Daily Data Dump – Thursday

By Razib Khan | October 14, 2010 2:55 pm

As you can see, I got the DonorsChoose widget to work. Here’s the Discover Blogs leader board. Sean Carroll et al. are “beating” me by an order of magnitude right now. Not that that’s the point….

It’s a Jersey Thing. New South Park episode. I noticed a bunch of references to The Lord of The Rings which don’t seem to have made it into the Wikipedia summary of the episode. The depiction of “Snooki” was very funny.

How Worrysome is Habitat Loss? In relation to bidoversity I’ve argued that biologists sometimes confuse their normative with their scientific concerns, and this muddles the message. Environmental activists don’t have this problem because they’re plainly engaging in activism.


The Cost Of Standing Idly By. The story of a gay Orthodox Jew. Human cognition is complex. Trembling Before G-d is an interesting documentary on this topic you can find on Netflix. The issues here to me seem to be similar to those of liberal Roman Catholics who “rationally” should just become Episcopalians, but who emotionally can not let go of their affinity with the Universal Church. I don’t get it personally obviously, but it’s important to understand these sorts of dynamics, because this tribalism lay are the root of much social phenomena. Though honestly I do kind of get irritated by gay religionists who seem to exhibit all the exclusive and intolerant ticks toward outgroups which non-gay religionists do, excepting their broad-mindedness on the gay issue (the lesbian couple in Trembling Before G-d had a hint of this). But we’re human.

Walk To Cut Memory Decline In Half. I don’t know of the efficacy of walking to prevent memory decline. A lot of “health” research is junk in a deep causal sense. On the other hand there are some broad heuristics you can utilize and trust, and it seems walking more than the average American does is one of those.

Spatial dispersal, parallel adaptation, and the “Stooge effect.” John Hawks discusses in depth the paper I pointed to yesterday, Parallel Adaptation: One or Many Waves of Advance of an Advantageous Allele?

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  • deadpost

    “biologists sometimes confuse their normative with their scientific concerns, and this muddles the message.”

    I get the impression that it’s more of the general public, not the scientists that confuse the normative with the descriptive and mix is-ought — for instance, making arguments such as “Not having kids goes against evolution, and therefore it’s unnatural and bad” or “Evolutionary psychology promotes sexism so grossly, it can’t be factually right”, or “Economics validates a right-wing worldview with hard numbers and data”.

    Scientists may have their own normative judgements about their object of study or as to what their research is to be used for (ie. a linguist wants to to preserve language diversity, a biochemist hopes that his research isn’t used for chemical warfare), but I think most scientists (hell, pretty much, educated folks in general) know to separate them. They have to make it clear that “there are questions science cannot make a value judgement on” when they talk to the public (Maybe this is what you meant when you say “scientists confuse the normative” etc.).

    It’s probably people seeing scientists’ personal views and making “guilt-by-associations” or “arguments by authority” (e.g. associating evo. psych with sexism, or climatology with gov’ regulation) that’s the problem.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan
  • John Emerson

    It’s a freak of politics (the Endangered Species Act) that endangered species have become the political-legal-PR proxy for the environment as a whole. Scientists get dragged into it whether they want to or not.

    Endangered species are not the only reason for not clearcutting the Amazon. There’s a concern as to whether logged-off areas will ever recover, because of the climate and the specific qualities of jungle soils. (Rainfall leaches minerals, and high temperatures and humidity allow bacteria to destroy humus).

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    There’s a concern as to whether logged-off areas will ever recover, because of the climate and the specific qualities of jungle soils.

    this is where arguments about the possible past habitation of the amazon are going to come in. if the revisionism about the population estimates of the new world are correct the “virgin” biomes have only come into their present form within the past 500 years.

  • Eklart

    My problem with biologists/ecologists isn’t necessarily their value-ladening of science, it’s that they do it badly. They don’t fully think through the valuation of biodiversity or even ecosystem services. If you can’t critically assess whom benefits from conservation and at what cost, don’t do it. Leave that shit to social scientists.

  • John Emerson

    Based on what I’ve read, the agricultureal area in the Amazon was distinguished by the kind of soil, in that the soil had been deliberated transformed by man. It was not the original soil either.

    This goes on with every form of agriculture. Steps are taken to make it drain better, enrich the minerals, add humus and nitrogen, etc. In Cina people have built soil in some very improbably areas.

    Eklart, this kind of thing is always going to be messy. No one is expert in every aspect. Everyone should say their piece and if it’s wrong, they’ll find out. Social scientists have their own problems.

    Scientists, philosophers, and rationalists dream of a clean, neat, politics free politics, but it’s impossible when you’re dealing with enormous groups of people with conflicting goals and widely varrying levels of understanding.

    And decision making politics within elite groups is just as messy. Think academic politics.

  • Eklart

    “Everyone should say their piece and if it’s wrong, they’ll find out. Social scientists have their own problems.”

    Oh, for sure, but they generally don’t have anywhere near the influence that natural scientists do on policy or public perception. In my experience, most natural scientists don’t realize (or care much about) the power of their reality-forging, and the implications it may have.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Oh, for sure, but they generally don’t have anywhere near the influence that natural scientists do on policy or public perception.

    economists?

  • Eklart

    That oversight probably reflects my internal taxonomy of academia…

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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

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