Daily Data Dump – Monday

By Razib Khan | October 4, 2010 4:18 pm

I don’t think I’ll post about Mormons this week. Alas, less traffic.

Y chromosomes of Vlax Roma. Is it a coincidence that all these Roma genetics papers are coming out at the same time that the Roma are at the center of E.U. politics? Probably.

Not So Hidden Influences. Christopher Hitchens asks “Is it so offensive to note the effectiveness of the Jewish lobby?” One could read the publications of Hadassah or J. J. Goldberg’s Jewish Power to get a good sense of the effectiveness and power of American Jews. And anyone who knows basic figures can see that Jews are well overrepresented in the Ivy League. Personally, I became aware of the overrepresentation of Jews among power elites by reading Norman Cantor’s The Sacred Chain as a teenager. This is an issue where obviously context matters, and it isn’t as much what you say as how you say it (I was curious as to why Hitchens didn’t mention his mother’s Jewish heritage to insulate him from charges of insensitivity, but it turns out that he’s only 1/32 Jewish by ancestry).


The Uncanny Accuracy of Polling Averages*, Part III: This Time, It’s Different? The liberal objections to polling this year remind me of conservative objections in 2008, and liberal objections in 2004. Can’t we learn from history? Nope.

Las Vegas Faces Its Deepest Slide Since the 1940s. As someone with a libertarian sympathy in politics I can’t find it in my heart to be too distressed by this; the blooming of the desert was a a big government project. And the long term sustainability of the economy of Nevada is to a great extent a case of regulatory arbitrage (e.g, prostitution, gambling, quickie-marriage licenses).

Are We Still Evolving? The author references a paper on which he was a co-author (I blogged it, look in the archives). The funny thing is that he makes it seem as if in the long run people in developed nations are turning themselves into fast-breeding monkeys.

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  • http://www.libertypages.com/clarktech Clark

    I tend to agree with you to a point about Vegas. However wasn’t much of the growth in the 90′s fueled by high tech businesses and not casinos? Admittedly that’s partially also tied to government in that Nevada offered a nice regulatory environment.

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

    clark, don’t know about high tech. all i heard about was construction. you’re right that the regulatory arbitrage aspect though hasn’t been a major growth sector for a while, especially with the rise of “indian casinos.”

  • http://westernstandard.blogs.com Kalim Kassam

    “I was curious as to why Hitchens didn’t mention his mother’s Jewish heritage”

    Wonder no longer. While he didn’t explicitly mention it, he did allude to it:

    “Moreover, I can’t think of any other “minority” of which this is remotely true, unless it were to be the other minority from which I can claim descent: people of British or Anglophile provenance.”

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

    i didn’t see that as an allusion to his jewish heritage though.

  • JL

    Read the entire paragraph, Razib. He is clearly saying that he descends from both Jews and Brits. I thought that one of Hitchens’ grandmothers was Jewish, so he would be 1/4 Jewish, not 1/32.

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

    well, i should read a bit slower! you’re right, pretty clear.

    I thought that one of Hitchens’ grandmothers was Jewish, so he would be 1/4 Jewish, not 1/32.

    you can google it, but hitchens’ brother looked into the genealogy after his grandmother made her claim of jewishness. eventually he supposedly calculated 1/32 jewish ancestry. if this is true it seems christopher hitchens has been exaggerating by omission, because i doubt any reasonable person would have expected that his ancestral quantum was so low if he alluded to this bit of his heritage repeatedly. how often do i talk about being chinese, when my chinese ancestry is in that range?

  • outeast

    With regard to Hitchens’ comments…

    Commenting on the power of the Israel lobby is one thing; but de Gucht is also quoted (from the same interview) as having said:

    “There is indeed a belief – it’s difficult to describe it otherwise – among most Jews that they are right. And a belief is something that’s difficult to counter with rational arguments. And it’s not so much whether these are religious Jews or not. Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right.”

    This is a much broader claim, about ‘most Jews’ (and he was explicitly talking about jews outside Israel) rather than about the influence of an explicitly political lobby (and Hitchens even partially quoted it, so ignoring the implications is disingenuous). It’s also a claim that is verifiably false: this AJC-commissioned poll from 2007, for example, showed American Jews to be almost exactly evenly split over the issue of Palestinian statehood.

    Setting de Gucht’s comment aside, is there any support for Sanchez’s claim (which Hitchens specifically endorses, albeit with a different spin) that the purported overrepresentation of jews in the media is in any way causative of any liberal bias there may or may not be in that industry? This is my first venture into GSS, but a very simple correlation of religion with politics shows jews as a whole to be political moderates rather than liberals (with a large overrepresentation in the moderate field, a slight overrepresentation in the slightly liberal field, and underrepresentation everywhere else – including in the liberal and extremely liberal fields).

    That suggests Sanchez and Hitchens are likely wrong in their basic assumptions of the liberalism of jews in the media – which fits with claims that Sanchez was displying ignorant prejudice rather than boldly speaking truth to power. (At this point, a disclaimer: I’ve been trying to get occupation or industry in there too in case that distribution shifts a lot among those employed in the media, but I can’t get the filters to work and I don’t know where I’m getting it wrong.)

    Sorry for the rant. I hope I’m still within the acceptable parameters for comments…

  • outeast

    eventually he supposedly calculated 1/32 jewish ancestry.

    Obviously it depends on how you define jewishness. Chris Hitchens’ seems to have been pretty open about the fact that his claim to jewishness is based on the matrilineal descent thing (some context provided in this puff piece). My father is about as jewish as Hitchens, but that diluted drop was enough for his cousin (with the same maternal grandmother) to be permitted to marry a jewish woman.

  • dave chamberlin

    I linked to the “Are we still evolving” article mentioned above and was informed that “less than 5% of the variation amoung individuals is due to biology. That left 95% of the variation explained by the the effects of culture and individual decisions.”

    I guess my first question is, is the writer of this article Stephen Sterns really a Professor of Ecology and Biology at Yale University? I don’t know where to begin in criticizing this statement. I mean, I had no idea that television and will power had so much influence in shaping my ears.

  • miko

    dave, I think he can claim whatever number he wants because “the variation among individuals” is a meaningless phrase without context. If you want to fudge what percent of “variation” is “biological” (piling stupid on stupid, because everything is biological–maybe he means genetic) in either direction, you just have to be more or less inclusive/selective of what kinds of things you’re measuring.

    Likewise, “evolving.” Are allele frequencies going to keep changing in humans? For the foreseeable future, yes. So from a pop-gen standpoint, we are certainly evolving. Will we undergo major morphological or physiological changes in the foreseeable future? Depends on what you mean by major–if you think lactase persistence is significant evolutionary change (I do), I think there could potentially be new selection pressures on this scale over the next few millenia.

    Anyway, it’s an angels/pinheads type discussion.

  • Chris T

    Are we still evolving? Of course. Will we keep evolving? Depends on how good we get at genetics. If we start engineering our own genomes, natural evolution will probably cease.

    Am I correct in gleaning that the author thinks that culture is not a potential form of natural selection?

  • trajan23

    Anyone know how far into the “one-drop rule” category the Jewish concept of matrilineal descent goes? My mother is Jewish and my father is Episcopalian, so my sister and I both count as Jews, but would my sister’s daughter count, if her father were a non-
    Jew?If she did count, what about her daughter? How many generations of Jewish women marrying non-Jewish men would have to elapse before an Orthodox Rabbi would no longer consider you Jewish?

    In order to keep the focus on ancestry, I’m assuming that the succeeding generations are secular/soft Christians in terms of religiosity (Observing Christmas as a family festival, etc).

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

    How many generations of Jewish women marrying non-Jewish men would have to elapse before an Orthodox Rabbi would no longer consider you Jewish?

    i bet you if you can validate it through documentation you can go indefinitely.

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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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