Open thread, 10-03-2012

By Razib Khan | October 3, 2012 10:56 pm


MORE ABOUT: Open Thread
  • B.B.

    Apparently John Philippe Rushton has passed away. He was certainly a polarizing figure. I’m not totally convinced of the validity of all his theories, though I don’t think he was as much of a crank as many of his critics made him out to be.

  • Andrew Selvarasa

    Has anyone read Steven Pinker’s new book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined”? I subscribe to everything Steven lays out in the book, but I’m interested in what everyone else has to say. Thanks! :)

  • AG

    According to Steve Sailer, Rushton had passed away.

    Time will tell wether he was some one similar to Galileo or Darwin, who was too much ahead their time.


  • Charles Nydorf

    I read about the death of scientific popularizer Irving Adler at the age of 95. One evening, after dinner, my father and I made a (finite) model of a Turing machine. I think the instructions came from a paperback that Adler wrote on computers.
    2Andrew, I also agree with Pinker’s main point. Personally, I sometimes have a certain sympathy with vigilantism but I realize that it is better to let legal institutions take their due course.

  • AG

    Regarding Presidential debate, general public (or average IQ mass) love to hear rhetoric instead of deep analysis. Message needs to be simple for easy brain washing. Obama failed on that at first debate.

  • pconroy

    @5, AG,

    Exactly! My wife who is a Dem/Obama supporter was saying to me before the debate that Romney would “have to” give details of his plans if he wanted to be taken seriously. My reply was, “If he wants to win, he shouldn’t!”

    The thing is all Obama has to do as the incumbent is sit back, look relaxed in the Presidential debates and just say, “We’re making progress… things are going to be alright… keep the faith”. Romney on the other hand had to attack and rattle Obama, and in this he was awesome last night!

    The reality is both men are similar on some things, they lean centrist on social issues for instance, but they are radically different fiscally, where Obama is a doctrinaire socialist/Marxist – who dreams of taking your money and giving it to others like him – and Romney represents fiscal rationality and sanity.

    Romney has had a tough job getting through the Republican nomination process, which forced him to go way right on social issues – something he seemed very uncomfortable with, but now that’s over he can swing back to his more usual centrist stance.

    What’s interesting is that Obama got elected on a combination of White guilt and platitudes like, “Audacity of Hope”, rather than any experience or achievement. But Romney has successfully shown that he too can play that game of sloganeering, rather than debate facts and data.

    It’s going to be very interesting what happens next. Obviously Obama’s handlers totally miscalculated what Romney would do, and Obama was left looking bewildered and flat in tone and body language – which will hurt him with female voters, minorities and gays, his base. Meanwhile Romney seemed more alive than ever, he looked in charge and relished the debate – all making him look a better leader on the night.

    Obama’s handlers will now need to go back to the drawing board and get him back to sloganeering and posturing – which he is adept at. Romney would do well to repeat last night again – I hope he had it in him to do so.

    Overall, great theater!

  • Florida resident

    Dear Mr. Khan !

    1. Standard (albeit sincere) best wishes to your family.

    2. I greatly respect (enviously fascinated by) your knowledge and interest in History. May I ask your opinion about Machiavelli ?
    There are two reasons for me to ask about it.

    First of all, I do not have enough ability to understand History (and, as a _consequence_, did not have much of interest in it.) The only historic book I ever read in full is “Understanding Human History” by Michael Hart.

    Second, I was reading recently couple of books by Barbara Oakley, including “Cold-Blooded Kindness. …”. For some reasons that authoress puts Machiavelli in the same column with Stalin and similar names. I started to refresh what I remembered from reading Machiavelli’s “Prince”.
    What I found there were quiet technocratic prescriptions, based on reasonably good (IMHO) understanding of human nature: both, of the governors, and of the governed. He does not discuss, whether this or that social arrangement is either just or serves better the goals of God (or any other entity.) He states that given the existence of governors and of governed, the former ones should better do it in this or that way.

    What is your opinion ?

    Your truly, Florida resident.

  • dave chamberlin

    I have no idea how Obama so badly brain farted last night. Romney completely changed multiple positions from which he had previously held and Obama let him get away with it. If Obama keeps it up then we will have a new president and I will have to honor my bet and try to find five books Razib hasn’t read that he would like to read, not an easy task. I am neither liberal or conservative but simply a resigned cynic when it comes to politics. We have reached a malthusian equilibrium, meaning we get the government that we the people deserve. No more no less. We no longer have leaders that represent the people but salesmen that shift positions and say whatever it takes to get to 51% of the vote.

    But no worries, my life has never been better, and while the 21st century will be one of gradual quality of life decline in the good ole USA, the singularity is just a century or so away. Better brains got us here and better brains will get us to where we are going and that coming improvement however and whenever it happens shall be what I call the singularity. As Mark Twain said “history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes.” We are the lucky ones in more ways than one. The timing of when we were born almost couldn’t have been better. If we are more intellegent than most it is because our direct ancestors had a miserable time of it and we are the beneficiaries of the cruelties of survival of the fittest. I owe Razib a lot more than five books he would enjoy reading.

  • T

    Why are principle component analyses graphed as squares? Wouldn’t it be more illuminating to show them as rectangles, with the more important factor given a proportionately longer axis?

  • Razib Khan

    #9, often there is a huge difference between 1 and 2, and you want to get a qualitative sense of population separation, not a quantitative measure. second, often you do: 1X2, 1X3, 1X… the lower components have small magnitudes for sure, and so it is not practical to have appropriate scaling.

  • Razib Khan

    #7, machiavelli gets a bad rap because people only know a few sentence descriptions. he was a subtle thinker. and from a utilitarian perspective you might argue he was more humane than some of his more idealistic contemporaries.

  • Tim

    Going back to the earlier discussion of the first conscious human, I think I may have thought of a way (quite speculative of course) that he/she could have arisen and stayed sane that could answer some of the questions that were posed.

    My idea deals with twins. In modern populations they often develop their own private language as small children. If in a population of Hidelbergensis, a pair of twins was born into a population that had the biological capability for full consciousness, but said population had only partially developed that potential, I think they may have been able to take that next step and develop their own language. The world’s first full language, and hey, they’d have someone to talk to without going crazy.

    Hidelbergensis probably had their own primitive form of language already (given that H. Sapiens and Neanderthals both have the FOXP2 gene it’s likely their common ancestor did too), and if said twins were on the border of two language groups and exposed to both they’d be more likely to create their own.

  • skid

    Scientists in Japan have created egg cells (and sperm cells last year) from skin-like cells that were converted into stem cells… in mice.,0,5337238.story

    I’m a lawyer, so I know a lot of talented women who postponed childbearing until way too late. Hopefully, this technology could be applied to humans in the future.

  • Randall

    #1, I never knew what to make of Rushton. I can’t evaluate his professional work, and I don’t trust his critics that I have read to tell the truth on the issues Rushton wrote about (the race stuff). It’s a shame his work wasn’t evaluated on the merits. Maybe it was in the peer and specialist literature. In non-specialist publications and the mainstream media, he didn’t get a fair shake.

  • AG

    “Scientists in Japan have created egg cells (and sperm cells last year) from skin-like cells that were converted into stem cells… in mice.”

    Maybe for a few generations. Sexual reproduction through meiosis is critical mechnism to rid of mutational loads. Without meiosis, genetic meltdown is the outcome.

  • Tim

    Anyone interested in early hominid evolution and the development of stone tools should read this post, pretty awesome IMHO.

  • SeekTruthFromFacts

    Both your hosts and your guests might like you to draw attention to this article, if you haven’t already covered it:

    Slightly annoying that they talk about “Indonesians” rather “Austronesians”. It’s like saying that the Americas were first settled by Russians!


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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


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