Daily Data Dump – Thursday

By Razib Khan | September 9, 2010 11:48 am

More on The Social Sensitivity Hypothesis. At A Replicated Typo a post which explores a model whereby different morphs emerge which migrate and flourish based on genotype. The “sensitive” and “non-sensitive” tendency is optimized for different ecologies, whereby in high resource zones the sensitives do better. The author expresses a lot of caution, but the awesomeness in the post is that he wrote up the model as a script. Here’s the graphical output (see the post for an explanation):

Gene Discovery Holds Key to Growing Crops in Cold Climates. The agricultural sciences are woefully underexposed. Astronomy feeds the soul, but cow-colleges help feed the stomach.

The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution by Timothy Taylor. A mixed review of the book of the same name. It’s probably an unfortunate cognitive bias to construct a one-causal-factor-explains-it-all for “why we’re human” (also, these models sell books, nuance gets by peer review). But our utilization of technology has to be high up on the list “what makes man.” I think there’s a good case that technology is the root of many of the other posited changes. For example, fire is a technology which drives the “cooking model.”

Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds. Michael Lewis profiles the society that is Greece. In describing the faction and distrust which lay at the heart of Greece I can’t but help but think of inferences from “natural character” as to why the city-states of yore could never unify into a coherent whole, and were conquered by Macedon and Rome in turn. In 1999 according to the Census the per capita income of Greek Americans was $27,400, as opposed to $21,600 for the average American. It seems that if Greece just fired most of their civil servants and replaced them with Finns the nation’s real economic productivity would immediately skyrocket. The main issue is that the Finns would need intensive training on how not to get screwed.

Greatest of All Time. Gaius Appuleius Diocles, a charioteer in 2nd century Rome, may have had lifetime earnings on the order of the equivalent of $15 billion dollars! More precisely, he earned 35,863,120 sesterces over his career, which could have funded the entire Roman army alone for a little over two months, or fed the city of Rome on grain for a year.


Comments (9)

  1. Chris T

    It’s interesting to think about how modern technology is driving evolution today. We can compensate for a large number of vision problems which lifts any form of natural selection on eye problems like myopia. Very few children do not make it to adulthood, the reverse of the past.

  2. modern tech (reading a lot) exacerbates myopia too.

  3. Chris T

    Actually, the lighting conditions one is reading under probably has more to do with myopia than the actual reading (specifically, which wavelengths are present).

  4. Stephen

    I love the thinking in the Social Sensitivity Hypothesis post, as there seems little doubt that there is selection on the basis of temperament. Yet I would object that genetically effective migration is just as likely to *require* collectivism, as opposed to functioning without it. Think of wagon trains full of close-knit families, or a Puritan ship full of families, who depend as much or more on each other than they did at home. I think rugged individualism accounts for pioneering discovery and conquest, not for permanent colonization. Another factor for such modeling might be assortative mating for temperament. That is, the stay-at-homes not only keep their reticent genes common in their neighborhood generally. They also tend to marry the genetic stay-at-homes among their prospects. When resources are good this is aided by large family size, enabled by marriage among families with high longevity (social support of older folks), and reinforced by cultural hegemony of land holders. I have colonial New England in mind, but it’s just one example. And later U.S. immigrants tended to move where forbears had already settled.

  5. miko

    “…there seems little doubt that there is selection on the basis of temperament.”

    What’s the evidence for this (keeping in mind that evidence of selection at loci that may affect temperament is not evidence for selection on temperament)? Not that I necessarily think it’s wrong in the long term, but there is this evo-psych-ish tendency to jump from “it is plausible that” to “there seems little doubt that.” And then we have the leap from temperament to migration potential. I would guesstimate that a large percentage of migrants do not migrate by choice, particularly in “modern” times. They are forced out, shipped, starving, displaced by climate change or resource depletion etc. Anyway, on an evolutionary time scale, every non-African is equally a migrant.

    Hmmm…After a cursory glance at the social selection site–his own figures don’t even match the claims in the text.

  6. @ Miko: You know, if you actually left this comment on the site in question, then the author might be able to respond directly to your criticisms.

  7. miko

    Thanks for the Internet tip, Wintz! But I only have time for 2 or 3 blogs. Never heard of whoever that one was.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


See More


RSS Razib’s Pinboard

Edifying books

Collapse bottom bar