Open thread, 2/24/2013

By Razib Khan | February 25, 2013 12:42 am

I stopped doing the ‘open threads’ when the comments system was borked. But now that it’s back, I will bring it back. Thanks to a reader who reminded me of this.

MORE ABOUT: Open Thread
  • Zenn Diagram

    Thanks. I’ll repost my comment here.

    I’m working on my homeschool curriculum. I’m wondering what books
    on evolution you might recommend for intelligent non-biologists. The
    students will know basic algebra and practical statistics. Although the
    students will be (my) children I am not looking for children’s books.

    I have “The Selfish Gene” on my tentative list, but I haven’t read it
    yet so I can’t judge its quality. I’m also not a fan of Dawkins and he
    seems to be a bit of a creationist when it comes to humans. Also on
    the list is Darwin’s Origin of Species, but it is mostly for historical
    value, since it is still rather Lamarkian and doesn’t cover genetics or
    drift. So right now I have those two on my list and I’d like a third.

  • Florida_resident

    Dear Mr. Khan !

    1. Standard and sincere best wishes and blessings to your family.

    2. I have recently found my writing (rather disapproving) about the book by R. Nisbett,

    May i check with you, whether the calculations were technically correct ?
    Apparently in his book Dr. Nisbett does not differentiate between genetic and hereditary influence on ability. Quite possibly he does that deliberately.
    To illustrate the difference, let us turn to the example of
    Mendel’s Laws of heredity in one particular artificial example.
    Suppose a population has the gene pool with equal number of
    genes responsible for 1) blue color of eyes, and for 2) brown color of eyes. Suppose that choice of mating partner depends neither
    on the phenotype: on the expression
    of the genes of eye color, i.e. on the visible eye color of adult person, nor
    on underlying genotype, i.e. on the set of genes (blue-blue), (blue-brown), (brown-blue), or (brown-brown). In other words, assume that mating is neutral with respect to the genotype (actual genes) or to the phenotype (external expression of these genes.)
    On average, in the absence of mating preferences, the 50%-50%
    ratio of “blue” and “brown” genes will be preserved infinitely long time
    in the gene pool of the population.
    Note now, that the “brown” variant is dominant, while “blue” variant is recessive. Therefore (blue-blue) pair of genes (genotype) is
    expressed in the form of [blue-eyed adult] (phenotype). Meanwhile, the
    genotypes (blue-brown), (brown-blue) and (brown-brown) are all expressed in the form of [brown-eyed adult]. Therefore the population is 25% blue-eyed and 75% brown-eyed in appearance (in the phenotype.)

    The manifestation of eye color is 100% predetermined by
    corresponding genes in our model; potentially this manifestation (expression of genes) may be known at the moment right after conception, if DNA analysis of that particular gene is available. We can say that the color of eye is 100% genetic.
    Meanwhile, the heredity of eye color in this population will
    show correlation only, not deterministic law. As already mentioned, the
    population consists of 25% blue-eyed adults and of 75% brown-eyed adults.
    Any [blue+blue]-manifested pair of parents have 100% of
    blue-eyed kids in adulthood.
    An average [brown+blue] -manifested pair of parents has 33%
    of blue-eyed kids, and 67% of brown-eyed kids in adulthood.
    An average [brown+brown] -manifested pair of parents has 11%
    of blue-eyed kids and 89% of brown-eyed kids in adulthood.
    So, heredity, i.e. correlation with parents is less than 100%
    These numbers: 100%; 33% and 67%; 11% and 89%, — they may
    be found in almost any textbook on biology, but it took me about half an hour — to calculate them without textbook, and I had to verify them (numbers) with a person, who knows that stuff by heart.
    Sincerely, Florida resident.

    • jason malloy

      The definitive take down of Nisbett’s book is James Lee’s review in Personality & Individual Differences. (… Though for some reason it’s impossible to find this review in Google Scholar.)

  • Navaneeth P P

    Have you signed up or do you plan to sign up for Cryonics?

    • razibkhan

      not yet

  • razibkhan

    an ignorant one (despite claims of long history of familial erudition)? :-) more clearly, dawkins was an early defender of sociobiology. see *defenders of the truth* for the intellectual history, and chagnon’s own memory for dawkins’ support of him (or john horgan’s revelation that dawkins and others attempted to have him not write a positive review of the anti-chagnon book).

    more relevantly for those who don’t know, dawkins and steven pinker are good friends (partly through john brockman). so the idea that he’s a left creationist is dubious.

    • Zenn Diagram

      Thanks, I did more research on whether he was a creationist. It is nice to see that he does not take the orthodox stand, which was unexpected. My attempt to justify my ignorance on this specific matter is in my response to Mike Keesey.

      As for making a mistake due to ignorance, that is part of my strategy. When I was young I noticed that it was pretty easy to never be wrong: just hedge your statements or say nothing. Sometime in my 20s I realized that net correctness usually matters more than the ratio. Since then my goal has been to make more mistakes. As a byproduct I have more successes.

      As for my family, in the last three generations we’ve had three pretty important inventors plus a bunch of assorted hard scientists and engineers. I’m pretty much the only non-successful person in my family, but I married well.

  • Zenn Diagram

    As a bit of a cop-out I’m going to point out that I used the word “seems” rather than “is”. As I admitted, I have not read his works. If he were a random scientist then I would be at fault for jumping to conclusions about him with no evidence. However he is not a random scientist. He has deliberately cultivated the image of being a crusader. I assumed, quite reasonably, that he was orthodox in his views. I was wrong.

  • Emily

    Do you have any advice on collecting saliva from an infant for a 23andme kit? Is it worth getting their “special” collection kit?

    • razibkhan

      yes, worth the special kit. makes it VERY easy. my daughter was typed at 2 months with this.

  • shareddreams

    Hi, I’d like to hear your views on this:

    And also on the comments.


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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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