Around the net, & of note

By Razib Khan | February 13, 2013 2:04 am

As some of you may have noticed, Neuroskeptic has joined Discover. I am rather pleased. There will be others soon enough.

Chris Chabris has a blog. I reviewed his book The Invisible Gorilla a few years back. Here’s one thing I would say about Chabris: I read him very closely, because he is very careful. And I’ve been doing so since the late 1990s, when I first encountered his writing.

Ruling Islamists, Under Attack, Reject Blame for Tunisia’s Woes. Tunisia was, in my pinion, the Arab Spring’s first best hope.

Paper: Men and Women Are From Earth: Examining the Latent Structure of Gender. Most people who believe that there are differences between groups, who are not totally stupid, don’t conjecture that they are categorical and dichotomous classes. Men are taller than women in a pragmatic sense does no entail that all men are taller than women.

DIY biotech spreads to community. In many ways I think “DIY” is going to become a buzzword with less meaning in the near future. With the proliferation of information appliances we’ll do lots of things ourselves, bu we won’t be amateur about it.

Fears of the Future Haunt a Budding Generation of Afghan Strivers. American economic stimulus driven by taxation causes prosperity somewhere.

Isotopic data show farming arrived in Europe with migrants. We need to be careful of projecting two exclusionary models.

Inside China’s Genome Factory. BGI may have great publicists, but I suspect to a large extent they are the real deal.

Honey Boo Boo’s Mom is Actually Doing Something Smart with Her Reality Show Money.

Zen Groups Distressed by Accusations Against Teacher. One of the most annoying thing about sincere and zealous “spiritual seekers” and they often end up worshiping “teachers” in a cult-like manner. Call me an old fashioned Whig, but true wisdom isn’t found in ancient books or over confident charlatans.

The Dice Are Rolling on Dell’s Legacy. There are no eternal winners in capitalism.

God Made A Factory Farmer.

When E-Mail Turns From Delight to Deluge. Facebook has siphoned off a lot of the inter-personal email.

Michael Bloomberg, Tireless Champion of Civil Liberties. Yes. You read that right.

Why Are There So Few Vegetarians? I found out about these stats a few years ago.

uBiome. I think I’m in.

  • Jason Collins

    Chabris may be careful, but based on his first two posts, he doesn’t mind laying the boot in when it is deserved.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    The vegetarians article seems to be from 2011, but maybe it’s just getting some buzz now.

    I think it has some interesting data (as does the linked article within on ex-vegetarians), but I think his argument (that we are biologically conditioned to crave meat, and most cannot overcome this) is weak, weak weak. After all, many Indians have traditionally eschewed all meat for centuries. Clearly there doesn’t seem to be a genetic difference, because the majority of Indian Vegetarians (not to mention their children) become carnivores if they migrate to a meat-eating culture like the United States. Furthermore, consider that insects were just as much a part of our diet over evolutionary history, but most westerners are left with disgust at the thought of eating them.

    I’ve come up with my own conclusions on why few people become vegetarians, and why most give it up. Basically, it’s just the “socialization” module of the brain that Judith Rich Harris talks about. On a subconscious level, people notice what their peers eat, and they adjust their dietary desires to match those around them. This makes it hard for people to become vegetarians – even those who really desire to – as they’re fighting unconscious commands to be like others with conscious logical reasoning about their actions.

    Of course, some people do become become vegetarians and vegans. By and large, I think the vast majority do so because of the same peer pressures. My older brother was a vegetarian for two years before me, and I do not think without his example I would have thought about it. People in their teen years and young adulthood (particularly if they are involved in youth subculture) notice a bunch of their friends are vegetarians, and decide it is a good idea on an unconscious level. After awhile, they age out of youth culture, and have adult peers which are mainly meat eating, which tends to drag most of them back towards the diet of the majority.

    This didn’t happen for me. I’ve never felt any particular pressure to stop. Ironically, becoming a vegan was initially a one-year resolution, as I was pissed at how people would become vegans for a few months and fail – I wanted to prove to myself and others it wasn’t hard to do. But it ended up being easy. That said, I think I have an atypical mind. As Judith Rich Harris admitted about herself, I probably have a faulty “groupness” component in my mind. I never fit in as a child, and when I became a teenager, I decided that anything that “normal people” liked, must, by definition, be bad. My brother stopped being vegan after two years, and he told me that he couldn’t stand being so alienated from everyone – eating food which was so different. I answered, in total honesty “being alienated is the best part!”

    Regardless, I would presume if you look at long-term vegetarians and vegans, you’ll find a huge percentage of them lack typical human conformity instincts. Many of the remainder will have isolated themselves in subcultures (seventh-day adventists, rastafarians, various communes) where vegetarianism is the norm.

    • Robert Ford

      A lot of my family is either vegan, veggie, restricted meat, etc. I tried it but animal fat is just too satisfying. I never feel like a salad “hits the spot” and keeps me full. So I live with my guilt…

      • Karl Zimmerman

        I actually seldom eat salad. I’ll eat it when it’s put in front of me (provided it has something more interesting than iceberg lettuce), but it ranks very, very low in terms of what I’d want to eat.


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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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