Open thread, 5/5/2013

By Razib Khan | May 6, 2013 1:53 am

Last week’s thread was rather informative.

  • slartibartfastibast

    On a scale of 1-10, with 1 as Jim Watson and 10 as Bruce Lipton, how crazy, in your opinion, is this fellow’s claim?:

    “At those very times of need emerges new combinations of
    genes that give rise to rare creations of genius – or “islands of
    genius” as savants in our children.” –R. Naviaux, MD, PhD

  • Robert Ford
    Someone did a true analysis so you can find out how much of your car is made in America.

    • Felis

      Thanks for the latter. The HBO documentary show and magazine Vice recently claimed that birth defects in Iraq had doubled since 2002, and linked it to depleted uranium weapons. However, the chart shows that the rate is the same (or virtually) as nearby Kuwait, Syria, Jordan, Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia, yet significantly higher than Turkey or Israel. This suggests demographic/genetic reasons (inbreeding?) are more likely than environmental causes, at least on a country-wide scale.

      • Inane Rambler

        Depleted Uranium weapons seem to be a non-starter as I see it.

        There are only a few weapons that contain depleted Uranium, and most of them have little use in counter-insurgency.

        • Felis

          Oh, yes, it was an unlikely hypothesis to begin with, but they tried to give legitimacy to a recent, external cause by talking about increases in rates without numbers or comparisons. So, it was good to see the data.

          In the same segment, one of the fathers blamed his son’s hypoxic brain damage on the weapons, stating that injuries related to oxygen deprivation at birth never occurred in Iraq before 2003. This went unchallenged by the interviewer.

  • Odoacer

    I’ve often heard the argument that extensive welfare and trust work best in relatively ethnically homogeneous countries, usually with the Nordic countries held up as exemplars. I was, however, recently disabused of the notion that the Scandinavian countries are relatively homogeneous in terms of population demographics (with the exception of Finland [2.9%]).

    Sweden: 12.3% of the population is foreign born

    Norway: 13.1%

    Denmark: 7.2%

    *These numbers don’t capture the fine grain (e.g. the largest immigrant population in Sweden is composed of Finns, and many foreign born are at least partially descendant from that country’s ancestry).

    • razibkhan

      coincidentally (?) there are now starting to be cut backs in the nordic welfare states (this was going to happen no matter what unless productivity magically exploded because of the dependency ratio changes)

    • Robert Ford

      you don’t consider almost 90% to be relatively homogeneous? I was going to post this earlier but decided not to but now it seems somewhat relevant. I haven’t watched all of it yet.

      • USfromDK

        It depends on what you’re looking at. When having a closer look the image gets more murky because immigrants tend to cluster in urban areas. So you have ‘low’ averages, but you also have areas which are majority-muslim. Those areas implicitly create heterogeneities, because they tend to be very different from the rest of the country.

        • razibkhan

          just to reiterate the other commenter: from an american perspective ALL european countries are VERY homogeneous. even your low-ball estimates suggest that. i recall a few years ago visiting london, and thinking it was a lot like new york city, but with a much higher proportion of white people.

          that being said, people perceive ethnic diversity on a ‘curve.’ in the USA 90% white is very white. in europe 10% non-white is very diverse.

          USA has the same problem with segregation, so i don’t think that’s really relevant (in fact, because of small base numbers in many european nations there’s far less segregation; see UK).

          • USfromDK

            I know the US is more heterogenous.

            “USA has the same problem with segregation, so i don’t think that’s really relevant” – just to clarify, I wasn’t trying to say anything about how heterogenities in the Nordic countries compare to heterogeneities in the US, I was just trying to say that the heterogeneities here are by now large enough to be politically relevant and reasonably hard to ignore. Which is a new development in the big scheme of things.

          • Inane Rambler

            This has seemed to be my experience as well.

            Although I should preface that by saying that I’ve not spent more than a few days in Western Europe, most of that I was on the ship.

          • SeekTruthFromFacts

            One insight I find very helpful on this topic: most Americans have only met foreigners who want to become American. That is not the case in Europe and Asia, where expats are much more likely to retain their culture and return home. So if we look at people’s cultural future rather than their ethnic heritage, I suspect New York is much more homogenous than London. Significant proportions of London’s population do not intend to give up their original loyalties (and are not expected to, since the UK facilitates dual citizenship).

    • USfromDK

      I don’t know about the other Nordic countries but Denmark is at 10,1% if you include descendants:

      Note that the numbers from Statistics Denmark (I don’t know how they do it in the other Nordic countries) only go back one generation, so as time goes on they become worse and worse metrics for figuring out ethnicity-stuff – once the born in Denmark daughter of the Lebanese immigrants start having children they’re counted as Danes.

      I liked Razib’s ‘coincidentally.’ Immigration patterns (we have a big net-inflow of uneducated low-earners and a net-outflow of educated high-earners) aren’t the only reasons why the public finances don’t look as great as they could have done, but they do play a role – for example a few years ago the Danish Welfare Commission calculated that the NPV of a female immigrant from a lesser-developed country is -4,4 mio. kroner ($800k). That’s a lot of money.

      If you’re curious I’ve ‘translated’ big parts of a publication from Statistics Denmark to make the numbers available to non-Danish-speaking people in a few posts on my blog – the one I link to above is the first one in the series, the Danish Welfare Commission estimate above is from this one:

  • Lord

    With the current discovery of numerous planets around nearby stars, is there a quantification of what would constitute a habitable world for humans as they exist? Excluding terraforming, some class of star, some range of gravity, temperature, an oxygen atmosphere so some life, in which range of concentration, density, other components, some range of gravity, some bound on amount of water for a solid surface, perhaps a gas giant moon or large tilt to avoid phase locking around a closer dimmer star, etc? There would seem no end to the qualification, but significant considerations of limits and eventually likelihood? I would assume life would be far more abundant than any place we would consider habitable just on probabilities.

    • TheBrett

      Who voted your post down? Lame people . . .

      I’ll go with

      1. Stars: F8 – M1 class stars, relatively stable (meaning few of the giant flares wherein the luminosity of M-class and K-class stars that skyrocket).

      2. Gravity: 0.8g through 1.5g. Both bounds are guess-work, but put gravity too high and you’re going to get a ton of health problems. Put it too low, and it’s questionable that the planet would be habitable for long.

      3. Temperature: global mean temperature above 0 degrees Celsius. If it has a stable oxygen-rich atmosphere, then it will be habitable as long as most of it isn’t permanently covered with ice.

      4. Land-Ocean: Some land would be preferable, and you’d probably want to avoid any “oceanic” planets wherein the entire world is covered with a hydrosphere hundreds or thousands of kilometers deep. It would be hard to extract resources on such a planet.

      5. Tilt: Preferably low and stable. I think you could have habitable planets with extreme Uranus-style tilts if they have thick enough atmospheres, but it’s still pretty rough. They’d be fascinating in their own way, though – instead of ice caps, you’d have an “ice belt” around the equator.

      6. Gas Giant: Probably not necessary. Further studies have cast doubt on the “protective Jupiter” idea – the safest arrangement is just to not have a gas giant that close at all.

  • Robert Ford
    • TheBrett

      It’s just a collection of relatively conservative, pro-business judges. It has happened before, with the Lochner Court back in the early 20th century.

      • Robert Ford

        I was thinking that maybe there was more to it than that so I wanted to hear others opine. Perhaps there isn’t – I thought maybe we see the “moderate” ones leaning right sometimes to try to nudge the US away from too much of a welfare state path. I guess there’s not much nuance to people like Scalia and Thomas. I thought Roberts might be more of a visionary, who knows…

        • TheBrett

          They do have some nuance. Roberts tends to be an unusual combination of pro-federal power and also generally “hands off/don’t intrude in congressional power” Judge, with a reluctance to topple anything significant that Congress has passed. Scalia’s a major literalist/originalist on the Constitution, to the point of looking into the specific definitions of what words meant back in the 1780s to make judgments.

    • Your Lying Eyes

      Not sure what you think is the obvious explanation. To me it’s that the court is currently 5-4 Republican . But I think this quote from the article is also key: “That is a consequence, Judge Posner said in an e-mail, of broader trends: “American society as a whole is more pro-business than it was before Reagan and this is reflected in the votes of Democratic as well as Republican Supreme Court justices.”

  • Åse Kvist Innes-Ker

    Well – some of the later open ones were kinda related, but didn’t quite seem to have the info I was looking for.

    My masters students are doing a replication (actually an international collaboration) on that Blue/brown-eye study you linked in earlier, (and that I wrote up and commented on here

    Sweden is very blue-eyed, but the reference they have for prevalence is from the 60’s. So, rather than poking around in areas where I have no clue where to find things, I’ll ask here if there are some good sources that looks at the spread/admixture of eye-color in the scandinavian countries.

  • EdReal

    This happened after you opened the thread, but I’m wondering what you think of the Jason Richwine incident. I’m reading op-ed pieces and reports that say Richwine “proposes” or “postulates” that the average Hispanic IQ is less than the average white, like it’s something he thought up all by his lonesome. The man wrote this supposedly horrifying dissertation for Harvard, and yet Harvard’s just an innocent bystander. It’s pretty shocking.

    • razibkhan

      it’s politics. not too surprised. to be honest i suspect that his writing for “alternative right” would haunt him because associations are how ppl kill u in big politics/media.

      of course i think psychometrics is a legit field, and people should be able to explore questions in ethnic differences. probably one reason i can never call myself a liberal no matter how liberal some of my friends think i am, because that’s a “no-go” question on the left in public, and i’m just not interested in “no-go” *questions*, period.

      ultimately reality is what it is. patience is the ultimate victory no matter the question or topic.


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


See More


RSS Razib’s Pinboard

Edifying books

Collapse bottom bar