidence & Aspiration
Voice & The Microphone
A Nation & Its Youth
You, us and the youth of
Bangladesh – together we
created history with
Close Up 1 in 2005.

Of course, just like the first season of Survivor, the first season of Closeup 1 is special. The initial participants will go down in history….


Hsien Hsien Lei interviews me

By Razib Khan | June 29, 2006 12:06 pm

It seems that others have a compulsion to control the means of my opinion production. 5 questions from Hsien Hsien Lei aimed at me. Lei runs a great weblog, Genetics and Health.


Being abnormal

By Razib Khan | June 29, 2006 5:52 am

In Unequal by nature: A geneticist’s perspective on human differences, James F. Crow states:

Two populations may have a large overlap and differ only slightly in their means. Still, the most outstanding individuals will tend to come from the population with the higher mean.

This is a trivial observation. It is biologically relevant because heritable quantitative traits are to a great extent the raw material for evolution, and, they generally follow an approximate normal distribution. The reasoning is simple, many loci of small independent additive effects are a good approximation of the genetic architecture of many phenotypes, and this structure simulates, roughly, the independent random variables which result in a normal distribution because of the central limit theorem. Obviously two of the most important parameters in the normal distribution are the mean (which is also the mode & median in a perfectly ideal distribution) and variance around that mean.
Unfortunately, human minds are not unbiased statistical inference devices. Otherwise, cognitive psychologists would be shorted many interesting questions. It seems that the implications of the normal distribution and its most famous parameters (the mean and the variance) should be obvious to all college educated individuals. But my experience is that this isn’t true, unfortunately. Experience indicates that principles are often more profitably imparted visually, so I took 10 minutes and cranked out a pretty picture via Excel that you can view below the fold.

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Genetic conflicts in human pregnancy

By Razib Khan | June 28, 2006 2:44 am

In the long winded post below I referred to genetic conflicts in pregnancy. If you are curious about this, I highly recommend Mother Nature by Sarah Hrdy. Though the topic is placed in the context of female evolution (of our species) in general, it gets a thorough treatment. If you are interested in the technical literature, I recommend this review, Genetic Conflicts in Pregnancy by David Haig. Since it is a review, it is less analytical and formal than much of Haig’s work, so it reads easily. You can get the pdf on Haig’s website.


Who manages PNAS' site?

By Razib Khan | June 28, 2006 2:26 am

The paper that was supposed to be out nearly a week ago is finally on the PNAS site. This isn’t the first time this has cropped up. Additionally, I can’t believe that someone is writing all the press releases which give early dates for release on the website, rather, I’m assuming that the IT guys at PNAS are lazy. Anyway, I don’t want to be a bitch, but this is a pattern so I figure I should note it publically (hey, when you waste 15-20 minutes combing the website for a paper multiple times, resentment builds up).


Abort me, if you will

By Razib Khan | June 27, 2006 11:30 pm

Janet points me to this post which points to this research which reinforces the theory that placental environment might have a strong effect on the phenotype of the fetus. Since I’ve expressed an interest in genomic imprinting let me respond to Jill at Feministing‘s query, “why do we have to know?”, she doesn’t have to, but some of us certainly follow this research closely. The reason isn’t because we are obsessed with the biology of homosexuality, as that is the phenotype in question, but rather it elucidates questions and dynamics in evolutionary biology that we find interesting.

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Hot for missionary?!?!

By Razib Khan | June 27, 2006 12:14 pm

A random hot chick approached me and started talking to me on the street, real aggressive like. I was pretty taken aback until I realized she was a Jehovah’s Witness, though I didn’t comprehend that until I looked at the literature she gave me. I don’t really know what she said, and I left the literature in the coffee shop where I got my morning fix, but this is certainly the first time that I’ve been approached by a smokin’ JW. But I don’t know if it’s good for the spread of the faith since I doubt this individual induces moral rectitude in most males who she approaches with a bright smile. Of course she could take it to the next step, in the late 4th century though the emperor was Christian the Senate in Rome was the redoubt of pagan males. Nonetheless, many of their wives were Christian, and they raised their children in that faith.


Gay Muslims seeking marriages of convenience

By Razib Khan | June 27, 2006 12:51 am

Manish points me to this bizarre article about a successful young American who happens to be gay, and, is seeking a “marriage of convenience” with a suitably inclined lesbian. Oh, and guess what, he is a practicing Muslim to boot! A few months ago rik asked me if I thought science and religion were fundamentally compatible. My somewhat lame answer was that they must be, as there are individuals who are great scientists who seem sincerely religious. Now, is a homosexual orientation which is active and unabashed compatible with Islam? Most of the scholars and clerics interviewed in the article disavow any hint of such a possibility, and yet people live this ideal. Is it possible to be a vegan for ethical reasons all the while being a promiscuous zoophile?1 Hell if I know. The illusion of an integrated and rational mind is really getting to be a problem for me. The power of ideas is overrated, the persuasiveness of preference is neglected.
1 – I do not believe animals can give consent, so zoophilia is rape in my eyes.


10 questions for Jim Crow

By Razib Khan | June 26, 2006 10:24 am

My 10 questions for James F. Crow are up. It isn’t often that a nobody gets to interview the greatest living thinker in a field (theoretical population genetics), so you should check it out.


Donors Challenge – Home stretch

By Razib Khan | June 26, 2006 9:01 am

OK, people, check out the leader board. I suck, but that’s cool, we’ve raised thousands & thousands of dollars. But, I would like to stand a little taller and say that I did my part, so lift me up on your shoulders!


The anti-Christ?

By Razib Khan | June 25, 2006 11:53 pm

I might not believe in God, but I believe in Satan. Below the fold is a picture where you can make your own judgement (those who remember the Omen movies know what I’m talking about)….

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Why blog about science?

By Razib Khan | June 25, 2006 5:40 pm

Chris has an excellent post up about the “why” and “what” in regards to science blogs. I have already sketched out why I blog in the generalities, it is really a function of my egoism. The one thing I would add, or elaborate, in regards to Chris’ post is that I do think science blogs play a very important role in adding a layer of intellectual granularity to the understanding of educated and science savvy folk of specific fields. If you encounter science purely through popularizations, no matter how well written they are you might get a distorted sense. As an illustration, as Chris has noted himself, George Lakoff is probably the eminent cognitive psychologist/linguist in the minds of most well educated people who take an interest in the sciences of the mind (especially on the Left where his “framing” analysis has become popular). ’nuff said.
Update: Chris responds to my response by reiterating his point about reaching out toward a broader audience. I generally agree with the tactics he advises, but, I would add one thing: Chris and I focus on fields which are contingent upon findings and assumptions derived from other fields. So, I see Mark Chu-Carroll (Math), Chemblog (Chemistry) and Janet (Philosophy) as more relevant targets for outreach. Myself, I address a topic (genetics) of great interest, but to really get what I’m talking about a basic (very basic!) understanding of probability is a necessary precondition.


Group selection in humans?

By Razib Khan | June 25, 2006 3:55 pm

In reference to my previous post about multi-level selection, I have an admission to make, I am generally more open to group selection, strictly speaking interdemic selection, for human beings than I am for other creatures. The reasoning is culture, as my intuition is that ingroup vs. outgroup psychological dynamics can generate the relatively high ratio of intergroup vs. intragroup variance that is needed for this form of selection to keep up with within group selection (e.g., individual selection). To some extent, I have been influenced by the book, Not by Genes Alone, a popularization of the work of theoretical anthropologists Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson. Additionally, recently I have been in a discussion with Judith Rich Harris about the role that multi-level selection plays in No Two Alike. But finally, I am going to publish a 10 questions with James F. Crow on my other weblog tomorrow morning, and in it I ask him about group selection and he responded that he did believe that it was important for human evolution. I suspected as much as I did a literature review before asking him the questions. But in any case, reputation matters, if the most eminent population geneticist alive believes in its relevance for human evolution, I am more hesitant to dismiss it.
More later….


Evolution and religion

By Razib Khan | June 24, 2006 6:49 pm

Ruminations on the relationship between religion and evolution at the Conservatives Against Intelligent Design website.


What makes a good teacher

By Razib Khan | June 23, 2006 4:08 pm

What makes a good teacher? That’s what SEED is asking this week. Here’s my top 10….

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Ask a ScienceBlogger

Post-solstice kat

By Razib Khan | June 23, 2006 12:16 pm

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A question regarding the Popper Cult

By Razib Khan | June 23, 2006 9:59 am

This is a question I’m throwing out to the philosophers out there, what is the current thinking in regards to Popper in philosophy of science? My own impression is that Popper is considered passe. I find this interesting, because in my personal experience when workings scientists mouth philospophical platitudes, it is almost purely in a Popperian language. A friend of mine who is a systematist was at a conference, and she recounted to me how a cladist badgered her after her presentation because she had violated “the Popperian method.” Another time I read a paper which explored the evolution of molecular genetic systems under the impact of drift and selection where the authors formulated their model in an explicitly Popperian fashion. The emergence of cladistics which allowed for the application hypothetico-deductive model and phylogenetics is and was inspired by the Popperian demand for objective falsification. So what’s the story? You tell me, are scientists standing on philosophical ruins?


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