Science: Biology Feed

Uncle Judea, Melanin, Genetics, and Educational Attainment...

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Highly Recommended: Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie: The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect And: Aha! So I am not as stupid as I am ugly after all!:

Sokrates: "Your intuition is exactly right: SNPs for (or chromosomally linked to) melanin would predict educational attainment, in a sample drawn from the current over-all American population. The R^2 just for them might not be 10%, but it would certainly be non-negligible...

...Indeed, I would be somewhat surprised melanin-linked SNPs wouldn't be predictive even in a sub-sample of just those categorized as "black". The same would be true, though I suspect to a lesser extent, for SNPs (linked to) curly hair. The more fundamental point is that social and cultural inheritance, together with endogamy, mean that that there are certainly SNPs which predict your class background and the cultural traditions you were exposed to. (If we haven't identified SNPs which distinguish Baptists from Congregationalists among current Americans, it's pretty certainly because we've just not looked for them.)

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Nils Gilman: The Toba Eruption, by Spawning the #Transformationofthehuman Known as Behavioral Modernity...: "'Never before have I encountered someone so gleeful about catastrophe. When we discussed the risk that the Yellowstone supervolcano might blow at any time, Keller’s eyes twinkled. "It’s a fun idea", she said'

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1870 as the Inflection Point: An In-Take from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century

Il Quarto Stato

3.0: 1870 as the Inflection Point As of 1870 the smart money was still placed on the bet that the British Industrial Revolution would not mark a permanent divergence of human destiny from its agricultural-age pattern. All agreed that the Industrial Revolution had produced marvels of science and technology. All agreed that it allowed the world to support a much greater population than had previously been deemed possible. All agreed that it gave the world’s rich capabilities that, along many dimensions, fell little short of those previously attributed to gods. All agreed that it had greatly multiplied the numbers of the comfortable—that there were now many more people who did not feel the immediate bite of insufficient food, insufficient clothing, and insufficient shelter.

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Comparative Deaths in Murder and Childbed: Dark Thoughts for a Royal Wedding Day: Note to Self

  • 8 of 35 Monarchs of England from 1066 to 1850 dead in war or murder: 23%...

  • 7 of 44 Queens of England from 1066 to 1850 dead and childbirth: 16%...

I am somewhat surprised: I had thought childbed would be a higher risk than war/murder. (But then there are Queens Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard who get murdered... Are there any more?)

The “Let’s Be Agnostic About Race Science” Clowns Are In My Twitter Timeline Again: Delong Morning Coffee Podcast


Do your arithmetic, Sheeple! 1500 generations since radiation from the horn of Africa is really very little indeed...

The “Let’s Be Agnostic About Race Science” Clowns Are In My Twitter Timeline Again

Thx to Wavelength and the very interesting



The Fallible Reason of Andrew Ferguson of the Weekly Standard--Do Not Succumb to the Soft Bigotry of Low Intellectual Expectations Edition (Hoisted/Smackdown)

Clowns (ICP)

A correspondent reminds me of [a moment][] almost four years ago that powerfully drove home to me how low the intellectual standards are on the American right. This will be very important to remember over the next four years--especially since the Trumpists are not the brightest of the lights on the American right as it stands today, never mind how it stood before the ascendancy of George W. Bush fifteen years ago, and never never mind how it stood before the ascendancy of Newt Gingrich twenty-five years ago.

It takes some wind-up, however. Let's start with the (usually) very sharp Thomas Nagel:

Thomas Nagel (2012): Mind and Cosmos: "If I decide, when the sun rises on my right, that I must be driving north instead of south...

[a moment:

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On a Thousand Year Timescale, the Human Race Really Is Just One Big Unhappy Family

Hoisted from the Archives: 470 years ago, in 1543, King Henry VIII Tudor of England married his sixth and last wife, Katherine Parr. He also:

  • allied with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V Habsburg "of Ghent";
  • declared war on France;
  • imposed the English administrative grid of counties, shires, boroughs, and House of Commons representatives on Wales;
  • made yet another short-lived treaty with Scotland;
  • burned the three Protestant Windsor Martyrs; and
  • named the composer Thomas Tallis a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal.

A busy king, for one so sick and mad.

Westmill hertfordshire england Google Maps

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OUTDOORS Sea otter madness close to Hoh Head Port Angeles Port Townsend Sequim Forks Jefferson County Clallam County Olympic Peninsula Daily NEWS

Live from the Olympic Peninsula: Sea otter population: 500,000 pre-fur trade, down to 1-2,000 in early 1900s, now back at 100,000...

Michael Carman: Sea Otter Madness Close to Hoh Head:

THE CALLS POURED in. To the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, to the National Parks Service and to the Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary. Have you seen all those sea otters? What visitors were spying off the Pacific Ocean coastline, a raft of hundreds upon hundreds of sea otters, was unusual in both scope and location.

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Underappreciated Weblogger of the Month: A Baker's Dozen from Richard Mayhew


Another in my series of webloggers who I think are underappreciated--of people who, by accidents of chance and historical contingency, are just as smart (or more) and are as (or more) worth reading as I am. Richard Mayhew of Balloon Juice is doing some of the very most interesting blogging-from-the-trenches of our health care financing system.

Here's a baker's dozen of worthwhile reads:

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Weekend Reading: Sam Richardson, Aaron Carroll, and Austin Frakt (2013): More Oregon Medicaid Study Power Calculations

Weekend Reading: Sam Richardson, Aaron Carroll, and Austin Frakt (2013): More Medicaid study power calculations (our rejected NEJM letter): "Sam Richardson, Aaron, and Austin submitted a more efficiently worded version of the following...

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Econ 210a: January 20, 2016: The Malthusian Economy--DRAFT

Are these the right papers for first-year Ph.D. students in Economics to read for their week spent thinking about the Malthusian Economy? If not these, what are the right papers?

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Live from Jackson Hole 2015 Weblogging: It's 6800 feet up here. For the first time ever, I wish I were a vampire--I could really, really use some more oxygen-carrying red blood corpuscles right now...

What is the science on doping yourself with your own stored blood when you go up to high altitude, anyway?

What is the American Principles Project?: Jackson Hole 2015 Weblogging


As you will remember from yesterday, the grifter-goldbug conference featuring grifter-goldbug George Gilder, Steve Moore, Benn Steil, Peter Schiff, and Jim DeMint as its five top headliners is a production of the American Principles Project.

What is the American Principles Project? It says:

Robert P. George – Founder: Dr. George is the Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). He is also a McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University...

I have read one thing written by Robert P. George--one thing and one thing only:

Robert P. George: Killing Abortionists: A Symposium: "I am personally opposed to killing abortionists. However, inasmuch as my personal opposition to this practice is rooted in a sectarian (Catholic) religious belief in the sanctity of human life, I am unwilling to impose it on others who may, as a matter of conscience, take a different view...

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**Live from La Farine: 500 years, or 50 years, or 5 years, or 5 months, or 5 days from now the Roman Catholic Church will reverse Pope Paul VI's claim that he has special insight into natural theology which tells him that birth control is very wrong. Whenever that happens, what will the administrators of and lawyers for Notre Dame have to say for themselves?

**: Federal Appeals Court Tells Catholic University [Notre Dame] That It Can't Cut Off Birth Control For Its Students: "'The Seventh Circuit... express[es] ‘puzzlement about what exactly the university wanted us to enjoin’...

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Hoisted from the Archives from a Decade Ago: Human Genetic Mixing Looks Remarkably Rapid to Me...

The mixing of the human genome via intermarriage occurs remarkably fast--we are and are likely to remain one single human race, and should treat one another as such:

Ah. Andrew Sullivan looks forward--a little too eagerly?--to the division of the human race into subspecies along racial lines: - Daily Dish: Humans are still evolving - and at quite a brisk pace, according to new research. Bad news for liberals: at the rate research is going, you will soon have to choose between believing in evolution and denying any subtle, genetic differences between broad racial groups.

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Over at Equitable Growth: Ebola Virus Talking Points: Wednesday Focus for October 1, 2014

Over at Equitable Growth:

  1. Lives lost from Ebola to date are tiny, even in West Africa, compared to HIV, TB, and malaria. Ebola still not (yet) the biggest public health problem in West Africa.

  2. Yes, the epidemic will spread to more countries.

  3. Ebola will not become the biggest public health problem in West Africa unless deaths reach the high seven figures--which they may: it is highly likely that deaths in the six figures are now baked in the cake.

  4. Unless the virus changes dramatically, we are almost surely safe. If you want to worry, worry that influenza or something already airborne will become more deadly, not that Ebola will become airborne.

  5. Those at risk from the Ebola virus are overwhelmingly (a) those who love them and (b) those medical professionals who treat them--you get it from direct fluid contact with symptomatic patients. Thus risks here in the United States are very low. It is scary, but unlikely to be a serious problem here.

  6. Why, then, are risks high in West Africa? The major problem with control is that there is no functioning health system in most of sub-Saharan Africa. Not only are resources poor, but they are uncoordinated. What we really need is a helicopter drop of trained people.

  7. The health system was especially poor in Liberia. You have issues like no supply of gloves to hospitals. Few doctors even to begin. Had the epidemic started in Ethiopia or even Uganda, the probability of it getting out-of-control epidemic would have been much less--Uganda, for example, has excellent hospitals, good supply, competent public health, and even a decent medical school. Just how bad Liberia’s system was should not be underestimated.

  8. Secondary problems in West Africa are that: (1) Ebola can be difficult to diagnose; (2) Ebola is easily transmitted in cultures where people are expected to die at home in non-sterile and non-antiseptic environments; and (3) Ebola is easily transmitted in cultures where people--still infectious--are prepared for burial at home.

  9. The economic cost of Ebola to the countries most affected is and will be immense, in addition to the loss of life.

  10. In general, we are not well-equipped for some types of global pandemics. The advance from years of nothing on AIDS to stopping SARS in its tracks was immense. But it relies on functional organizations--and we did and do not have any such in the affected West African areas.

  11. Nevertheless, it is surprising how unprepared the WHO and international community was for for this kind of emergency. The WHO is a UN organization, and it is a mistake to expect much bureaucratic competence of UN organizations. Nevertheless, the international response should have been swifter and more effective.

  12. The Ebola crisis is eating up resources in West Africa that are desperately needed in other areas of health and society. It's not so much money as people--doctors pulled in from caring for pregnant women to manage Ebola patients, NGOs working on violence reduction in Sierra Leone now counting the dead. Really sad. We are likely to lose most of the health-care professionals in the most severely affected sub-Saharan African countries.

  13. The importance of investing in strong public health infrastructure--which is both massively underfunded and very cost-effective compared with acute care.

Courtesy of Chris Blattman, David Cutler, Ann Marie Marciarille, and others...

FREEDOM FROM GIRL-COOTIES! LADYPARTS!! FREEDOM!!!: (Not) The Honest Broker: Live from The Roasterie CLXXIV: May 14, 2014

This was supposed to be part of The Honest Broker about conservative objections that ObamaCare was an unwarranted and unnecessary infringement on negative liberty--on individual "freedom". But it was unsuccessful. It ran into two things along the way. First, it ran into my complete failure while teaching Economics 2 to successfully draw a line between "negative" and "positive" liberty that would allow one to say that the competitive market equilibrium was in some sense a perfection of negative liberty and that further restrictions on it were not: I wound up convincing myself that it was the jungle equilibrium that was the perfection of negative liberty, and from that point forward it was utilitarian promotion of positive at the expense of negative liberty all the way down...

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Weekend Reading: Dirk Hanson: Drowning in Light

Dirk Hanson: Drowning in Light: "William D. Nordhaus calculated that the average citizen of Babylon would have had to work a total of 41 hours to buy enough lamp oil to equal a 75-watt light bulb burning for one hour.

At the time of the American Revolution, a colonial would have been able to purchase the same amount of light, in the form of candles, for about five hour’s worth of work. And by 1992, the average American, using compact fluorescents, could earn the same amount of light in less than one second. That sounds like a great deal.

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Unprecedented Attack On Evolution 'Indoctrination' Mounted In Missouri: Live from The Roasterie LXXXXXII: February 21, 2014

Dylan Scott: Unprecedented Attack On Evolution 'Indoctrination' Mounted In Missouri: "A Missouri lawmaker has proposed what ranks among the most anti-evolution legislation in recent years, which would require schools to notify parents if 'the theory of evolution by natural selection' was being taught at their child's school and give them the opportunity to opt out of the class....

State Rep. Rick Brattin (R), who sponsored the bill, told a local TV station last week that teaching only evolution in school was "indoctrination."... The bill is one of several anti-evolution proposals that have already appeared in statehouses across the country.... Unsurprisingly, the proposal has drawn criticism from... science teacher organizations.... [Glenn] Branch.... Evolution inextricably pervades the biological sciences; it therefore pervades, or at any rate ought to pervade, biology education at the K–12 level. There simply is no alternative to learning about it; there is no substitute activity. The value of a high school education in Missouri would be degraded"...


Willy K: Show Me Progress: The Evolution of Rick Brattin's obsession with evolution...

The Ascent of Evans Hall: The View from La Farine LXXXX: February 5, 2014

Evans hall Google Search 2

If, 20 years ago, I had decided that I was never going to wait for the elevators but rather take the stairs up and down to and from the sixth floor of Evans Hall, I would, on net:

  • have saved time...
  • been healthier to the extent of an extra 20 x 250 x 3 x 90 = 1,350,000 vertical feet's worth of ascent of exercise...
  • that's 255.7 miles--the distance from the earth's surface to the apogee of Gemini III's orbit...

Will today be the day that I don't wait for the elevator but instead start making the climb?

Evil-Lution!: The View from The Roasterie LXXIII (January 13, 2014)

Public’s Views on Human Evolution:

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”... White evangelical Protestants are particularly likely to believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Roughly two-thirds (64%) express this view.... In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap...

Monica Potts: What's Killing Poor White Women?: The View from La Farine LXXII (January 10, 2014)

The target population for whom ObamaCare might make a big, positive difference: but their political masters are trying as hard as they can to make sure that they do not get it...

Monica Potts: What's Killing Poor White Women?: "White women who don’t graduate from high school... life expectancy has declined dramatically over the past 18 years... now expect to die five years earlier than the generation before them... an unheard-of drop.... Jay Olshansky... 1990 to 2008. White men without high-school diplomas had lost three years... but it was the decline for women... that made the study news.... Olshansky and his colleagues did something the other studies hadn’t: They isolated high-school dropouts and measured their outcomes instead of lumping them in with high-school graduates....

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