Archives for posts with tag: altruism

trigger warning: the following post contains much that is speculative. in fact, the entire post is one long speculation. if the thought of speculating when it comes to human biodiversity/sociobiology makes you queasy or fills you with existential angst, this might not be the blogpost for you. no, really. you might want to pass the time in some other way.

i wrote about this once before, and since i’m extremely lazy, i’m just going to cut-and-paste from the previous post:

“in Innate Social Aptitudes of Man: An Approach from Evolutionary Genetics [pdf], william hamilton suggested that, perhaps, one gets a renaissance by (re-)introducing barbarian altruism genes into a too outbred population, letting the mixture ferment for ca. 800 years or so, and then enjoying the fruits of everyone’s labors. he’s talking here, of course, about the european renaissance of the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries…and classical greece/athens after the dorian invasion of ca. 800 years earlier? i *think*. if it happened at all (link inserted by me):

“‘The incursions of barbaric pastoralists seem to do civilizations less harm in the long run than one might expect. Indeed, two dark ages and renaissances in Europe suggest a recurring pattern in which a renaissance follows an incursion by about 800 years. It may even be suggested that certain genes or traditions of pastoralists revitalize the conquered people with an ingredient of progress which tends to die out in a large panmictic population for the reasons already discussed. I have in mind altruism itself, or the part of the altruism which is perhaps better described as self-sacrificial daring. By the time of the renaissance it may be that the mixing of genes and cultures (or of cultures alone if these are the only vehicles, which I doubt) has continued long enough to bring the old mercantile thoughtfulness and the infused daring into conjunction in a few individuals who then find courage for all kinds of inventive innovation against the resistance of established thought and practice. Often, however, the cost in fitness of such altruism and sublimated pugnacity to the individuals concerned is by no means metaphorical, and the benefits to fitness, such as they are, go to a mass of individuals whose genetic correlation with the innovator must be slight indeed. Thus civilization probably slowly reduces its altruism of all kinds, including the kinds needed for cultural creativity (see also Eshel 1972).'”

william hamilton — probably the greatest evolutionary theorist since darwin and an evil, evil speculator! not to mention crimethinker.

anyway…my own speculation re. the biological substrate of renaissances is that it’s not populations which experience an injection of barbarian altruism genes that wind up having a renaissance, but rather that populations which outbreed (i.e. quit marrying close relatives) for ca. 400 to 800 years (egs. medieval/renaissance europe and archaic/classical greece?) undergo a sort-of wikification of their society which drives intellectual openness and curiosity and sharing — the kinds of behavioral derring-do that you need in order to have a renaissance at all. see the previous post for more on all of those speculations.

today’s speculation is that perhaps the arabized world underwent a reverse renaissance process thanks to the introduction by the arabs of the most inbred form of cousin marriage — father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage — to the populations of the middle east/maghreb (not to mention the introduction of arabs, themselves, who had probably been inbreeding closely for up to nine hundred years before their expansion).

the islamic golden age lasted for a good six hundred years or so, but instead of the scope of islamic philosophy and science and law widening over the time period — instead of a wikification process — the tendency was for thinking in the arabized world to narrow. ijtihad (“independent thinking”) was gradually replaced by taqlid (“imitation”). this narrowing of thought was already widespread in the muslim world by the twelfth century — just about 400-450 years after the arab conquests. (braudel puts the beginning and end dates of the islamic golden age as 813 and 1198, the beginning of al-ma’mun’s caliphate and the death averroes respectively. – pg. 202.)

irfan habib points out that the islamic golden age in science was very much founded on long-established traditions of free inquiry in the near east, from greece to persia [pg. 69 -- link added by me]:

“[T]his particular phase in Islamic history was marked predominantly by the Mu’tazilite school of philosophy, which was based on freethinking and rationalism. It was an ecumenical setting for science, where savants of nearly all creeds and origins worked towards a common purpose. And this was not something new, it was a long established pre-Islamic tradition in the Near East, where translation of scientific and philosophical texts from Greek to Syriac took place….

i wonder if what happened was that, with the establishment of the caliphate and all the civilized elements that went with it — good communications over long distances, (relative) peace within the realm, an excess of wealth — a “renaissance” was quickly established. however, that golden age — which happened in the early part of the era of the caliphs — was really a late flowering of whatever had been going on the region previous to the arabs (especially in persia). this renaissance was then reversed — stunted, really — as a result of the centuries of close inbreeding of the populations in the middle east and maghreb thanks to the introduction of fbd marriage by the arabs.

like i said — pure, unadultered speculation! (~_^)

previously: renaissances

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in Genes underlying altruism published in october of last year, three biologists/researchers think through what “genes for altruism” ought to look like and how we will recognize them (“we” meaning teh scientists!):

(i) Genes underlying altruism should satisfy Hamilton’s rule of rb > c, where r is relatedness of actor to recipient, b is benefits to the recipient and c is costs to the actor. Altruism exists, and to the extent that this type of behaviour has evolved, we expect genetic variation to underlie it. In this sense, there must be genes ‘for’ altruism (genes showing allelic variation that is statistically associated with variation in altruistic behaviour) that are potentially detectable….

(ii) Genes underlying altruism should be environmentally sensitive. If genes for altruism are to evolve, then at least some carriers must reproduce. This inference implies that genes underlying altruism should be conditionally expressed as a function of their social environment….

(iii) Genes underlying altruism should increase in number and complexity with social-behavioural sophistication….

(iv) Genes underlying altruism should coevolve with, or depend on, the previous evolution of genes for kin recognition….

(v) Genes for altruism may reside in regions of low recombination, exhibit co-expression and show modular genetic architecture….

(vi) Genes underlying altruism should be at least partially additive. The evolution of altruism requires heritable variation, and we therefore expect genes for this and other evolved social traits to have significant additive effects that are responsive to kin-mediated selection….

(vii) Genes underlying altruism should exhibit strong pleiotropy. Pleiotropy (multiple phenotypic effects of alleles) should be fundamental to the evolution of altruism, given that it involves combinations of costs and benefits that may be simultaneously physiological, morphological, reproductive and behavioural….

the authors offer some candidate “genes for altruism” (this is a truncated version of their table. i’ve only included the ones for humans here — they also suggested some for eusocial insects):

genes underlying altruism - table

i think teh scientists should also look for some genes related to violence — particularly tempermental, hotheaded sorts of violence — the kind that raises the testosterone levels of scots-irish, but not yankee, folks when they’re insulted. those types of fly off the handle behaviors, i think, are often altruistic in nature, since the hotheaded individual can be more willing to sacrifice himself in a fight or in battle for his kin.

also, i guess that “genes for altruism” ought to be found in differing frequencies — even variations — in different human populations, especially long-term inbred versus long-term outbred ones.


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Quick Questions for Peter and Rosemary Grant“There is widespread misunderstanding about evolution; that it occurs extremely slowly and therefore cannot be studied in a person’s lifetime. This was the view of Charles Darwin. Many biologists and others now know that this is not correct…. The idea that animals as large as birds might evolve before our eyes is not so well known, yet our study in the entirely natural world of Daphne Major island has revealed this does in fact happen when there is a change in the environment, and it takes place over a period as short as a year, and repeatedly.” – h/t billare!

Is DNA Multilingual?“The genetic code has traditionally been viewed as a universal set of instructions, exquisitely tuned to maintain robust stability and allow evolution-sustaining mutations. But the pervasive occurrence of recoded stop codons, and the backchannel crosstalk between microbes and viruses, paints a more intricate picture of multilingual genetic instructions.”

Jelly genome mystery“The uniqueness of this ctenophore’s nervous system leads Moroz and his team to argue that it must have evolved independently, after the ctenophore lineage branched off from other animals some 500 million years ago.”

Genomic divergence in a ring species complex“Ring species provide particularly clear demonstrations of how one species can gradually evolve into two, but are rare in nature…. Here we use genome-wide analyses to show that, although spatial patterns of genetic variation are currently mostly as expected of a ring species, historical breaks in gene flow have existed at more than one location around the ring, and the two Siberian forms have occasionally interbred.” – h/t razib!

Natural selection and infectious disease in human populations“The ancient biological ‘arms race’ between microbial pathogens and humans has shaped genetic variation in modern populations, and this has important implications for the growing field of medical genomics. As humans migrated throughout the world, populations encountered distinct pathogens, and natural selection increased the prevalence of alleles that are advantageous in the new ecosystems in both host and pathogens. This ancient history now influences human infectious disease susceptibility and microbiome homeostasis, and contributes to common diseases that show geographical disparities, such as autoimmune and metabolic disorders.”

High genetic differentiation between populations often driven by classic selective sweeps“‘We demonstrate that while sites of low differentiation represent sampling effects rather than balancing selection, sites showing extremely high population differentiation are enriched for positive selection events and that one half may be the result of classic selective sweeps. Among these, we rediscover known examples, where we actually identify the established functional SNP, and discover novel examples including the genes ABCA12, CALD1 and ZNF804, which we speculate may be linked to adaptations in skin, calcium metabolism and defense, respectively. Conclusions: We have identified known and many novel candidate regions for geographically restricted positive selection, and suggest several directions for further research.'” – @dienekes’.

Mendelian-Mutationism: The Forgotten Evolutionary Synthesis – h/t neuroskeptic! who tweeted: “Did geneticists ‘crack’ the secret of evolution much earlier than believed?”

this one’s for linton!: Why Marrying Your Cousin May Pay Off“In line with previous findings, the researchers found that among non-foraging societies, a couple’s relatedness was linked with having more surviving children. But among foraging societies, the opposite was true: More-closely related spouses had fewer surviving children. Furthermore, the more family intermarriage in a society, the greater the benefit of intermarrying on the number of children couples had. In other words, in societies in which people frequently married their relatives, intermarrying showed a stronger link to having more children.”

The Closest of Strangers“[I]dentical twins who are aunts and uncles invest more in caring for the children of their twins (their ‘genetic’ sons and daughters) than do fraternal twins.”

Why Do Honor Killings Defy the First Law of Homicide? And Will Smaller Families Lead to Fewer Of Them? – h/t tom farsides! – previously: inclusive inclusive fitness.

Genetic and educational assortative mating among US adults“We find that spouses are more genetically similar than two individuals chosen at random but this similarity is at most one-third the magnitude of educational similarity.”

Irish fair skin can be traced to India and the Middle East“A major new US study at Penn State University has found that Europeans’ light skin stems from a gene mutation from a single person who lived 10,000 years ago…. Keith Cheng from Penn State College of Medicine reported that one amino acid difference in the gene SLC24A5 is a key contributor to the skin color difference between Europeans and West Africans…. ‘The mutation in SLC24A5 changes just one building block in the protein, and contributes about a third of the visually striking differences in skin tone between peoples of African and European ancestry, he said…. The mutation, called A111T, is found in virtually everyone of European ancestry. A111T is also found in populations in the Middle East and Indian subcontinent, but not in high numbers in Africans. All individuals from the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa and South India who carry the A111T mutation share traces of the ancestral genetic code. According to the researchers, this indicates that all existing instances of this mutation originate from the same person.” – h/t 23andMe!

The puzzle of European hair, eye, and skin color“The physical appearance of Europeans seems to result from a selection pressure that acted primarily on women and only secondarily on men. This is especially true for highly visible traits on or near the face—the focus of visual attention.” – from peter frost.

The Dark Triad of Personality – special issue of Personality and Individual Differences. – h/t claire lehmann!

Heritability of brain volume change and its relation to intelligence“Human brain volumes change throughout life, are highly heritable, and have been associated with general cognitive functioning…. Results show that changes in volumes of total brain (mean=-6.4ml; -0.5% loss), cerebellum (1.4ml, 1.0% increase), cerebral white matter (4.4ml, 0.9% increase), lateral ventricles (0.6ml; 4.8% increase) and in surface area (-19.7cm2, -1.1% contraction) are heritable (h2=43%; 52%; 29%; 31%; and 33%, respectively). An association between IQ (available for 91 participants) and brain volume change was observed, which was attributed to genes involved in both the variation in change in brain volume and in intelligence. Thus, dynamic changes in brain structure are heritable and may have cognitive significance in adulthood.”

Cognitive abilities amongst the Sámi population“Lapps have an IQ around 100.8 are tilted towards visuospatial ability and away from verbal ability.” – from elijah armstrong, michael woodley the younger, and richard lynn. edit: original paper here on elijah’s blog! (^_^)

The Flynn Effect in a Nutshell – from elijah.

Does brain structure determine your political views?“‘People like to believe that their own political beliefs are rational, that they’re a sensible response to the world around them, so when we come along and say, “Maybe there are these predispositions, influential but perhaps not fully in your conscious awareness,” that’s not the way we like to view our own political beliefs.'” – h/t mr. robert ford!

Sex-Related Neuroanatomical Basis of Emotion Regulation Ability“Behavioral research has demonstrated that males have a higher capability of regulating their own and others’ emotions than females; however, little is known about the sex-specific brain mechanisms involved in emotion regulation ability…. we found the sex differences in the neuroanatomical basis of emotion regulation ability. Males showed a stronger positive relation between emotion regulation ability and regional gray matter volume (rGMV) in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. In contrast, females demonstrated a stronger positive relation between emotion regulation ability and rGMV in an anatomical cluster that extends from the left brainstem to the left hippocampus, the left amygdala and the insular cortex.”

More Maps of the American Nations – from jayman.

Privilege and Morality“Our species isn’t good at nuance. The ‘privilege’ debate will and must take place in a morally charged context. It is not possible to sanitize the discussion by scrubbing it free of moral emotions. That is one of the many reasons why it is so important to understand what morality is and why it exists. It does not exist as a transcendental entity that happened to pop into existence with the big bang, nor does it exist because the Big Man upstairs wants it that way. It exists because it evolved.” – from helian.

Economic Growth & Human Biodiversity“Economic growth in lower-IQ countries does not invalidate either the reality of IQ differences between countries or the persistence of those disparities.” – from pseudoerasmus.

Good Fences: The Importance of Setting Boundaries for Peaceful Coexistence“Switzerland is recognized as a country of peace, stability and prosperity. This is surprising because of its linguistic and religious diversity that in other parts of the world lead to conflict and violence. Here we analyze how peaceful stability is maintained. Our analysis shows that peace does not depend on integrated coexistence, but rather on well defined topographical and political boundaries separating groups, allowing for partial autonomy within a single country. In Switzerland, mountains and lakes are an important part of the boundaries between sharply defined linguistic areas. Political canton and circle (sub-canton) boundaries often separate religious groups. Where such boundaries do not appear to be sufficient, we find that specific aspects of the population distribution guarantee either sufficient separation or sufficient mixing to inhibit intergroup violence according to the quantitative theory of conflict. In exactly one region, a porous mountain range does not adequately separate linguistic groups and that region has experienced significant violent conflict, leading to the recent creation of the canton of Jura.”

Was Territoriality Important in the Pleistocene? A Commentary on Johnson and Toft – @peter turchin’s.

Southern Europe is suspicious: the evolution of trust in the EU – ess and wvs results.

Trust and In-Group Favoritism in a Culture of Crime [pdf] – h/t ben southwood! who tweeted: “Areas in Palermo with high Mafia involvement have lower generalised trust but higher in-group favouritism.”

In dogs’ play, researchers see honesty and deceit, perhaps something like morality – woof!

What is Phonemic Diversity? — And Does It Prove the Out-of-Africa Theory? – h/t james winters!

How a Protestant spin machine hid the truth about the English Reformation“It seems that in 1533, the year of Henry’s break from Rome, traditional Catholicism was the religion of the vast majority of the country. And in most places it was absolutely thriving. It had developed a particularly English flavour, with a focus on the involvement of ordinary people in parish churches, village greens, plays, and pageants – much of which seemed to involve a good deal of community parties, dancing, and drinking. It is true that English religion in the early 1500s was not especially studious or erudite. The people did not spend hours a day in biblical studies, contemplation, and moralising in the manner of the more intense European reformers. But England had a nationally cohesive spirituality that was alive and exuberant, with a distinctly community feel…. The conclusion of this modern grassroots scholarship is that bulldozing the Catholic Church off the face of medieval England was not a ‘bottom up’ revolution in which Henry merely acquiesced to his people’s wishes by throwing off a widely hated foreign domination. To the contrary, it looks increasingly like Henry and his circle imposed the Reformation ‘top down’, unleashing 100 years of deep anger and alienation that was only overcome by sustained politicking and ruthless force.” – h/t william briggs!

bonus: “No Oxygen? No Problem!” Says Squid That Can Shut Down Its Metabolism – h/t kyle hill!

bonus bonus: A Theory on How Flightless Birds Spread Across the World: They Flew There

bonus bonus bonus: Chicken project gets off the ground“Effort aims to unravel the history of bird’s domestication.” – cluck!

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in his post A pathway to pro-social behavior, peter frost references this article Second-to-Fourth Digit Ratio Has a Non-Monotonic Impact on Altruism in which the authors say:

“We find an inverted U-shaped relation for left and right hands, which is very consistent for men and less systematic for women. Subjects with both high and low digit ratios give less than individuals with intermediate digit ratios.

the subjects were w.e.i.r.d.-ish, btw — university students from granada, spain.

peter comments:

“From one population to the next, digit ratios tend to cluster around different means, perhaps because altruism has been favored or disfavored to different degrees.”

i’m not familiar with those differences (will have to investigate), but i did post this from turkey in a recent linkfest:

“Inbreeding is associated with lower 2D:4D digit ratio”

“We compared the 2D:4D ratios of 122 male and 108 female consanguineous (children of first cousin marriages) high school and university students to those of 142 male and 122 females controls. Across hands and sex, consanguineous parentage was consistently associated with lower, more masculine-typical, digit ratios. Digit ratios were 1.3–1.9 times more variable among the consanguineous group than the control group. While socio-economic status cannot explain the effects seen in our data, we found that lower, more masculinized, digit ratios were associated with lower family income.”

inbreeding leads to…whatever genotypic/phenotypic package that results in lower 2d:4d digit ratios *and* lower rates of altruistic behaviors? dunno. Further Research is RequiredTM.

ftr — i come from a population that has been inbreeding up until fairly recently, and i’ve got a low 2d:4d digit ratio. uh oh.

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Why We Fight (Over Land)“In the most recent issue of the journal International Security, Monica Duffy-Toft and Dominic Johnson, political scientists at Oxford, argue that a new theoretical framework is needed to analyze such behavior, one rooted in evolutionary biology…. As Duffy-Toft told me an interview today, ‘It comes back to survival and reproduction. There’s an instinct that we need land in order to exist. We need to have the capacity to get resources to live our lives….’ Duffy-Toft acknowledges that the thesis is controversial. While their piece is currently the lead article in International Security, one of the more prestigious journals in the field, it took almost 10 years to get it published. ‘We’re pushing up against real biases in our field,’ she says. ‘Scholars don’t want to admit that our behavior can be constrained by the fact that we’re animals.’ – *sigh* – original research article here [pdf].

Oldest modern human genome from Siberia ~45 thousand years ago“The femur belonged to an H. sapiens man who had slightly more Neandertal DNA, distributed in different parts of his genome, than do living Europeans and Asians.” – @dienekes’.

Human evolution: The Neanderthal in the family“Thirty years after the study of ancient DNA began, it promises to upend our view of the past.”

The phylogenetic and geographic structure of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a – h/t razib!

Discoveries Challenge Beliefs on Humans’ Arrival in the Americas“[T]he ancient rock art depicts fierce battles among tribesmen….” – h/t steven pinker! who tweeted: “refutes frequent claim of no war before agriculture.”

Cochran-Harpending paper on “Amish Quotient”“‘[T]heir social pattern probably drives strong selection for a particular flavor of personality, which is downright fascinating and worthy of further investigation. One could, with difficulty and a lot of investment, identify dimensions of a hypothetical AQ. It would likely include affinity for work, perseverance, low status competition, respect for authority, conscientiousness, community orientation, and so on. We proposed (Cochran, Hardy, & Harpending, 2006) a similar mechanism to account for Ashkenazi Jewish evolution in Medieval times selecting for ability and success in white collar occupations.'” – from steve sailer. previously @west hunter: Inferring an AQ.

The Son Becomes The Father“The failure of parents to appreciably affect the outcomes of their children affirms Gregory Clark’s findings, and indicates that much of the transmission of status from one generation to the next is ultimately genetic in origin…. Almost certainly, throughout history, and across the diverse societies, that has been a huge amount of ‘noise’ in the transmission of status, especially on the individual level and in the short run. The vagaries of the circumstances no doubt imbued good fortune on some and dashed the success of many others. But through it all, the thing that is at the root of continuity – DNA – remained the active ingredient to propagate lineages in their respective places through out the ages.” – from jayman.

First comprehensive atlas of human gene activity released – h/t mike anissimov!

Sperm competition and Heteropaternal Superfecundation – from greg cochran.

The Holocene Lattice“First, it is now clear that long-range migration, admixture and population replacement have been the rule rather than the exception in human history. Second, the serial founder effect model is no longer a reasonable null hypothesis for modeling the ancient spread of anatomically modern humans around the globe.” – from razib. (emphases in original.)

Percentage of DNA shared amongst the various archaics (including our sapiens sapiens lineage), from a review in Cell – from billare.

Neural portraits of perception: Reconstructing face images from evoked brain activity – whoa. h/t mo costandi!

We Are All Mutants“On the hunt for disease genes, researchers uncover humanity’s 
vast diversity.”

Puerto Rico and IQ: Same as it ever was – from steve sailer.

About That Gene-Environment Interaction Study by Turkheimer et al.“The upshot is that while environmental deprivation may render genetic differences less important in the determination of children’s IQ, the typical black child in this large and downscale sample had apparently not been raised in deprived circumstances any more frequently than the typical white child in the sample. The lower IQs of blacks in this sample cannot therefore be put down to them having been exposed to environments less conducive to the expression of genetic variance in IQ than the environments experienced by whites.” – @human varieties.

People can predict the IQ of men — but not women — by looking at their face, study finds – see also dr. james thompson: The mind’s construction in a face.

Dopamine D4 receptor gene variation influences self-reported altruism“[T]he DRD4 7-repeat allele is associated with lower scores on the NEO-PI-R Altruism facet scale, accounting for about 2% of the variance. As the DRD4 7-repeat allele has been associated with higher scores in impulsive personality traits and ADHD, our result suggests that individual differences in impulsive behavioral tendencies may play a role in the propensity to behave altruistically.” – h/t tom farsides!

How Social Darwinism Made Modern China“A thousand years of meritocracy shaped the Middle Kingdom.” – from ron unz. h/t eduardo zugasti!

Kinder, gentler speech“In sum, when the State imposed a monopoly on the use of violence, it set in motion a process of gene-culture co-evolution with many consequences. Among other things, this process may have favored not only learned ways of speaking but also unlearned ways as well.” – from peter frost.

Crows Understand a Fundamental Part of Logical Reasoning“Crows are far more rational than we had realized. New research shows that wild New Caledonian crows can compete with 7-year-old children when it comes to understanding causality, or how one action causes another.” see also: Crows understand water displacement at the level of a small child: Show causal understanding of a 5- to 7-year-old child.

Do animals have a sense of humour? – koko the gorilla “once tied her trainer’s shoelaces together and signed ‘chase’.” (^_^) (^_^) (^_^) – h/t steve stewart williams!

On “Male” vs. “Female” Brains – twitter convo on sexual dimorphism in human neuro-whatsits. kevin mitchell ftw!

“Natural Law” and Other Rationalizations of Morality“People worry about a ‘grounding’ for morality. There’s really no need to. As Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce pointed out in Wild Justice – The Moral Lives of Animals, there are analogs of moral behavior in many species besides our own…. Other animals don’t wonder why one thing is good and another evil. They’re not intelligent enough to worry about it. Hominids are Mother Nature’s first experiment with creatures that are smart enough to worry about it. The result of this cobbling of big brains onto the already existing mental equipment responsible for moral emotions and perceptions hasn’t been entirely happy. In fact, it has caused endless confusion through the ages.” – from helian.

Inclusive fitness theory for the evolution of religion“We describe and evaluate an integrative hypothesis for the origin and evolution of human religious cognition and behaviour, based on maximization of inclusive fitness. By this hypothesis, the concept of God is represented by one’s circle of kin and social salience, such that serving God and serving this circle become synonymous. The theory is supported by data from anthropology, evolutionary theory, psychology, neuroscience, psychiatry, endocrinology and genetics.” – h/t claire lehmann!

Are liars ethical? On the tension between benevolence and honesty“[I]ndividuals who tell prosocial lies are perceived to be *more* moral than individuals who tell the truth.” – h/t zhana vrangalova!

Speculations on the Evolution of Awareness“The ‘attention schema’ theory provides one possible account of the biological basis of consciousness, tracing the evolution of awareness through steps from the advent of selective signal enhancement about half a billion years ago to the top-down control of attention, to an internal model of attention (which allows a brain, for the first time, to attribute to itself that it has a mind that is aware of something), to the ability to attribute awareness to other beings, and from there to the human attribution of a rich spirit world surrounding us. Humans have been known to attribute awareness to plants, rocks, rivers, empty space, and the universe as a whole. Deities, ghosts, souls-the spirit world swirling around us is arguably the exuberant attribution of awareness.” – h/t neuroskeptic!

Mugshots Built from DNA Data“A computer program crudely predicts facial structure from genetic variations.”

The Oldest Living Things On Earth“Starting in the 1960s, evolutionary biologists have searched for an overarching explanation to account for all the different ways to grow old. The best-supported ones so far are variants on the old truth that a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none. An organism can collect a finite amount of energy, whether it’s a lion killing gazelles, a tulip capturing sunlight, or a microbe breathing iron at the bottom of the sea. It can use that energy to grow, to produce offspring, to defend itself against pathogens, to repair damaged its damaged molecules. But it has a limited budget. The energy spent on one task is energy that can’t be spent on others. Molecular repair and pathogen defense are both good ways to live longer. But a long-lived organism that produces few offspring will not pass on many copies of its genes to future generations. The organisms that will succeed are the ones that do a mediocre job of keeping their bodies in order, leaving more energy for making babies.” – h/t billare!

Mutation, Not Natural Selection, Drives Evolution – according to masatoshi nei: “Every part of our body is controlled by molecules, so you have to explain on a molecular level. That is the real mechanism of evolution, how molecules change. They change through mutation. Mutation means a change in DNA through, for example, substitution or insertion [of nucleotides]. First you have to have change, and then natural selection may operate or may not operate. I say mutation is the most important, driving force of evolution. Natural selection occurs sometimes, of course, because some types of variations are better than others, but mutation created the different types. Natural selection is secondary.”

End the Hype over Epigenetics & Lamarckian Evolution“They insist that characteristics many researchers assume to be the result of epigenetic inheritance are actually caused by something else. The authors list four possibilities: Undetected mutations in the letters of the DNA sequence, behavioral changes (which themselves can trigger epigenetic tags), alterations in the microbiome, or transmission of metabolites from one generation to the next. The authors claim that most epigenetic research, particularly when it involves human health, fails to eliminate these possibilities.” – h/t jayman!

New warning about ‘Celtic Curse’ blood iron disease“Hemochromatosis is a hereditary disease, linked particularly to Irish and those of Irish origin. It causes your body to absorb too much iron from the food you consume. The excess iron becomes stored in your organs, especially your liver, heart and pancreas. It can lead to life-threatening conditions such as cancer, heart problems and liver disease. Those with Irish heritage have a significantly greater chance of carrying the gene mutation that can contribute to the deadly disorder. Some experts believe that hemochromatosis originated more than 40,000 years ago in Ireland when genes mutated allowing the population to over-absorb iron, to compensate for a poor iron diet.” – h/t 23andMe!

The state is the worst wicked stepmother of all“[T]he number of children raised without one of their parents has increased sharply in recent years, partly due to changing sexual mores but also the involvement of the state itself; the largest increase in non-marital births came after the 1977 Homeless Persons Act gave lone mothers priority on housing lists. The Tory MP behind this proposal wrote, ‘The sad truth is that, until now, the Wicked Stepmother would have got away scot-free.’ Possibly, but there would not have been so many wicked stepmothers, or stepfathers, or mother’s current boyfriends, without the state in the first place.” – from ed west.

Pseudoescepticismo y biodiversidad humana“Desde hace años, sin embargo, existe una tendencia ideológica inflacionaria en el movimiento escéptico que tiende a alejarse del ‘núcleo’ original, cuyos contornos de todos modos son imprecisos (¿es la parapsicología una ciencia?). El inconveniente es que este alejamiento del núcleo, yo lo llamaría ‘escepticismo inflacionario’ o simplemente pseudoescepticismo, desdibuja los criterios de demarcación y hace que los nuevos temas sean más y más propensos a la contaminación moral e ideológica…. Un caso bastante claro es la campaña ‘escéptica’ de descrédito contra la psicología evolucionista, que sólo ha convencido a un pequeño grupo. ¿Pudiera ser que el empeño de grupos ‘escépticos’ de asimilar el movimiento de biodiversidad humana con el ‘racismo científico’ y con la ‘pseudociencia’ (la falacia moralista siempre merodeando) corriera una suerte parecida?” – @la revolución naturalista.

Response to ‘Fists of furry: at what point did human fists part company with the rest of the hominid lineage?’“A Swedish study on interpersonal violence reported 63 facial fractures and 57 concussions inflicted by fists, but only eight fractures of the metacarpal or phalangeal bones (Boström, 1997). Thus, human fists are effective weapons and, when humans fight, faces break more frequently than fists.” – h/t john hawks!

Sexually Transmitted Virus Sterilises Insects, Turns Them On“[O]ne particular insect virus can sterilise crickets, but also change their behaviour so they continue to mate with each other. By doing so, they pass the virus on to uninfected hosts.”

Ancient African cattle first domesticated in Middle East, study reveals“The genetic history of 134 cattle breeds from around the world has been completed by a group of researchers. In the process of completing this history, they found that ancient domesticated African cattle originated in the ‘Fertile Crescent,’ a region that covered modern day Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Israel.” – h/t anthropology tip!

Autism characteristics differ by gender, studies find – h/t hbd bibliography! also: Autism begins in pregnancy, according to study: Cortical layers disrupted during brain development in autism – h/t mr. robert ford!

Men ‘size-up’ male competition by watching dance moves” The results revealed that handgrip strength and arm movements of the dancers were predictors of dance quality ratings. Both men and women rated stronger males with larger, more variable and faster arm movements as better dancers. However, men picked up clues of upper-body strength from male dancing more accurately than women.” – previously: “you should be dancin’ yeah!”

A Study of Twins, Separated by Orbit“While circling the earth aboard the International Space Station for a full year — the longest single space adventure for any American astronaut — and after his return, scientists will closely monitor Commander Kelly to see what changes space has wrought. NASA has been studying the effects of long stays in space on astronauts for years, but this set of 10 investigations will be different: The scientists will be doing the same poking, prodding and analyzing on Commander Kelly’s identical twin brother, Mark, a retired astronaut.”

A simple but elegant method to detect election fraud and irregularities. – from randy olson.

bonus: Game of Thrones tells the story of Britain better than most histories“The popular TV drama gives a vivid idea of how people might have behaved in the Middle Ages – which is brutally” – from ed west. and coming out on thursday!: Ebook on the history behind ‘Game of Thrones’ – by ed west. what does he mean, “there aren’t really dragons”??!?

bonus bonus: L.L. Cavalli-Sforza. A bird in a gilded cage. – new ebook from peter frost!

bonus bonus bonus: Advice for a Happy Life“Consider marrying young. Be wary of grand passions. Watch ‘Groundhog Day’ (again).” – from charles murray.

bonus bonus bonus bonus: The War Nerd: Who exactly are the Jihadis (and why aren’t there more of them)?“There’s one simple generalization you can make from these stats: Jihadis from Muslim-majority countries are generally higher-status than those from countries where Muslims are a minority.” – h/t michael “the sailor” story!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Neurosurgeons successfully implant 3D printed skull – whoa.

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Woolly Mammoths Suffered Major Birth Defects Before Extinction“According to the researchers, this influx of birth defects could have come about in two different ways. The genetic mutations could have arisen from inbreeding depression. As mammoths were reduced in number, genetic diversity would have plummeted and the number of mutations would have risen sharply. The other explanation offered states that expecting mothers would have been under considerable stress as the population dwindled. This prenatal stress could have had negative consequences for fetal development.” – h/t avi tuschman!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: A Day in the Life of an Ancient Athenian Citizen – from blowhard, esq. h/t ray sawhill! (for some reason, i always crave a cocktail after visiting uncouth reflections…. (^_^) *hic*)

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Greatest Invention in Human History Helps You Avoid Certain People“The era of antisocial networking has begun with the development of apps such as Cloak, which identifies locations of your contacts so you don’t have to see them.” – FIIIInally!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Absurd Creature of the Week: The 6-Foot Earthworm That Sounds Like a Draining Bathtub – h/t charles (aka the doctor! (^_^) )!

(note: comments do not require an email. gippsland earthworm!)

DNA USA*“[A]bout about 4 percent of whites have at least 1 percent or more African ancestry. Although it is a relatively small percentage, the percentage indicates that an individual with at least 1 percent African ancestry had an African ancestor within the last six generations, or in the last 200 years. This data also suggests that individuals with mixed parentage at some point were absorbed into the white population. Looking a little more deeply into the data, Kasia also found that the percentage of whites with hidden African ancestry differed significantly from state-to-state. Southern states with the highest African American populations, tended to have the highest percentages of hidden African ancestry…. Previous published studies estimate that on average African Americans had about 82 percent African ancestry and about 18 percent European ancestry. But in self-identified African Americans in 23andMe’s database, Kasia found the average amount of African ancestry was closer to 73 percent. Kasia found significant differences in state-to-state comparisons. African Americans in the northern and western states have more mixed ancestry than those in the southern states…. On average Latinos had about 70 percent European ancestry, 14 percent Native American ancestry and 6 percent African ancestry. The remaining ancestry is difficult to assign because the DNA is either shared by a number of different populations around the world, or because it’s from understudied populations, such as Native Americans.” – from 23andMe.

Common Variants in the CDH7 Gene are Associated with Major Depressive Disorder in the Han Chinese Population“Recent genome-wide association study also demonstrated that CDH7 was significant associated with bipolar disorder…. Our results support CDH7 to be a risk factor of MDD in the Han Chinese population. However, further studies with more markers and independent samples were suggested to validate our findings.”

Humans May Have Been Stuck on Bering Strait for 10,000 Years“In the new Perspectives article, published today (Feb. 27) in the journal Science, the researchers compile existing data to support the idea, known as the Beringia standstill hypothesis. Among that evidence is genetic data showing that founding populations of Native Americans diverged from their Asian ancestors more than 25,000 years ago. In addition, land in the region of the Bering Strait teemed with grasses to support big game (for food) and woody shrubs to burn in the cold climate, supporting a hard-scrabble existence for ancient people.” – razib is skeptical.

Was skin cancer a selective force for black pigmentation in early hominin evolution?“[D]ata on age-associated cancer incidence and lethality in albinos living at low latitudes in both Africa and Central America support the contention that skin cancer could have provided a potent selective force for the emergence of black skin in early hominins.”

Neanderthal Introgression at Chromosome 3p21.31 Was Under Positive Natural Selection in East Asians“Studies of the Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes demonstrate archaic hominin introgression in Eurasians. Here, we present evidence of Neanderthal introgression within the chromosome 3p21.31 region, occurring with a high frequency in East Asians (ranging from 49.4% to 66.5%) and at a low frequency in Europeans. We also detected a signal of strong positive selection in this region only in East Asians…. [S]uggestive evidence supports latitude-dependent selection, implicating a role of ultraviolet-B.”

Neanderthals challenge the origins of speech“Neanderthals, may well have spoken in languages not dissimilar to the ones we use today…. [I]n terms of mechanical behaviour, the Neanderthal hyoid was basically indistinguishable from our own, strongly suggesting that this key part of the vocal tract was used in the same way. ‘From this research, we can conclude that it’s likely that the origins of speech and language are far, far older than once thought.'” – h/t billare (who is 0.1% neanderthal)!

READ THIS (yes, there *will* be a pop quiz on the material later in the week (~_^) )!: Environmental Hereditarianism“[T]here is little evidence linking most ‘measurable’ aspects of the environment to human physical or behavioral traits…. Most of the solid evidence we do have for environmental impacts come in the forms of things that do physical damage (e.g., maiming limbs or traumatic brain injury) – a category which includes poisons; or are developmental deficits, such as malnutrition. Much of the rest of it (take your pick) is lacking.” – from jayman. – previously: it’s not nature and nurture….

Outliers – from greg cochran.

New evidence confirms link between IQ, brain cortex“Rate of change in the thickness of the brain’s cortex is an important factor associated with a person’s change in IQ, according to a collaborative study by scientists in five countries…. This study is the first to show the association between cortical thickness and development in full scale IQ, and has potentially wide-ranging implications for the pedagogical world and for judicial cases in which the defendant’s IQ score could play a role in determining the severity of the sentence.”

The Germ Theory of Democracy, Dictatorship, and All Your Most Cherished Beliefs“What kind of government do you live under? Who are your sexual partners? How do you treat strangers? All of these questions may mask a more fundamental one: What germs are you warding off?” – h/t jason collins! – but see this previous post: pathogens and consanguinity“the BIG outliers, though, are the arabs and all their middle eastern/north african/south asian muslim buddies. they are the ones throwing off the correlation completely…. these societies are amongst those that have the highest consanguinity rates, and yet some of their pathogen index scores are *very* low.” that part of the world also does not do well when it comes to (liberal) democracy. – see also jayman’s response.

Nicholas Wade Takes on the Regime – jared taylor reviews nicholas wade’s upcoming book on race. – h/t hbd bibliography! – see also this comment from jayman. – and see also Harmful, toxic equalism from the awesome epigone.

The Nature of Race – from karl boetel and john furest. see also here.

12,000 year old prehistoric art shows woman hunting – maybe. kinda/sorta. (not really.) – from adam benton.

Altruism and the Dark Side of Agreeableness“[B]eware of really nice people. If they seem too good to be true, they usually are.” – from staffan.

Forgotten fathers: paternal influences on mammalian sex allocation“A growing body of evidence suggests that the assumption that males produce an unbiased proportion of X- and Y-chromosome-bearing spermatozoa is not always valid with significant between- and even within-individual variation.” – a mechanism for trivers-willard? – h/t lars penke!

Digit Span: the modest little bombshell and What does IQ 70 mean for black and white kids? – from dr. thompson.

The paradox of the Visual Word Form Area“The VWFA functions differently in different human populations. The difference is striking between people who use alphabetical script, where each symbol represents a sound, and those who use logographic script, where each symbol represents an idea. Chinese subjects process their idea-based symbols with assistance from other brain regions, whereas Westerners process their sound-based symbols only in the VWFA.” – from peter frost.

The man who destroyed America’s ego“How a rebel psychologist challenged one of the 20th century’s biggest—and most dangerous—ideas…. Among the most egregious errors they discovered were those in the papers that focused on academic performance. A correlation had been repeatedly found between high self-esteem and good grades. So, the logic went, if you boosted self-esteem you’d also boost grades. But the authors had made one of the most elementary mistakes in science. ‘When they tracked people over time,’ says Baumeister, ‘the grades came first, and then the self-esteem. High self-esteem was a *result* of good grades, not a cause.'” – h/t matthew wygant!

Genetic Influences on Political Ideologies: Twin Analyses of 19 Measures of Political Ideologies from Five Democracies and Genome-Wide Findings from Three Populations“Here we present results from original analyses of a combined sample of over 12,000 twins pairs, ascertained from nine different studies conducted in five democracies, sampled over the course of four decades. We provide evidence that genetic factors play a role in the formation of political ideology, regardless of how ideology is measured, the era, or the population sampled…. We then present results from one of the first genome-wide association studies on political ideology using data from three samples: a 1990 Australian sample involving 6,894 individuals from 3,516 families; a 2008 Australian sample of 1,160 related individuals from 635 families and a 2010 Swedish sample involving 3,334 individuals from 2,607 families. No polymorphisms reached genome-wide significance in the meta-analysis. The combined evidence suggests that political ideology constitutes a fundamental aspect of one’s genetically informed psychological disposition, but as Fisher proposed long ago, genetic influences on complex traits will be composed of thousands of markers of very small effects and it will require extremely large samples to have enough power in order to identify specific polymorphisms related to complex social traits.”

Why Americans Are So Polarized: Education and Evolution“Improvements in learning — which correlates with stronger partisanship — and the tendency to choose likeminded mates may be helping to create divided politics.” – from avi tuschman. – h/t eddy elmer!

Conservatives generally more willing to take business risks, study finds

Paternal Age at Childbearing and Offspring Psychiatric and Academic Morbidity“In the study population, advancing paternal age was associated with increased risk of some psychiatric disorders (eg, autism, psychosis, and bipolar disorders) but decreased risk of the other indexes of morbidity.”

A Genotype-First Approach to Defining the Subtypes of a Complex Disease – h/t kevin mitchell who tweeted: “Increasing recog’n that ‘common disorders; like autism really umbrella terms for many rare diseases.”

Researchers look at boy-girl differences in autism“Boys, it seems, can develop autism from a relatively small genetic hit, according to a study published today in the American Journal of Human Genetics. It takes more of a genetic wallop, though, to cause autism in girls – so when they do get it, they’re worse off. The same explanation holds true, researchers think, for the gender imbalance in ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), intellectual disabilities and schizophrenia.” – see also: A Higher Mutational Burden in Females Supports a “Female Protective Model” in Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

China Cracks Down on DNA Testing – h/t jayman!

Epigenetics: The sins of the father – big story in nature today. – “The roots of inheritance may extend beyond the genome, but the mechanisms remain a puzzle.” – but swedish scientist on twitter says: “But Rando misquotes Swedish human data in his Cell paper on mice. Caution for epigenetic hype!” – hmmmm. =/

The Consequences of Natural Morality“Good and Evil are not objective things. They exist as subjective impressions, creating a powerful illusion that they are objective things. This illusion that Good and Evil are objects independent of the conscious minds that imagine them exists for a good reason. It ‘works.’ In other words, its existence has enhanced the probability that the genes responsible for its existence will survive and reproduce.” – from helian.

Digit ratio predicts eminence of Polish actors – this one’s for sisyphean! (^_^) – h/t ben southwood!

Sex differences in color preferences transcend extreme differences in culture and ecology.

In Academia, Women Collaborate Less With Their Same-Sex Juniors“‘Some older women treated us younger women almost worse than some men did,’ she says. ‘We called it the “Queen Bee syndrome.”‘” – heh. – h/t claire lehmann!

Women Can Keep the Vote: No Evidence That Hormonal Changes During the Menstrual Cycle Impact Political and Religious Beliefs – behind paywall.

Women ‘subconsciously outdo other females’ during ovulation“But what the researchers found really surprising is that ovulating women did not appear to want a higher standing over men – they became kinder to them. When playing the dictator game, non-ovulating women shared 45% of their money with men, while ovulating women were willing to share 60% of their money with men. These findings are unlike anything we have ever seen in the dictator game. You just don’t see people giving away more than half of their money,’ says Prof. Durante.” – (~_^)

Women Outperform Men in Ultra-Distance Swimming – The ‘Manhattan Island Marathon Swim’ From 1983 to 2013. – because we float better (because we have that extra layer of fat)? (~_^)

Sameness and the self: philosophical and psychological considerations.“[H]ow can a person maintain a belief in the sameness of self over time in the face of continual psychological and physical change?” – h/t neuroskeptic!

Young Children Can Be Taught Basic Natural Selection Using a Picture-Storybook Intervention – but not politically correct people, apparently. (~_^) – h/t stuart ritchie!

Study: Racial bias in pain perception appears among children as young as 7 – see also: Psychologists use baby-cam to study infants’ exposure to faces.

Mixed-race children ‘are being failed’ in treatment of mental health problems“Children of mixed race are at greater risk of suffering from mental health problems and are not getting the support they need, says a report.” – in the u.k.

Inferring Character From Faces: A Developmental Study.“This research suggests that the predisposition to judge others using scant facial information appears in adultlike forms early in childhood and does not require prolonged social experience.”

Los europeos no inventaron la desigualdad en Hispanoamérica – from eduardo zugasti.

Native American city on the Mississippi was America’s first ‘melting pot’carcosa cahokia. – “By analyzing the teeth of those buried in different locations in Cahokia, Emerson, state archaeological survey bioarchaeologist Kristin Hedman and graduate student Philip Slater discovered that immigrants formed one-third of the population of the city throughout its history (from about AD 1050 through the early 1300s).”

Two-hundred-year drought doomed Indus Valley Civilization“Monsoon hiatus that began 4,200 years ago parallels dry spell that led civilizations to collapse in other regions.”

HBD 101 – from malcolm pollack. (*^_^*)

bonus: A ‘Second Great Wave’ of immigration?“‘Once again, the country is approaching a percentage of foreign-born not seen since the late 1800s and early 1900s,’ the Census Bureau wrote on its blog this week.” – =/ – h/t ray sawhill!

bonus bonus: Muhammad’s birthplace to be razed – remember that the najdis hate the hejazis and vice versa.

bonus bonus bonus: Giant Virus, Awakened From 30,000-Year Slumber, Is Still Infectious – ruh roh (if you’re an amoeba)!

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Crawling Through The Brain Without Getting Lost“Do the wasps taste their way through a cockroach brain?” – mmmmmm! =/

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Australia: Snake eats crocodile after battle – WITH PICTURES! =o – h/t ed west!

(note: comments do not require an email. g-8 selfie. (~_^) )

Your Ancestors, Your Fate“The notion of genetic transmission of ‘social competence’ — some mysterious mix of drive and ability — may unsettle us. But studies of adoption, in some ways the most dramatic of social interventions, support this view. A number of studies of adopted children in the United States and Nordic countries show convincingly that their life chances are more strongly predicted from their biological parents than their adoptive families. In America, for example, the I.Q. of adopted children correlates with their adoptive parents’ when they are young, but the correlation is close to zero by adulthood. There is a low correlation between the incomes and educational attainment of adopted children and those of their adoptive parents. These studies, along with studies of correlations across various types of siblings (identical twins, fraternal twins, half siblings) suggest that genetics is the main carrier of social status.” – from gregory clark. see also The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility.

Reductionism! Determinism! Straw-man-ism!” The main problem, it seems to me, is a fundamental misunderstanding of what genetics as a science studies and how it relates to the function of complex systems. The following statements are not contradictory: 1. The function of a complex system emerges from the complex and dynamic interactions between all of the components of the system, in a context- and experience-dependent manner. 2. Variation in single components of the system (or in multiple components) can affect how it functions. Geneticists investigate the second question. Showing that variation in Gene X affects the behaviour or outcome of a system is not the same as saying that Gene X fully determines that behaviour or fully accounts for the entire system. Gene X is just a piece of DNA sitting in a cell somewhere – it doesn’t do anything by itself. But a *difference* in Gene X can account for a *difference* in how the system works. – from kevin mitchell.

The Problem with HBD, the Dark Enlightenment, Neoreaction, Alt-Rightism, and All That Jazz – READ THIS! – from jayman (and misdreavus).

There’s nothing wrong with looking for ‘gay genes’“The Left loves to tell the Right that it’s anti-science, pointing (not without reason) to the correlation between conservative beliefs and a failure to come to terms with the scientific facts of evolution and human-caused climate change. But there’s a subtler tendency on the Left; a fear of research into human nature, in case the findings are in some way politically uncomfortable.”

Evolution equally efficient in removing deleterious variants in Europeans and West Africans“…but apparently not in Denisovans who accumulated deleterious mutations at a higher rate than modern humans.” – @dienekes’.

Scientists unlock a ‘microbial Pompeii’“An international team of researchers have discovered a ‘microbial Pompeii’ preserved on the teeth of skeletons around 1,000 years old. The key to the discovery is the dental calculus (plaque) which preserves bacteria and microscopic particles of food on the surfaces of teeth, effectively creating a mineral tomb for microbiomes.”

The effect of paternal age on offspring intelligence and personality when controlling for paternal trait level [pdf] – “We examined the effect of father’s age at birth on offspring intelligence, head circumference and personality traits. Using the Minnesota Twin Family Study sample we tested paternal age effects while controlling for parents’ trait levels measured with the same precision as offspring’s. From evolutionary genetic considerations we predicted a negative effect of paternal age on offspring intelligence, but not on other traits. Controlling for parental intelligence (IQ) had the effect of turning an initially positive association non-significantly negative. We found paternal age effects on offspring IQ and Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire Absorption, but they were not robustly significant, nor replicable with additional covariates. No other noteworthy effects were found.” – from lars penke.

Reversed hierarchy in the brain for general and specific cognitive abilities: A morphometric analysis“Here, we analyze gray matter with three morphometric indices (volume, cortical surface area, and cortical thickness) at three levels of the intelligence hierarchy (tests, first-order factors, and a higher-order general factor, g)…. The key finding reveals substantial variability in gray matter correlates at the test level, which is substantially reduced for the first-order and the higher-order factors. This supports a reversed hierarchy in the brain with respect to cognitive abilities at different psychometric levels: the greater the generality, the smaller the number of relevant gray matter clusters accounting for individual differences in intelligent performance.” – h/t ben southwood!

A nice bunch of flowers“The general factor of intelligence is strongest at lower levels of intelligence. It may be a case of ‘All neurones to the pump’. When abilities are low, most problems are difficult. In such cases, all resources have to be thrown at the problem. When abilities are higher there is more spare capacity for differentiation of abilities. Brighter persons have a lower proportion of their abilities accounted for by a common factor, even though the have higher absolute abilities.” – from dr. james thompson.

GED scores by Ethnicity and Nation – from chuck @human varieties.

The Unfortunately Innate Nature of Intelligence“You cannot blame people for being what they were born, and you cannot expect them to do what they cannot.”

Psychologist on a mission to give every child a learning chip“Prof Robert Plomin wants educators to take notice of genes, and has a new big idea – personalised learning.”

Fruit-loving lemurs score higher on spatial memory tests“Food-finding tests in five lemur species show that fruit-eaters may have better spatial memory than lemurs with a more varied diet. The results support the idea that relying on foods that are seasonally available and far-flung gives a competitive edge to individuals with certain cognitive abilities — such as remembering where the goodies are.”

What Does Our DNA Say About How We Look?“A biologist aims to profile suspects from genetic material left at crime scenes.’ – h/t matthew wygant!

Four Lame Responses to Sam Harris’ Moral Landscape Challenge“Moral emotions, like every other evolved trait, exist because their presence increased the probability that the genes responsible for the existence of those traits would survive and reproduce. Moral emotions, and the associated illusions of the existence of Good and Evil as things in themselves, exist as subjective impressions in the minds of individuals.” – from helian.

Free will beliefs and motivation to punish“In a paper forthcoming in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Cory J. Clark and co-authors provide evidence that widespread belief in the existence of free will is bolstered by a fundamental desire to punish wrongdoers…. As Clark et al. put it, ‘There seems little doubt that the subjective experience of choosing and acting supports people’s belief in free will, but our findings suggest another powerful motivating factor: the human impulse to blame and punish. People believe in free will – at least in part – because they wish to affirm that people who do immoral things could have and should have acted differently’.”

A small contribution to the free-will thingy – from elijah.

Is there a ‘dark intelligence’? Emotional intelligence is used by dark personalities to emotionally manipulate others“Narcissism and psychopathy increased link between emotional intelligence facets and emotional manipulation.” – h/t claire lehmann!

Theory of mind: did evolution fool us?“Although sophisticated ToM is believed to have high adaptive fitness, broad experimental evidence from behavioural economics, experimental psychology and linguistics point towards limited recursivity in representing other’s beliefs.” – h/t neuroskeptic!

Creativity and personality in classical, jazz and folk musicians“[J]azz musicians are more frequently engaged in extracurricular musical activities, and also complete a higher number of creative musical achievements. Additionally, jazz musicians show higher ideational creativity as measured by divergent thinking tasks, and tend to be more open to new experiences than classical musicians. This study provides first empirical evidence that jazz musicians show particularly high creativity with respect to domain-specific musical accomplishments but also in terms of domain-general indicators of divergent thinking ability that may be relevant for musical improvisation.” – h/t mary louise cowan!

Migration and interaction in a contact zone: mtDNA variation among Bantu-speakers in southern Africa“In this study, we analyze complete mtDNA genome sequences from over 900 Bantu-speaking individuals from Angola, Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana to investigate the demographic processes at play during the last stages of the Bantu expansion. Our results show that most of these Bantu-speaking populations are genetically very homogenous, with no genetic division between speakers of Eastern and Western Bantu languages. Most of the mtDNA diversity in our dataset is due to different degrees of admixture with autochthonous populations.”

Silver Blaze“[I]n most parts of Europe, it looks as if modern populations inherited the three EEF/WHG/ANE groups (Levantine farmers, West Hunters and Sibermen) via only two proximate ancestral populations. Europe at the time was almost entirely occupied by Sardinian-like farmers – then another population moved in, one that had about 3 times as much West Hunter as Sibermen.” – from greg cochran.

Replacement or continuity?“Ancient DNA seems to promise a clearer picture because the only source of uncertainty is the age of the skeletal material. Unfortunately, this new method is more sensitive to uncertainty from another source: natural selection. Late hunter-gatherers and early farmers had to adapt to different environments. There certainly was a genetic divide between the two, but did it result from differences in origin or from differences in natural selection?” – from peter frost.

Dystopian diversity – from the awesome epigone.

“I regret studying social anthropology” – me, too. *sigh* – see also the original post.

The parasite that escaped out of Africa: Tracing origins of malaria parasite“An international team has traced the origin of the second-worst malaria parasite of humans to Africa. The closest genetic relatives of human *Plasmodium vivax* were found only in Asian macaques, leading researchers to believe that *P. vivax* originated in Asia. This study overturns that, finding that wild-living apes in central Africa are widely infected with parasites that, genetically, are nearly identical to human *P. vivax*.” – h/t hbd bibliography!

Are Rich People Really That Selfish? – New Study Looks At Impact of Socio-Economic Status on Altruistic Tendencies“‘Our personality impacts every aspect of our life – the choices we make, the people we surround ourselves with, the career we pursue, the way we respond to life experiences, the way we manage our finances, and whether or not we share our good fortune,’ explains Dr. Jerabek, president of the company…. [H]ow individuals conduct themselves when they have money has everything to do with who they are as a person. Money doesn’t make a person more or less selfish. If you are a genuinely kind and giving person, you’ll continue to be that way no matter how many zeros are on your paycheck.'”

Babies born in England and Wales to non-UK born mothers infographic“Total Fertility Rate in England/Wales by where mother born: 4.3 Afghanistan, 3.8 Pakistan, 3.3 Nigeria, 2.4 India, 1.8 UK.”

The Tale of a CRISPR Clone – from razib.

Graft Probe in Scientific Community Widens in Southern China“A corruption probe has so far snared more than 50 scientists and research administrators in Guangdong, one of China’s wealthiest provinces.”

Quick Winter Olympics Digit Ratio Note – from sisyphean the mad contrarian.

Scientist proposes revolutionary naming system for all life on Earth“…a naming convention based on genome sequencing to enhance the way organisms are classified.” – h/t super mario!

Burials uncovered in Ireland reflect fusion of Paganism and Christianity“Excavations at Caherconnell in County Clare, Ireland, have uncovered ancient burials that reflect a fusion of Pagan practices with Christianity. Although it was initially believed that Christianity was well established in Ireland by the 5th Century, the latest finding reveals that Celtic Paganism was not quick to die out.” – h/t derek hopper!

The Society of Mutual Autopsy“The Society of Mutual Autopsy was an organisation formed in the late 1800s to advance neuroscience by examining dead members’ brains and to promote atheism by breaking sacred taboos.”

Heavy metal bands per 100,000 people – global map.

A Campus More Colorful Than Reality: Beware That College Brochure – h/t conrad hackett! who tweeted: “The whiter the college, the more diversity depicted in the brochures.”

bonus: Confirmed: Oldest Fragment of Early Earth is 4.4 Billion Years Old

bonus bonus: Hubble Finds Possible Oldest Object Ever Seen“The Hubble Telescope’s new set of Frontier Fields images includes a galaxy some 13-billion light-years away, which makes it a candidate for the most distant object ever seen.”

bonus bonus bonus: Rust Cohle, Guidance Counselor – heh. (~_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. rust cohle for president!)

Calcium absorption not the cause of evolution of milk digestion in Europeans“‘The evolution of lactase persistence is one of the best known and most dramatic examples of recent human evolution. One of the ironies of working in this area is that we know it happened but we still don’t fully know why’ says Sverrisdóttir. Lactase persistence is found at highest frequencies in southern Sweden and in Ireland. Given that calcium absorption is not the only reason why this trait evolved so rapidly, Sverrisdóttir and colleagues have proposed another cause: Although most early European farmers would not have been lactase persistent, they would still have been able to consume fermented milk products such as yoghurt and cheese, because fermentation converts much of the lactose into fats. But in famine conditions, such as when crops fail, they are likely to have eaten all the fermented milk foods, leaving only the more high-lactose products. This would have caused the usual lactose intolerance symptoms such as diarrhea. Diarrhea in in healthy people is not usually life-threatening, but in severely malnourished individuals it certainly can be. So famine could have led to episodes of very strong natural selection favoring lactase persistence.”

Human and Helicobacter pylori coevolution shapes the risk of gastric disease“Patients were recruited from two geographically distinct Colombian populations with significantly different incidences of gastric cancer, but virtually identical prevalence of H. pylori infection. All H. pylori isolates contained the genetic signatures of multiple ancestries, with an ancestral African cluster predominating in a low-risk, coastal population and a European cluster in a high-risk, mountain population. The human ancestry of the biopsied individuals also varied with geography, with mostly African ancestry in the coastal region (58%), and mostly Amerindian ancestry in the mountain region (67%). The interaction between the host and pathogen ancestries completely accounted for the difference in the severity of gastric lesions in the two regions of Colombia. In particular, African H. pylori ancestry was relatively benign in humans of African ancestry but was deleterious in individuals with substantial Amerindian ancestry. Thus, coevolution likely modulated disease risk, and the disruption of coevolved human and H. pylori genomes can explain the high incidence of gastric disease in the mountain population.”

Seeing X Chromosomes in a New Light“X-chromosome inactivation, Dr. Nathans’s pictures show, creates a genetic diversity that’s particularly dramatic. Two cells side by side may be using different versions of many different genes. ‘But there is also much larger-scale diversity,’ Dr. Nathans said. In some brains, for example, a mother’s X chromosome was seen dominating the left side, while the father’s dominated the right. Entire organs can be skewed toward one parent. Dr. Nathans and his colleagues found that in some mice, one eye was dominated by the father and the other by the mother. The diversity even extended to the entire mouse. In some animals, almost all the X chromosomes from one parent were shut; in others, the opposite was true.”

Are plants altruistic?“Roots can distinguish self from other, and they know their own kind (species), they can share resources and information about insect attacks and deliver nutrients to trees in need. The preponderance of evidence does seem to suggest that plants are proactive in filling their own needs and the needs of others.” – ooooh, not just their own species, their own close relatives! – see also The Intelligent Plant.

Sluggish metabolisms are key to primates’ long lives“[P]rimates expend 50 per cent less energy than other mammals of equivalent mass during an average day. ‘What’s more, he says the difference is not easily explained by differing activity levels: a human would need to run a whole marathon every day to be on an even energetic footing with mammals that aren’t primates….’ The finding offers a completely new way to understand why primates have slower life histories than other mammals of equivalent body size…. Pontzer thinks that the slower metabolism may have evolved to help primates cope with food shortages. For instance, orang-utans suffer frequent famines. ‘Orang-utans experience extended periods of low fruit availability,’ says Vogel. ‘There are months when caloric intake is less than expenditure – and they burn body fat stores.’ A slow metabolism might help them survive.”

Triune origins“With the latest paper, the story on European origins is becoming clearer. Three populations account for European ancestry: the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of western Europe (dubbed WHG in the paper), early European farmers derived from somewhere in the Mideast (EEF), and a third group more closely related to ancient Siberians (ANE) than any existing population. Those Sibermen also contributed a third of Amerindian ancestry, the rest being similar to modern East Asian populations.” – from greg cochran.

The first industrial revolution“As early modern humans spread farther north, they entered more challenging environments…. Did these new cognitive demands have an evolutionary impact? Did they select for certain mental capacities over others? Piffer (2013) has addressed these questions by seeing how hunter-gatherers differ from farming peoples in alleles at COMT, a gene linked to executive function, working memory, and intelligence…. Northern hunting peoples, however, differ from other hunter-gatherers and resemble more advanced farming populations.” – from peter frost.

‘Out of Africa’ gene mutation in human pigmentation increases predisposition to skin cancer“The V60L mutation is more common in people with light hair and skin tone that, despite being light, tans easily in the summer. This mutation is positive for the climate of the Mediterranean region, as it facilitates the absorption of vitamin D in the winter months, in which the ultraviolet radiation is lower. In the summer months, in which the radiation is greater, the ease to darken the skin pigmentation provides a certain protection. However, the study also revealed that among people with this mutation there is a greater predisposition to skin cancer.” – see also: Simultaneous Purifying Selection on the Ancestral MC1R Allele and Positive Selection on the Melanoma-Risk Allele V60L in South Europeans.

Longitudinal four-dimensional mapping of subcortical anatomy in human development – h/t kevin mitchell! who said: “Large imaging study details substantial sex differences in maturation dynamics of subcortical structures.” – also: Fundamental sex difference in human brain architecture [behind paywall].

Changes in Thickness and Surface Area of the Human Cortex and Their Relationship with Intelligence“At 10 years of age, more intelligent children have a slightly thinner cortex than children with a lower IQ. This relationship becomes more pronounced with increasing age: with higher IQ, a faster thinning of the cortex is found over time. In the more intelligent young adults, this relationship reverses so that by the age of 42 a thicker cortex is associated with higher intelligence. In contrast, cortical surface is larger in more intelligent children at the age of 10. The cortical surface is still expanding, reaching its maximum area during adolescence. With higher IQ, cortical expansion is completed at a younger age; and once completed, surface area decreases at a higher rate. These findings suggest that intelligence may be more related to the magnitude and timing of changes in brain structure during development than to brain structure per se, and that the cortex is never completed but shows continuing intelligence-dependent development.”

Why do spatial abilities predict mathematical performance?“About a third of the variation in spatial ability at age 12 is explained by genetic factors; a little less than half of the variation in mathematics at this age is genetic. We find no sex differences in the genetic and environmental influences (either in magnitude or type) on mathematical and spatial variation at age 12. The observed overlap between spatial ability and mathematics is substantial (r > .40). Approximately 60% of this overlap is explained by common genetic effects, with 40% of the overlap due to environmental experience.” – h/t DOCTOR stuart ritchie! (^_^)

New evidence shows the FDA was wrong to halt 23andMe testing“While the tests are often too inaccurate for consumers to consider them diagnoses, research shows that most customers will seek a doctor’s opinion before taking action, anyway. According to the authors’ research, 58% of 1,051 surveyed customers did nothing at all with their genomic results. Of the 42% who made health decisions based on the information, only 2% changed prescription drug regimens without consulting a physician. The majority of customers who made changes focused on diet, exercise, and vitamins.”

Dogs’ Closest Wolf Ancestors Went Extinct, Study Suggests” A new genetic analysis of modern dogs and wolves suggests that man’s best friend was domesticated before agriculture. But the origin of this domestication remains stubbornly mysterious. Researchers analyzed the genomes of wolves from three likely sites of domestication (the Middle East, Asia and eastern Europe), and found that modern dogs were not more closely related to any of the three. In fact, it seems that the closest wolf ancestors of today’s dogs may have gone extinct, leaving no wild descendants.” – also: Paedomorphic Facial Expressions Give Dogs a Selective Advantage – woof! – h/t claire lehmann!

The Nurture Enigma – How Does the Environment Influence Human Nature? – from staffan.

The interplay of genetic and cultural evolution – from jason collins.

Eye of the Tiger PeopleBut what the hell is ‘culture,’ anyway? Talk about a social construct! Even the term ‘social construct’ is a social construct, one unique to our culture. And who’s to say culture is entirely separate from genetics? There’s some suggestion that the two may be intimately intertwined. In rawest terms, ‘culture’ may be nothing more than what happens when a group’s genes interact with their environment. – from jim goad.

Toddlers’ aggression is strongly associated with genetic factors, study reports“The development of physical aggression in toddlers is strongly associated genetic factors and to a lesser degree with the environment, according to a new study led by Eric Lacourse of the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital. Lacourse’s worked with the parents of identical and non-identical twins to evaluate and compare their behaviour, environment and genetics.” – h/t mr. mangan, esq!

Modifying DNA May Wipe Away Old Memories – so can several double gin and tonics in a row. (~_^) – they’re talking about epigenetic changes here, btw.

Apes are intuitive statisticians“Here, we conducted the first investigation of such intuitive statistical reasoning with non-human primates. In a series of 7 experiments, Bonobos, Chimpanzees, Gorillas and Orangutans drew flexible statistical inferences from populations to samples. These inferences, furthermore, were truly based on statistical information regarding the relative frequency distributions in a population, and not on absolute frequencies. Intuitive statistics in its most basic form is thus an evolutionarily more ancient rather than a uniquely human capacity.” – iow, the other great apes outperform a lot of humans (i.e. the pc ones)! (~_^) – h/t neuroskeptic!

Study: Chimpanzees Bond Over Shared Meals“[C]himps who share their food have higher levels of oxytocin, known as the love hormone, than those who don’t.” – h/t hbd bibliography!

Comedians have psychotic personality traits, study finds“In a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers analyzed comedians from Australia, Britain and the United States and found they scored significantly higher on four types of psychotic characteristics compared to a control group of people who had non-creative jobs. The traits included a tendency towards impulsive or anti-social behavior, and a tendency to avoid intimacy. ‘The creative elements needed to produce humor are strikingly similar to those characterizing the cognitive style of people with psychosis – both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,’ said Gordon Claridge of the University of Oxford’s department of experimental psychology, who led the study.”

Natural selection can favour ‘irrational’ behaviour – well, there’s your problem!

‘Human evolution likely led to rise of religion’ – h/t holly dunsworth! whose response was: duh! (~_^)

New study finds mistimed sleep disrupts rhythms of genes in humans“During this disruption of sleep timing, there was a six-fold reduction in the number of genes that displayed a circadian rhythm (a rhythm with an approximately 24 hour period). This included many regulators associated with transcription and translation, indicating widespread disruption to many biological processes.” – sleep right!

speaking of which: Study finds later school start times improve sleep and daytime functioning in adolescents – h/t anatoly!

The human brain can process images the eye sees for 13 milliseconds – imagine how quickly THE FLASH’s brain can process images!! (~_^)

The Islamic Republic of Baby-Making“Iran, like other Middle Eastern countries, has an extremely high infertility rate. More than 20 percent of Iranian couples cannot conceive, according to a study conducted by one of the country’s leading fertility clinics, compared with the global rate of between 8 and 12 percent. Experts believe this is due to the prevalence of consanguineous marriages, or those between cousins. Male infertility is ‘the hidden story of the Middle East,’ says Marcia Inhorn, a Yale University medical anthropologist and a specialist on assisted reproduction in the region.”

This Language Names Odors As Precisely As English Speakers Name Colorjahai speakers in malaysia. – h/t t.greer! – see also: Can You Name That Smell?“It’s also possible that the Jahai are built differently than the rest of us. The genes that code for the olfactory receptors in our noses exhibit a great deal of variation not only between different human populations but also between people. So it may be that the Jahai have evolved more of these receptors or a greater diversity of them than everyone else, much like the Tsimane tribe from the Bolivian rainforest were shown to be more sensitive to smells than were Germans.”

Gene therapy ‘could be used to treat blindness’“Surgeons in Oxford have used a gene therapy technique to improve the vision of six patients who would otherwise have gone blind. The operation involved inserting a gene into the eye, a treatment that revived light-detecting cells.”

The thinnest Americans are Asian Americans, CDC data show – surprise!

Shapely centrefolds? Temporal change in body measures: trend analysis – h/t ben southwood! who said: “Playboy centrefolds’ waists have widened, weights have fallen, busts have shrunk and hips have narrowed since 1953.”

Study: Violence, infectious disease and climate change contributed to Indus civilization collapse – h/t mike anissimov!

What was in that grog? Scientists analyze ancient Nordic drink“Ancient Scandinavians quaffed an alcoholic mixture of barley, honey, cranberries, herbs and even grape wine imported from Greece and Rome, new research finds.” – mmmmmm! mmmmmm?

bonus: i’m a journalist! – h/t jayman!

bonus bonus: and a neo-fascist, too, apparently. hahahahahahahaha!! *snort*

bonus bonus bonus: Genetically engineered plant glows so brightly it can be used as a LAMP

(note: comments do not require an email. memory erasers.)


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