Daily Data Dump – Thursday

By Razib Khan | August 12, 2010 11:55 am

Are you ready for a world without antibiotics?. Draws from a Lancet paper. One of the major differences between technological advances based on physics and those of biology is that biological advances may slowly be eroded by evolutionary response. But I’m curious as to what microbiologists think about assertions that antibiotics will no longer be efficacious in ~10 years.

Study Finds Similar Personality Types in Male and Female Domestic Violence Perpetrators. Current models of psychological and social pathologies seem to assume a tabula rasa across which environmental inputs cascade generation to generation. But there are likely bio-behavioral dispositions which are heritable. All human nature is not the same, though through varied techniques humans may converge upon similar behavioral morphs.


Debts Rise, and Go Unpaid, as Bust Erodes Home Equity. Some economists have criticized the over-rationalization of human behavior encouraged by their profession. People who “walk away” from their debts are just acting optimally on the individual level, and mimicking the way firms behave. Corporations act to maximize the returns to their shareholders, and individuals making a rational decision to break a contract are acting in the interests of their family members. Trust is essential in a capitalist order, but utility maximizing mindset is likely eroding it. Perhaps a transparent society may increase, not decrease, trust by making “immoral” but “rational” behavior more public?

Looks: The next chapter in civil rights. The Left-liberal focus on specific rights is starting to really getting out of control. There is a great deal of looks based prejudice, but like intelligence when it comes to appearance most people don’t conceive of themselves as below average in attractiveness. Perhaps one way activists can get laws enacted is by appealing to disparate impact; blacks are more obese than whites, ergo looks-based prejudice has a de facto racial component (this is the sort of thing that got employment tests explicitly based on I.Q. banned).

Note the sharp divergence between two clusters of fertility in Europe. The big gap is between Greece and the Netherlands, 1.51 vs. 1.78 TFR.

eurofert

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  • Katharine

    Aren’t looks kinda subjective, though?

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

    well, “kind of.” there are some parameters which are human universals. symmetry and secondary sexual characteristics are two independent dimensions which are cross-cultural.
    others are not (i.e., bollywood actresses seem a bit plump to americans). teasing apart these sorts of issues are going to be a minefield. one of the issues with this sort of public policy response to a “social problem” is that it conflates sex, race, and other differences into a big oppression bin. the analogy is made explicitly in the article. but i think the various classes differ in qualitative ways. e.g., you may not encounter black people day to day, or have blacks in your family, but you have interactions with, and family members of, the opposite sex, and attractiveness tends to vary within families.

  • Katharine

    And regarding the IQ tests and any racial component, at least in my opinion the ‘but if we do this, it’ll factor out a lot of people of such-and-such ethnic group’ argument is really, really dumb – and I say this as a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. Race is an EXCEEDINGLY dumb basis on which to, say, make hiring decisions. However, if a disproportionate percentage of a group of people defined on any basis other than intelligence/looks/whatever a person is selecting for is weeded out on the basis of a certain test, I think the appropriate response is, instead of saying ‘OH WELL WE’D BETTER CHUCK THAT CRITERION’, to give a concerned ‘Hmmm’, figure out why this disparity is so, and ameliorate what part of the disparity is addressable.

    But in the case of ethnicity and IQ and looks and things such as that, the people who can do anything about this probably figure it takes too much money and time, just the way it takes too much money and time to do other things.

    Humans are crappy long-term planners.

  • Katharine

    Also, looks are sort of a dumb thing to select on too, but I can sort of see why people do it.

    Now intelligence and judgment – if someone DIDN’T select for these things when, for example, hiring someone, I’d wonder if there was lint between their ears.

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

    Also, looks are sort of a dumb thing to select on too, but I can sort of see why people do it.

    1) a lot of preference for the hot is subconscious. so good looking teachers get better eval. markers from elementary schoolers, who claim they’re smarter.

    2) this general preference can translate into more sales, etc., in positions which require interface with the public. so there is a rational reason in many areas to select the best looking person you can get, all things equal (and sometimes not all things equal). but in this case you’re catering to the public bias.

    i think the issue with #2 is the contemporary discussion hasn’t grappled with unequal endowments. it isn’t fair that some people are born fug or dumb. but what are we going to do about it? “ban” prejudice against the ugly or dumb? it’s much more complex and deep rooted than prejudice against religious groups, for example.

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

    by deep rooted. if someone is extremely ugly there are probably evolutionary reasons why people have an aversion/disinclination toward that person. their genetic fitness is probably not as high. that’s different from prejudice against muslims wearing hjiabs, which is just a specific instantiation of group conformity and ingroup/outgroup biases/

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  • Paul D.

    Time to focus on biological control of infectious bacteria, by customized bacteriophages?

  • bioIgnoramus

    “bollywood actresses seem a bit plump to americans”: and vice versa, I’ll bet.

  • http://adversecity.blogspot.com/ Oran Kelley

    “The Left-liberal focus on specific rights is starting to really getting out of control.”

    How so? What’s true today about the “left-liberal focus on specific rights” that wasn’t true 10 years ago?

    The Michigan Hooters case is a case in point: it is based on a law enacted in 1976 which specifically makes discrimination based on weight illegal. Nothing new there. Michigan is still, 35 years on, the only state with such a law.

    And it would seem to me there’s plenty of control–neither the legislatures of this nation nor the judicial benches are dominated by left-leaning specific rights obsessives.

    Perhaps that sentence should have read “I don’t like this article in the Boston Globe.”

  • http://sep.stanford.edu/sep/jon/ Jon Claerbout

    I grew up in a religious culture where one should never say a woman was ugly. If a woman was ugly, it was because God made her so. But it was perfectly OK to say a man was stupid.

  • Harrison Bergeron

    “I think the appropriate response is, instead of saying ‘OH WELL WE’D BETTER CHUCK THAT CRITERION’, to give a concerned ‘Hmmm’, figure out why this disparity is so, and ameliorate what part of the disparity is addressable.”

    You don’t think that’s been tried? There was always a good working hypothesis as to why the persistent IQ disparity is so. It’s just not very ‘fixable’ yet, and politically incorrect, so it’s hard to address, let alone ameliorate. Thus, the Handicapper General just scraps the tests wherever he can.

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

    oran, don’t tell me what i should post. you long ago noted that to comment here you have to give me due deference. nothing’s changed there bitch. and you too remain a grade A asshole (and continue read, and even comment, on my blog, despite the fact that i purposely abuse you to drive you away. you’re like a fucking mosquito).

  • http://occludedsun.wordpress.com Caledonian

    You don’t think that’s been tried? There was always a good working hypothesis as to why the persistent IQ disparity is so. It’s just not very ‘fixable’ yet,

    Not quite true. But ‘fixing’ it requires coercive eugenics, mass sterilization, and ethnic cleansing.

  • Diarmid Logan

    oran, don’t tell me what i should post. you long ago noted that to comment here you have to give me due deference. nothing’s changed there bitch. and you too remain a grade A asshole (and continue read, and even comment, on my blog, despite the fact that i purposely abuse you to drive you away. you’re like a fucking mosquito).

    Wow.

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

    what’s the issue diarmid?

  • Chris T

    There’s been research that’s found a positive correlation between perceived beauty and a number of other traits. Acting on a beauty bias may very well be rational.

  • http://adversecity.blogspot.com/ Oran Kelley

    “oran, don’t tell me what i should post. you long ago noted that to comment here you have to give me due deference. nothing’s changed there bitch. and you too remain a grade A asshole (and continue read, and even comment, on my blog, despite the fact that i purposely abuse you to drive you away. you’re like a fucking mosquito).”

    LOL. God, you are easy.

    I defer to you: my asininity is nothing compared to yours.

    Your blog is generally interesting and well-done. On the issue of PC you are persistently irrational and not-even-wrong. I’m glad to see you’ve toned down the fixation on race, as well (at least here).

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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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