Open thread 8/22/2012

By Razib Khan | August 22, 2012 12:03 am

The nature of the restrictions of the comments are relatively free-form on this post. You should maintain some decorum as usual. But you can post links, ask me or other readers questions, etc.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Uncategorized
  • wes

    Let’s simple this up for me: Are we now saying that there is evidence of something like an “Aryan Invasion” that took place long ago? Or should I say Indo-European migration that displaced a whole lotta people (or mixed with them).

    FYI, Peter Watson has a very interesting book out on why the Old World and New World diverged so much in development. A bit like Jared Diamond but from different perspective. Ya’ll might wanna check it out:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Great-Divide-Nature-Human/dp/0061672459/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1345636262&sr=8-2&keywords=the+great+divide

  • Superfast Jellyfish

    I haven’t taken a biology class since tenth grade, I’ve never taken a psych class, and I work for a bank, so I apologize if this question is stupid / ridiculous. With that said: given that some religions seem to have a need for “purity” and avoiding things which are “unclean”, is it possible that religious instincts conferred a survival advantage as people settled and urbanized and humanity’s environment became more germ-ridden? I’ve googled this, but if there’s anything on it I’ve missed it.

  • http://delicious.com/robertford Darkseid

    I’d like to know the status of Cochran’s new tropical climate/lower IQ theory. It seemed like a good explanation to me…

  • John B.

    Re 2,

    It’s not a stupid question and it’s been investigated. An accessible book on that topic is “Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture” by Marvin Harris.

  • toto

    The emperor of all maladies” is just an awesome book. That’s all.

  • toto

    Also, regarding the “blank slate” / human nature kerfuffle, PZ Myers has a post that I think many readers of this blog would be interested in.

  • Randall

    When you write a blog post, who do you write for and what do you assume your typical reader knows?

    Your peers and other specialists?

    People with a science background but necessarily specialists in your field?

    The informed general reader?

    I don’t have science training so I have to rely on trusted intermediaries. I wish I found your blog a long time ago. You come across as very fair and as someone who cares about the truth even in these tough areas where science potentially intersects politics/policy.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    #7, depends on the type of blog post. a lot of the genetics stuff is for people with science background. what can i tell specialists in my field? :-) the non-science stuff is for everyone (you can get stuff out of the science stuff, but the lingo can be somewhat stressful).

  • qohelet

    On The Great Divide: I think Razib mentioned it a few months ago, which is where I got the idea to read it. In any case, a fascinating extension of the GGS argument, the problem being that Watson is very often out of his league in making points about population genetics, language, and geology. As a result, most of the book is poorly-sourced, but piquant speculation; at his worst, Watson is just extremely frustrating in his ignorance (e.g. idly suggesting connections between Na-Dene languages and agricultural Southeast Asia).

  • Ed

    It is now generally accepted that Polynesia was first settled by peoples from southeast Asia. An alternative that eastern parts of Polynesia were first inhabited by Amerindians has found little support. There are, however, many indications of a ‘prehistoric’ (i.e. before Polynesia was discovered by Europeans) contact between Polynesia and the Americas, but genetic evidence of a prehistoric Amerindian contribution to the Polynesian gene pool has been lacking. We recently carried out genomic HLA (human leucocyte antigen) typing as well as typing for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y chromosome markers of blood samples collected in 1971 and 2008 from reputedly non-admixed Easter Islanders. All individuals carried HLA alleles and mtDNA types previously found in Polynesia, and most of the males carried Y chromosome markers of Polynesian origin (a few had European Y chromosome markers), further supporting an initial Polynesian population on Easter Island. The HLA investigations revealed, however, that some individuals also carried HLA alleles which have previously almost only been found in Amerindians. We could trace the introduction of these Amerindian alleles to before the Peruvian slave trades, i.e. before the 1860s, and provide suggestive evidence that they were introduced already in prehistoric time. Our results demonstrate an early Amerindian contribution to the Polynesian gene pool on Easter Island, and illustrate the usefulness of typing for immunogenetic markers such as HLA to complement mtDNA and Y chromosome analyses in anthropological investigations.
    http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/367/1590/812

    Anyone with access to this paper care to offer any insights?

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    is it possible that religious instincts conferred a survival advantage as people settled and urbanized and humanity’s environment became more germ-ridden? I’ve googled this, but if there’s anything on it I’ve missed it.

    e.g., http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/2153599X.2012.695514

    this comes of the sort of neo-functionalism that david sloan wilson has been promoting.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    #10, i don’t trust HLA. let’s wait for whole-genome. that will tell us timing easily.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    #3, new theories don’t have statuses. give it some time!

  • Brian Sullivan

    I found this Video to be fascinating.

    Video: Tool-Making Bonobos Give Glimpse of Human Origins
    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/08/bonobo-tools/

    Two bonobos living in an Iowa sanctuary have made stone tools resembling those used by our ancestors. The tools hint at untapped cognitive reserves in humanity’s close relatives, who perhaps should be seen less as great apes than early humans.

    “They are not only our genetic sister species, but are also such in terms of behavior, culture, adaptation and survival strategies, which were previously thought unique to early Homo,” said anthropologist Itai Roffman of Israel’s Haifa University.

    Unlike their chimpanzee cousins, bonobos — formally known Pan paniscus to the chimps’ Pan troglodytes — have shown limited toolmaking ability, and are better known for their relatively gentle, highly amorous natures. Yet that doesn’t mean bonobos are intrinsically incapable of tool use, which anthropologists consider to be a crucial cognitive benchmark. Their potential may simply have gone untapped.

    Roffman and colleagues worked with Kanzi and Pan-Banisha, a pair of bonobos living at the Great Ape Trust, who in the 1990s had been taught to shape tools from flint. In the new study, published Aug. 21 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the two bonobos are described using those techniques decades later to crack open food-filled logs used as research substitutes for marrow-rich bones.

    Holding a flint core in their right hands and hammer stones in their left, both bonobos made small, sharp-edged scrapers. Kanzi, the handier of the pair, also made choppers, wedges and drills. Altogether, his toolset resembled the famous implements made 2.6 million years ago by ancestral dwellers of what is now the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. Indeed, the marks left by Kanzi’s tools on his logs were strikingly similar to wear patterns seen in ancient butchered bones.

  • http://www.twitter.com/theogonia31 M87

    The latest nature Podcast is very interesting.

    http://www.nature.com/multimedia/podcast/nature/v488/n7412/nature-2012-08-23.mp3

    Icelandic study showing rate of mutational load in men as they age and it’s effects on things like Autism etc. Basically, explaining the different nature of genetic disorders caused by chromosomal (women) and individual genetic mutations (men) . So older men having children possibly contributes to increase in Autism spectrum disorders.

    Also, anti-biotic use in the early childhood (0-6) months contributes to later life adiposity (and therefore obesity and diabetes). Gut bacteria that survives the anti-biotics end up producing fatty acid more rapidly and cause to be to stored as fat.

    Himalayan Glaciers are melting but nothing like the IPCC report from 2007 and the melting is negligible in context of the overall rate examined in other regions.

  • pconroy

    @10, Ed,

    There was a paper on Domestic Chickens (aka Hens), about a year ago, and it was shown that some breeds in Pacific coastal areas of South America, originated in Polynesia.

    I think Maju blogged it.

  • Kiwiguy

    An Oxford Professor has caused a bit of a stir by arguing there is a moral duty to genetically screen for behavioural traits (eg. potential alcoholism, psychopathy and disposition to violence). I was slightly surprised that 72% in the Telegraph poll disagree that we should even _consider_ genetically screening for preferred behavioural traits. I suspect many of them would if given the choice.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9480372/Genetically-engineering-ethical-babies-is-a-moral-obligation-says-Oxford-professor.html

    His full essay is now available in Readers Digest.

    http://tinyurl.com/dxqmnrq

  • http://lyingeyes.blogspot.com ziel

    #17 – that essay is 2 degrees of separation from the PZ Myers essay referred to by #6 above – which I can’t make heads or tails of, by the way. Can anyone, in a few short sentences, explain what PZ is trying to say in that post?

  • http://www.facebook.com/doclonglegs Andrew Selvarasa

    Can anyone recommend their favourite blogs or books on behavioural genetics? Thanks!

  • Merm

    About the article #17 posted – I noticed the weird wording for the “no” choice (about playing God). What arguments do secular people use against genetic engineering?

    Razib-
    How is the survey coming?

    What are your thoughts on raising cognition (general or specific abilities) with drugs, stimulants and games like n-back?

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    What are your thoughts on raising cognition (general or specific abilities) with drugs, stimulants and games like n-back?

    i favor ‘em. a few years ago i went to a talk given by a guy who used mind-boosting drugs extensively, to the point where he admitted he was tacking off his expected lifespan by at least 5 years. i asked him where he’d gotten the idea, and he laughed and told me it was my blog in the early 2000s when i was posting on creatine!

    for now i’m a coffee person only. but i’m open to experimenting. the main issue is that i want to avoid tail risk, i have a daughter to think about :-)

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan
  • Kiwiguy
  • Anthony

    Since abortion is in the news, and will be until at least November 7th: The place abortion policy ended up in American politics is historically contingent; an interesting counterfactual to explore would be one where the left ended up “pro-life” and the right “pro-choice”. Would American Jews be more strongly pro-life than atheists? Would socially-conservative evangelical Christians have drifted into the Democratic Party instead of the Republican, or would the Republican party have become more leftish?

  • pconroy

    @6, Toto,

    My take is that it’s better NOT to read PZ MYers, as anyone who writes:

    You can’t pretend to be color-blind or sex-blind in a culture that privileges white maleness!

    Is effectively a troll.

    His readership is of the low-brow, sensationalist type by and large… so just skip his BS is best

  • Grey

    @1 “Are we now saying that there is evidence of something like an “Aryan Invasion” that took place long ago? Or should I say Indo-European migration that displaced a whole lotta people (or mixed with them).”

    If early farming spread fairly rapidly east to west but much more slowly into the colder north then in theory there would have been a moment in time where there was (in simple terms) one broad latitudinal band of farmers and another of hunter-gatherers. If – although crops didn’t yet grow well in those latitudes – domesticated animals were introduced into the forager zone at one or more locations (for whatever reason) which triggered a pastoralist, particularly cattle-raising culture then i think you’d expect a population boom in the forager zone which could have expanded very rapidly east-west (because of the combination of being pastoralist and the low population density of the forager population at the time) but also back down south into the farmer zone.

    One thing i wonder though is if this happened when farming was still relatively new then what was the population density in the farming zone – outside places like the fertile crescent, Nile, Ganges etc? If it was still relatively empty then i wonder if in some places – especially if the land best suited to farming was different to the land best suited to cattle-raising – it may have been more of a barging-in than a blood and guts invasion.

    .
    @2 “given that some religions seem to have a need for “purity” and avoiding things which are “unclean”, is it possible that religious instincts conferred a survival advantage as people settled and urbanized and humanity’s environment became more germ-ridden?”

    Religion based dietary and hygiene rules would be a neat and convenient way for the brighter element among a population to get the less bright to adopt adaptive behavior to a higher degree than they otherwise would. This aspect of religion would effectively be getting lower IQ people to act like higher IQ people through their religiosity and should have led to lower IQ people with high religiosity having a fitness advantage over those with low religiosity. (This last point would only apply if the religious rules in question were adaptive on balance and would be proportional to how adaptive the religious rules in question were.)

    The brighter element didn’t need those rules to be based on religion but they accepted the restrictions of the religion for the benefit of the group (at least in this aspect). This traditional form has reversed in the west since the 60s as the elites have wanted the freedom to do things which have negative consequences inversely proportional to IQ regardless of the effect this has had on the left side of the bell curve.

    .
    @17 “I was slightly surprised that 72% in the Telegraph poll disagree that we should even _consider_ genetically screening for preferred behavioural traits. I suspect many of them would if given the choice.”

    Well if you changed the wording to “do you trust the current ruling class in any way shape or form” which is the implicit question then i’m surprised it was only 72%. Maybe most of the other 28% hadn’t translated the question?

    I think eugenics based on criminal behavior is best done on the basis of criminal behavior i.e. prison i.e. locking the criminally inclined up during their prime reproductive years so they have less kids.

    What i think genetics will show is there were good reasons for a lot of traditional views – even if the people who espoused those views didn’t know what those logical reasons were – because those views had *evolved* over time through trial and error. So in some areas i think it will be less a case of genetics pointing to new solutions to old problems but genetics showing why the old solutions for old problems worked.

  • pconroy

    @28, Grey,

    I strongly agree wit this:

    So in some areas i think it will be less a case of genetics pointing to new solutions to old problems but genetics showing why the old solutions for old problems worked.

  • pconroy

    Razib,

    If you are in need of Survey questions, how about some like:

    Which would you LEAST like living next door to you:
    1. Mormon
    2. Atheist
    3. Christian
    4. Jew
    5. Muslim

    And also:
    Which would you LEAST like living next door to you:
    1. Capitalist
    2. Socialist/Marxist/Communist
    3. Anarchist
    4. Minarchist
    5. Libertarian

    For the record I’m a Minarchist

    Minarchism:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minarchism

    Or those questions could be, which would you MOST like living next door to you.

  • Isabel

    Hey Razib, ban me now! I can’t stand the suspense. Don’t worry, I’m out of here. I can’t stand being threatened with expulsion and yelled at by egomaniac bloggers.

    And seriously, my comment was “patronizing” and yet you claim I “didn’t understand” your not-very-complex comparison? Cuomo’s view is the only reasonable one, It is not inconsistent and is hardly a “farce”. And the libertarian comment was clearly referencing the rape “exception” to the pro-life stance. Why would a libertarian need to make an exception in the first place? I would really like to hear a response to that. I can’t believe this is the second time you close a thread right after my comment.

    Interesting that you were so outraged by my comment, but you were totally cool with the kindergarten level “two wrongs don’t make a right” comment i.e.if a woman is raped and she doesn’t then want to carry the rapist’s spawn for 9 mos and then push it out through her vagina she is a selfish baby-killer. I guess this person thinks Romney’s kids are selfish baby killers too, but funny that so few people get worked up about that.

    Unbelievable stuff. No wonder intelligent, self-respecting women apparently avoid this weblog like the plague.

  • Stan Tsirulnikov

    GNXP t-shirt:

    On top: “Don’t ban me, bro!”

    Below: Helix pic.

    That is all.

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    #31, i should have closed the thread a long time ago. i trashed about 15 comments on it already. and you’re right, i shouldn’t have let some of the ones i did let through through. have a good time on the interwebs :-) i didn’t learn that much from you, though i was hoping to at some point (which is why i was harder on you than the ‘tards enough to be frank).

    re: abortion. many liberal pro-choicers don’t even try to understand other perspectives on the terms of those who are pro-life (as opposed their vision of what pro-lifers are). i don’t want to open a discussion on this, i’m stating this as a fact. this is one area where jonathan haidt’s observation that liberals tend to have no good model of conservatives rings true. not that pro-lifers don’t do the same thing, but only a small minority of the readership here is pro-life, so that’s not a major issue.

  • Chris_T_T

    Abortion is exhibit A of two sides with very different definitions and value rankings clashing.

  • pconroy

    In terms of abortion and many other social issues, people have a hard time differentiating between personal morality on the one hand and public laws on the other.

    I for instance am in favor of abortion on demand, paid for by the government, under any circumstances.

    However personally I would never agree to any child I fathered being aborted – unless it suffered from Down Syndrome or other similar conditions.

  • Solis

    Anyone knows any good books on biological anthropology?

  • http://delicious.com/robertford Darkseid

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/08/single-neuron-video/
    I had to post this cuz it’s just so amazing. WOW

  • Riordan

    Razib,

    In continuation from the last open thread, where I asked about your reading history with ancient Greco Roman historians…..

    Any take home messages did you derive from reading them that surprised or intrigued you? Were there some insights or perspectives you’ve realized after reading them that may not have been initially apparent?

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    #36, they’re a lot like us. we’re a lot like them. in both similarities, and differences.

  • Nirjhar
  • pconroy

    @36, Riordan,

    My advice, if you want to get into the head of a Roman, learn Latin, then read:

    De Bello Gallico – by Caesar

  • ADS
  • Riordan

    Thanks Razib.

    Moving on to politics, in one of your posts 6 months back regarding race, multiculturalism, and PC issues, you’ve stated the current edifice of contradictions and illogicness on such issues can’t persist, and that eventually it’ll collapse and new political paradigm(s) will arise to replace them. You’ve hinted(?) that you came to certain conclusions of what they potentially would be like. Would it be possible for you to state those predictions out in the not too distant future?

  • https://plus.google.com/109962494182694679780/posts Razib Khan

    Would it be possible for you to state those predictions out in the not too distant future?

    yes. mebee i’ll post about it….

  • ackbark

    @21 Won’t cognitive enhancement offset idiocracy?

    And it seems inevitable that gene therapy will add enhancement directly into your dna making it permanent.

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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 http://www.razib.com

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