Archives for posts with tag: altruism

part of william hamilton‘s theory of inclusive fitness/kin selection, which explains how altruism ever could’ve arisen at all (altruism here having a very specific definition), is that it should be possible for genes for altruism to be selected for if close kin interact regularly. kin don’t need to recognize one another for altruism to be selected for. as long as closely related individuals don’t move far from one another — that is, if a population is viscous — selection for altruism might happen.

i can’t see why this couldn’t also apply to lesser forms of altruism, not just the kind where you sacrifice your life for two brothers or eight cousins. you know what i mean. like: reciprocal altruism or nepotistic altruism. or just pro-social behaviors. whatever you want to call them. seems to me that nepotistic behaviors ought to be selected for more easily in viscous populations (if they increase fitness, of course).

and some populations are more viscous than others:

1) inbreeding populations where close relatives marry frequently over the long-term. mating with relatives must be highly viscous [insert sweaty/sticky incest joke here]. not only do the individual members of the population likely interact fairly regularly (can depend on your mating pattern), they pass many of the genes they share in common on to the next generations — who then also interact and mate. that’s what i call viscous! and, as you all know by now, some human populations inbreed more than others, and some have been doing so for longer than others. and vice versa. (see: entire blog.)

2) populations where extended families are the norm. societies where two or three generations of families all stay together, work together, play together. viscous. plenty of opportunity for nepotistic behaviors to be selected for. on the other hand, societies of nuclear families where more distant relatives are seen only once a year on thanksgiving, and then only to argue, and where your your heir is your pet cat…not very viscous. (see: family types and the selection for nepotistic altruism.)

3) socio-economic systems which push for close relatives to remain together rather than dispersing. if that sounds vague, that’s ’cause it is. sorry. i haven’t thought through it all yet. i do have an example of the opposite for you — a socio-economic system which pushed for close relatives to disperse — and that is the post-manorialism one of northwest europe. already by the 1500s, it was typical for individuals in northwest europe to leave home at a young age (as teenagers) and live and work elsewhere — often quite long distances away (several towns over) — before marrying. then it was not unusual for them to marry someone from their new locale. not viscous. conversely, many societies outside of the hajnal line (northwest europe) have had systems which encouraged the opposite.

food for thought.

(note: comments do not require an email. one of my favorite viscous food for thought!)

Somebody was on Sulawesi before 118,000 years ago – from john hawks.

Human-Neanderthal relationships may be at root of modern allergies“Three genes inherited from our Neanderthal cousins may cause modern carriers to have an overly-sensitive immune system susceptible to allergies.”

Grisly find suggests humans inhabited Arctic 45,000 years ago“When they dated the remains [of the mammoth], the researchers got another surprise: The mammoth died 45,000 years ago. That means that humans lived in the Arctic more than 10,000 years earlier than scientists believed, according to a new study. The find suggests that even at this early stage, humans were traversing the most frigid parts of the globe and had the adaptive ability to migrate almost everywhere.”

DNA sequencing reveals the fate, and ultimate extinction, of Ötzi the Iceman’s maternal genetic lineage – h/t jason moore!

Genetic affinities of the Jewish populations of India“Consistent with the previous observations, we detected minor Middle Eastern specific ancestry component among Indian Jewish communities, but virtually negligible in their local neighbouring Indian populations. The temporal test of admixture suggested that the first admixture of migrant Jewish populations from Middle East to South India (Cochin) occurred during fifth century. Overall, we concluded that the Jewish migration and admixture in India left a record in their genomes, which can link them to the ‘Jewish Diaspora’.”

Conflict among honey bee genes supports theory of altruism – h/t steve stuart williams! who tweeted: “New genetic evidence provides strong support for kin selection theory.” – see also: Testing the kinship theory of intragenomic conflict in honey bees (Apis mellifera).

Review of: Hive mind: How your nation’s IQ matters so much more than your own (G. Jones) – from stuart ritchie. – see also here.

The Welfare Trait – dr. james thompson on adam perkins‘ book. make sure not to miss the series of follow-up posts!

A Review of Adam Perkins’s ‘The Welfare Trait’“Painstakingly, Perkins constructs his core argument: that the welfare state, the foundational institution of modern Britain (the Church of England having sadly declined), contains the seeds of its own eventual destruction. A large body of evidence, which Perkins reviews, supports the intuitive idea that habitual welfare claimants tend to be less conscientious and agreeable than the average person. Such habitual claimants also tend to reproduce at higher rates than the general population, a pattern found across nations and time periods. They also seem to adjust their fertility in response to changes in the generosity of welfare provision, having fewer children in times of austerity and more when governments turn on the spigot marked ‘spending’. Over time, therefore, the work motivation of the general population is lowered. This occurs through both genetic and environmental channels. Personality traits are substantially heritable (meaning that a decent percentage of the variation in these traits is due to naturally occurring genetic variation). Given this fact, habitual welfare claimants with employment-resistant personalities are likely to have offspring with similar personalities.” – from andrew sabisky.

Tell the truth about benefit claimants and the liberal left shuts you down“How neuro­biologist Dr Adam Perkins became a victim of the new McCarthyism.” – from toby young.

The left’s own war on science“The witch hunt against Napoleon Chagnon shows us what happens if scientists challenge the core beliefs of ‘progressives.’” – also from toby young.

Similar selection pressures on fluid g and educational attainment-related SNPs – from davide piffer.

Colorectal cancer more likely to affect minorities at younger age“Study shows US racial, ethnic groups under the age of 50 have increased risk.”

Genetic Correlation Between Schizophrenia and Epilepsy

Where Are We Now? – David Bowie and Psychosis – @mind hacks.

NatureNewsVietnam begins huge effort to identify war dead“World’s largest systematic identification project will use smart DNA-testing technology.”

Physics Has Einstein, Biology Has Darwin. Economics Has… – from david sloan wilson who tweeted: “It’s embarrassing that top economists who write about theory are clueless about evolutionary theory.”

Professors moved left since 1990s, rest of country did not – @heterodox academy.

A Single Mutation May Have Sparked Multicellular Life

Supernatural punishment: the common denominator“So here’s the question: Is religion evolutionarily advantageous…? I hypothesise that supernatural punishment was a very important promoter of cooperation and a way to reduce self-interest, which was vital to the evolution of human societies.”

Bronze Age houses uncovered in Cambridgeshire are Britain’s ‘Pompeii’

4,500-year-old rattles found in infant burial – in russia.

Tajikistan: Lawmakers Tighten Rules on Baby-Naming, Marriage“The stricter rules on marriage have been introduced partly as a way of reducing the incidence of disabilities among children, which officials argue are the result of intensive inbreeding. Consequently, marriage among cousins and cousins-once-removed will be forbidden.” – h/t the gazillion people who sent this to me! (^_^) (#BigInTajikistan)

aaaannnddd…the tweet of the week!:

(note: comments do not require an email. skepticism.)

Selection against Neandertal deleterious alleles“‘Approximately 2-4% of the human genome is in non-Africans comprised of DNA intro- gressed from Neanderthals. Recent studies have shown that there is a paucity of introgressed DNA around functional regions, presumably caused by selection after introgression. [U]sing previously published estimates of inbreeding in Neanderthals, and of the distribution of fitness effects from human protein coding genes, we show that the average Neanderthal would have had at least 40% lower fitness than the average human due to higher levels of inbreeding and an increased mutational load, regardless of the dominance coefficients of new mutations. Using simulations, we show that under the assumption of additive dominance effects, early Neanderthal/human hybrids would have experienced strong negative selection, though not so strong that it would prevent Neanderthal DNA from entering the human population.'” – @dienekes’…

…but see greg cochran: Degenerate Neanderthals“Part of the problem is that the model is probably too simple. There is an argument, which makes sense to me, that suggest that small-N populations do better than you would think, because as the average population fitness gets farther from the optimum, strongly beneficial compensatory mutations become more and more possible.”

A Few Months of Evolutionary Change Reshapes a Whole Community“The overall lesson is that evolutionary change is constant, and that evolving populations can change the very environments to which they’re adapting. Natural selection isn’t shaping species to achieve some single ideal version of themselves, but in pursuit of constantly moving targets — and that’s worth keeping in mind no matter we’re talking about Daphnia magna or Homo sapiens.”

Size (Population) Matters for Inbreeding“Presumably, in large populations there will be many low frequency variants of weak deleterious effect and recessive expression. In contrast, in small populations the power of drift is such that even rather deleterious alleles can be fixed against the gradient of selection. At cross-purposes with this is the idea that because inbreeding populations tend to ‘expose’ alleles which express recessively to selection they can ‘purge’ the genetic load which drags on fitness…. What [the researchers] found is that in line with theoretical prediction those sampled from large populations had lots of segregating deleterious alleles, which manifested in strong inbreeding effect when individuals were purposely crossed with those genetically similar. In contrast, those from small populations did not exhibit so much inbreeding effect, indicating that a lot of the deleterious alleles were already fixed and so exposed. These individuals from small populations also exhibited lower fitness than those from large populations, reflecting in all likelihood their genetic load. Crossing individuals from different small populations resulted in immediately hybrid vigor, as the fixed variants differed across lineages.” – from razib.

Fires in the Forest: The Revolution in Human Evolution“On top of the story of migrations of whole peoples, and the extinction and absorption of others, is the story of bands of men operating as units, related either in truth or fictively, which extract rents across a thickly populated landscape of human cattle.” – also from razib.

Regression to the Mean“Clever people might notice that all of HBD is based on just two concepts: behavioral genetics (or again, more broadly, heritability) and the breeder’s equation. Know those two things and most of the rest follows.” – from jayman.

Deutschland über alles, dann unter allen? – dr. james thompson on an apparent reversal of the flynn effect in germany. (see also his comment here.) – see also Dysgenic Deutschland from anatoly karlin.

The Correlation Between g Loadings and Heritability in Russia“Data from 402 twins aged 13 and 296 twins aged 16 showed correlations of r=−0.45 and r=−0.60, respectively. It is concluded that the two data points are clearly not in line with established findings. It may be that the link between g loadings and heritabilities is more complex than previously thought.” – h/t sketchy person!

Are CEOs Born Leaders? Lessons from Traits of a Million Individuals“CEOs have higher cognitive and non-cognitive ability scores and are taller than typical members of the population. The difference in traits is larger when CEOs run bigger companies; it is smaller when they run family firms, in particular in the capacity of an heir or in a less competitive industry.” – h/t ben southwood! who tweeted: “CEOs: in the top 5% of smarts, height and well-adjusted personality at age 18”

The path and performance of a company leader: A historical examination of the education and cognitive ability of Fortune 500 CEOs“Across the last two decades ≈ 40% of CEOs were on the top 1% of cognitive ability. Even within CEOs, education/ability was associated with company gross revenue.”

The Quantitative Genetics of Disgust Sensitivity“Twin modeling revealed that approximately half of the variation in pathogen, sexual, and moral disgust is due to genetic effects. An independent pathways twin model also revealed that sexual and pathogen disgust sensitivity were influenced by unique sources of genetic variation, while also being significantly affected by a general genetic factor underlying all 3 disgust domains. Moral disgust sensitivity, in contrast, did not exhibit domain-specific genetic variation.” – h/t erwin schmidt!

Can intelligence explain the overrepresentation of liberals and leftists in American academia?“Liberals and leftists are overrepresented in American academia. One explanation is that liberals and leftists have higher intelligence. This hypothesis is tested. Intelligence accounts for some but not all of the overrepresentation.”

Inter-group conflict and cooperation: field experiments before, during and after sectarian riots in Northern Ireland“The idea that cooperative groups out-compete less cooperative groups has been proposed as a theoretical possibility for the evolution of cooperation through cultural group selection…. In this study we test the hypothesis that inter-group conflict promotes parochial altruism (i.e. in-group altruism and out-group hostility) by using longitudinal data of a real-world measure of cooperation – charity and school donations – sampled before, during and after violent sectarian riots between Catholics and Protestants in Belfast, Northern Ireland. We find that conflict is associated with reductions in all types of cooperation, with reduced donations to a neutral charity, and both in-group and out-group primary schools. After the conflict, both in-group and out-group donations increased again. In this context we find no evidence that inter-group conflict promotes parochial altruism.”

Interactions between personality and institutions in cooperative behaviour in humans“We investigate interactions between personality and a punishment situation via two versions of a public goods game. We find that, even in a strong situation, personality matters and, moreover, it is related to strategic shifts in cooperation. Extraversion is associated with a shift from free-riding to cooperation in the presence of punishment, agreeableness is associated with initially higher contributions regardless of game, and, contrary to our predictions, neuroticism is associated with lower contributions regardless of game. Results should lead to new hypotheses that relate variation in biological functioning to individual differences in cooperative behaviour and that consider three-way interactions among personality, institutional context and sociocultural background.” – h/t andrew sabisky!

Nonreligious children are more generous“Religious doctrines typically urge the faithful to treat others with compassion and to put the greater good before selfish interests. But when it comes to generosity, nonreligious kids seem to be more giving, according to a new study of 1170 children from around the world. Children from religious homes — particularly Muslims — also showed a greater inclination to judge someone’s misdeeds as wrong and punish the perpetrators…. Muslim children on average gave the highest rankings and sought harsher punishments than either their Christian or secular counterparts. Decety says he is unsure why this is the case.” – h/t jayman! see also staffan who tweeted: “Religious or not often coincide with Clannish and WEIRDO. A big and likely confound overlooked.” and me: “would’ve been nice if they’d broken down the race/ethnicities for the u.s., canadian, and south african samples.”

Sex and STEM Occupation Predict Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) Scores in Half a Million People“As predicted, sex and occupation differences were observed: on average, males (m = 21.55, SD = 8.82) scored higher than females (m = 18.95; SD = 8.52), and individuals working in a STEM career (m = 21.92, SD = 8.92) scored higher than individuals non-STEM careers (m = 18.92, SD = 8.48). Also as predicted, age and geographic region were not meaningfully correlated with AQ. These results support previous findings relating to sex and STEM careers in the largest set of individuals for which AQ scores have been reported and suggest the AQ is a useful self-report measure of autistic traits.”

Seven Dimensions Of Personality Pathology Are Under Sexual Selection In Modern Spain“In a sample of 959 outpatients, we examine whether, and how, sexual selection acts on seven main dimensions of personality pathology, taking into account mating success, reproductive success, and the mediating role of status. We find that, to varying extents, all personality dimensions are under sexual selection. Far from being predominantly purifying, selective forces push traits in diverging, often pathological, directions. These pressures differ moderately between the sexes. Sexual selection largely acts in males through the acquisition of wealth, and through the duration (rather than the number) of mates. This gives a reproductive advantage to males high in Persistence-Compulsivity. Conversely, because of the decoupling between the number of mates and offspring, the promiscuous strategy of psychopaths is not so successful. Negative Emotionality, the most clinically detrimental trait, is slightly deleterious in males but is positively selected in females, which can help to preserve variation…. An evolutionary perspective on PDs can provide a better understanding of their nature and causes than we have achieved to date by considering them as illnesses.” – h/t siberian fox!

On the relationship between school suspensions, race, single-motherhood, and more and Small update to prior post on school suspension rates, comparing racial/ethnic differences with national aggregates – from mr. random c. analysis, esq.

Polygyny makes men bigger, tougher … and meaner and The contradictions of polygyny – from peter frost.

No evidence that polygynous marriage is a harmful cultural practice in northern Tanzania“We present counterevidence that polygyny is often positively associated with food security and child health within communities and that, although polygyny and health are negatively associated at the group level, such differences are accounted for by alternative socioecological factors. These results support models of polygyny based on female choice and suggest that, in some contexts, prohibiting polygyny could be costly for women and children by restricting marital options.” – h/t sergey gavrilets!

The missing hour of sleep“In reality, there is no single human nature. Genetic evolution didn’t slow down when humans began to split up and settle the different continents. It accelerated. And not just because our ancestors were adapting to different natural environments. Most of the acceleration took place long after the globe had been settled from the equator to the arctic. It happened when humans began to adapt to an increasingly diverse range of cultural environments. And those adaptations were mostly behavioral and psychological. One of them is the way we sleep. The African sleep pattern is normal in its native environment. It is simply an adaptation to a particular set of circumstances, just as the northern European sleep pattern is an adaptation to another set of circumstances.” – also from peter frost.

The Measured Proficiency of Somali Americans – from chuck @humanvarieties. see also: Chisala and Powerpoint Publishing from dr. james thompson.

Heritability of Racial and Ethnic Pride, Preference, and Prejudice“[I]t does seem that individual differences in expressed ethnic and racial preference have a non-trivial genetic basis, as we might have anticipated given that most social preferences do.” – also from chuck.

Genetic and socioeconomic study of mate choice in Latinos reveals novel assortment patterns“In Mexican and Puerto Rican couples, we find that partners share more similar genomic ancestries, which is characterized as the fractions of genome that come from European, Native American, and African ancestries, than random pairs of individuals from the same community. Our analysis shows that this similarity cannot be explained by the individuals’ socioeconomic factors alone.” – h/t ben southwood and jayman!

Cognitive ability and tattoos and piercings – from emil kirkegaard. (full disclosure: i don’t have any tattoos, nor do i have any “extreme” piercings. (~_^) )

G. E. Moore Contra Edvard Westermarck and The Moral Philosophy of G. E. Moore, or Why You Don’t Need to Bother with Aristotle, Hegel, and Kant – from helian.

Corruption In Eastern Europe: Tail Or Dog? – from malcolm pollack.

Huxley: Brave New World Revisited – from steve hsu. also Houellebecq on Tocqueville, Democracy, and Nietzsche.

Crashing the Gates: A Crash Course – from m.g. @thosewhocansee on the european migrant crisis.

Changes in Inequality and Generalized Trust in Europe“This paper analyses the determinants of trust in a pool of 34 European countries over the period 2002–2012. We find that income inequality is negatively related with generalized trust when we analyze the pooled data of individuals with multilevel models, confirming a well-established result in the analysis of cross-country differences in trust…. In contrast, in the fixed effects models, we find negative and significant effects of ethnic and linguistic fractionalization, discrimination (general or based on migrant status) and crime rates on trust.” – behind a paywall.

Why Did Asian America Abandon the GOP? – short answer: the shifting composition of asian americans. – from t.greer.

Het ‘verboden onderwerp’: Inteelt is weldegelijk moslimprobleem – from joost niemöller. in dutch [obv]. h/t sam schulman! who tweeted: “Warning to geneticists: stay out of the #Netherlands. They’re arresting those who mention cousin marriage.”

bonus: Did Africa’s Apes Come From Europe?“Fossil evidence hints that the common ancestor of gorillas, chimpanzees and humans evolved in Europe.” – h/t billare!

bonus bonus: The greatest vanishing act in prehistoric America“Seven centuries ago, tens of thousands of people fled their homes in the American Southwest. Archaeologists are trying to work out why.”

bonus bonus bonus: Thanet, Tanit and the Phoenicians: Place-Names, Archaeology and Pre-Roman Trading Settlements in Eastern Kent?

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Thank heavens, someone figured out which bacteria live on a donkey’s penis – (O.O)

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Ancient mummified hand hidden in wall of Yorkshire cottage ‘has power to entrance humans’ – a hand of glory?!

and the tweet of the week! (i almost forgot)…

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

it finally clicked in my head while thinking about polygamy what the importance of family types — nuclear vs. extended, etc. — might be in the selection for altruistic behavioral traits, especially nepotistic altruism or clannishness. i should’ve thought through polygamy sooner instead of putting it off, but hey — procrastination is heritable, too, so in the words of h. solo, it’s not my fault! (~_^)

the logic of the mating patterns/inbreeding-outbreeding theory goes that, given the right set of circumstances (i.e. certain sorts of social environments), selection for nepotistic altruism/clannishness ought to go quicker or be amplified by inbreeding (close cousin marriage or uncle-niece marriage) simply because there will be more copies of any nepotistic altruism genes (alleles) that happen to arise floating around in kin groups. in other words, inbreeding should facilitate the selection for clannishness…if clannish behaviors are being selected for in a population.

the thing is, though: the individuals carrying certain versions (alleles) of nepotistic altruism genes need to direct their nepotistic behaviors towards other individuals carrying those same alleles, otherwise their actions will be for naught. (yeah. kin selection.) if they direct their nepotistic actions towards people who don’t share the same alleles, then the actions will be “wasted” and the behavioral traits won’t be selected for — or at least not very strongly — and they might fizzle out altogether.

let’s take an imaginary society as an example: say everyone in our pretend population always marries their first cousins. their father’s brother’s daughters (fbd) even, so that we get a lot of double-first cousin marriage. h*ck! let’s throw in some uncle-niece marriages on top of it all. the inbreeding coefficients in such a society would be very high, and if clannishness was being selected for in our highly inbred population, the selection ought to move pretty quickly.

but suppose we separated all the kids at birth from their biological families and set them out for adoption by unrelated individuals — people with whom they likely did not share the same nepotistic altruism alleles. think: the janissary system, only on a population-wide scale. if we did that, there should be virtually no selection for clannishness despite all the inbreeding since pretty much no one’s nepotistic behaviors would be directed towards other individuals with the same nepotistic altruism genes. in this case, kin selection would just not be happening.

such a society does not exist, and i don’t think ever has. but there are societies out there with certain family types — namely nuclear families (or even post-nuclear family societies!) — which ought to have a similar dampening effect on any selection for clannishness.

northwestern “core” europe has had very low cousin marriage rates since around the 800s-1000s, but it has also, thanks to manorialism, had nuclear families of one form or another (absolute or stem) since the early medieval period — nuclear families are recorded in some of the earliest manor property records in the first part of the ninth century from northeastern france [see mitterauer, pg. 59]. on the other hand, eastern europeans, like the russians and greeks, while they also seem to have avoided very close cousin marriage for several hundreds of years (which is not as long as northwestern europeans, but is quite a while), have tended to live in extended family groupings. you would think that nepotistic altruism could be selected for, or maintained more readily, in populations where extended family members lived together and interacted with one another on a more regular basis than in societies of nuclear family members where individuals interact more with non-kin. societies comprised of nuclear families are more like my hypothetical janissary society above where the altruism genes that might’ve been selected for via kin selection instead fade away in the wash.

we have to be careful, though, in identifying nuclear family societies. the irish of today, for instance, are typically said to be a nuclear family society, but the extended family does still interact A LOT (i can tell you that from first-hand experience). same holds true for the greeks and, i suspect, the southern italians. i would say that these populations have residential nuclear families, but not fully atomized nuclear families which have infrequent contact with extended family (think: the english). the early anglo-saxons in england were also characterized by residential nuclear families — the extended family (the kindred) was still very important in that society. the individuals in a residential nuclear family society probably do interact with non-family more than individuals in a society structured around extended families or clans, but less so than a true nuclear family society.

the thought for the day then?: family types can also affect the selection for clannishness/nepotistic altruism.

that is all! (^_^)

previously: polygamy, family types, and the selection for clannishness and “l’explication de l’idéologie”

(note: comments do not require an email. irish nuclear family.)

william hamilton, considered to be one of the — if not the — greatest evolutionary theorists since darwin, had this to say:

“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).”

so hamilton clearly thought that biology and human biodiversity strongly influence culture and history, including the broad movements of history like renaissances or maybe even reformations or enlightenments, etc. and he thought that outbreeding, specifically too much outbreeding (i.e. panmictic populations), and presumably inbreeding too, relate to the selection for altruistic behaviors…and, therefore, certain aspects of cultures and history, etc. (remember that there’s more to hbd than just iq. (~_^) ) i dunno, maybe i and other hbd-ers are crazy (if so, we’re in GOOD company!), but this just makes intuitive sense to me. as john derbyshire said [15:00]:

“…if dimensions of the individual human personality are heritable, then society is just a vector sum of a lot of individual personalities.”

i like the big, probably impossible to answer fully questions: where does culture come from? where do institutions come from? where do renaissances come from? i don’t have the answers to those questions. nor am i under any illusions that i’ll ever be able to answer them. but am i very certain that they cannot be answered without taking into consideration human biology and biodiversity along with more conventional explanations drawn from history, economics, etc., and so i like to periodically bring them up.

so, if you happen to be new here, if you don’t like questioning — on every level — or biological explanations applied to The Big Questions, i’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. sorry. for my fellow hbd-ers — see you back here later in the week! (^_^)

previously: renaissances

p.s. – btw, my vacation has been extended by a week (long story), so i’ll be back properly next week. sorry for the delay! (*^_^*)

(note: comments do not require an email.)

there’s some amount of confusion out there in the hbd-o-sphere (and beyond!) about inclusive fitness, which is understandable since the concept is not that straightforward — especially for those of us who are not scientists. i thought it’d try to dispel some of that misunderstanding by sharing my layman’s understanding of the concept — i think i grok the idea pretty well now (in a basic sorta way) — hope i don’t add to the confusion!

to start with, inclusive fitness is NOT some sort of biological law that organisms (including humans) will automatically be altruistic towards other individuals with whom they share a lot of genes (or vice versa if vice versa). if you hold that idea — and i get the impression that a lot of people do — get it out of your mind right now! you’ll feel better for it, trust me.

inclusive fitness is simply a concept or model which explains HOW certain social behaviors — especially altruism — might’ve evolved at all. period. full stop.

to understand inclusive fitness, we need to back up a sec first and think about fitness and what that is. very (very!) simply, fitness refers to an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment. traits — including behaviors — that enable an organism to survive and successfully reproduce will be selected for simply because that organism *is* able to survive and reproduce in its environment. this is natural selection. pretty simple, really, darwin’s dangerous idea.

when it comes to certain social behaviors in humans, it’s readily understandable why many of them were selected for. for example, mothers who devote a lot of time and energy to care for their infants — who obviously can’t take care of themselves and would die without any care — will be more fit than those mothers who don’t. the genes that predispose for those behaviors get selected for since children get half of their dna from their mothers, and the ones that are cared for are much more likely to survive.

what was — and to some extent still is — a big mystery is why other sorts of altruistic behaviors were ever selected for even though they hurt an organism’s fitness. how would self-sacrificing altruistic behaviors directed towards non-descendants ever be selected for? for instance, why on earth would somebody feel compelled to run into a burning building to save a neighbor (who wasn’t their child) at great risk to their survival and, therefore, to their fitness? we can see how “genes for altruistic behaviors towards offspring” could be passed down from mother (or parents) to kids, but how were genes for more general altruistic behaviors selected for?

here is where william hamilton‘s absolutely genius idea — inclusive fitness — comes in: perhaps certain social behaviors, which on the surface appear to reduce an organism’s fitness, and so shouldn’t get selected, might’ve been selected for if those behaviors were directed toward other close kin with whom individuals also share much dna in common.

everybody gets half of their dna from each of their two (for now, anyway) parents. but we also share dna with siblings and (blood-related) aunts and uncles and (wait for it…) cousins. given this inheritance pattern, probability says, for instance, that, in a randomly mating population, an individual should share 12.5% of their dna with a first cousin. so, if an individual with certain “genes for altruism” behaves altruistically toward their first cousins, odds are not bad that those first cousins might also have those same “genes for altruism.” here, then, we have a mechanism for how apparently self-sacrificing social behaviors can be selected for: since the altruistic individual 1) aids close kin with whom he shares much of his dna AND 2) probably in many instances shares the same “genes for altruism,” his being altruistic toward those kin 1) does not reduce his fitness AND 2) the “genes for altruism” get selected for, too. mystery solved. (see also: kin selection.)

one way i like to think of inclusive fitness — which, perhaps, isn’t entirely the right way to look at it, but i feel it helps my understanding — is that if you wanted to calculate an individual’s total fitness by adding up how many actual copies of his genes he passed on, you need to add together those found in his offspring and those in his close relatives’ offspring. in other words, you need to add together his own direct fitness plus his close relatives’ fitness to get his inclusive fitness (or his total fitness).

it seems likely that many of the altruistic (or spiteful, etc.) behaviors we’re talking about are pretty general in nature, i.e. not that specific behaviors like “be altruistic to your close kin” were selected for, but rather more like “be altruistic to the people around you, because they’re probably your close kin” were. it remains to be seen how much kin recognition plays a role in altruism in humans, but that’s a topic for another post anyway. for right now, i just wanted to make clear what inclusive fitness is — and isn’t. again, inclusive fitness is a concept which explains HOW altruistic behaviors MIGHT be selected for. it does NOT predict that individuals will DEFINITELY be more altruistic toward those with whom they share much dna.

the whole topic of inclusive fitness is, of course, much more complicated than all that, but i think this is a good basic intro to the concept. hope so, anyway! (^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. citizens against altruism!)

Zigzags on a Shell From Java Are the Oldest Human Engravings“The early human Homo erectus also made the oldest known shell tools half a million years ago.” — see also: The art of Homo erectus“What we can say is that these artifacts carry information about the capabilities of their makers. The few non-perishable marked objects also speak to the likely presence of design in perishable elements of material culture. Clothing, however rudimentary, was likely to have been decorated in some way. Wooden tools were also probably notched and zigzagged — as the occasional bone and ivory implements suggest. They lived for the first time in a world that they could change.” – from john hawks.

Genetic diversity of Sub-Saharan Africa revealed[T]he researchers also found that there were more genetic similarities across Africa than they had thought. Dr Sandhu said: ‘The diversity among populations is not as diverse as we expected it to be….’ The researchers found that many Africans have some Eurasian DNA within their genetic ancestry, which suggests that Eurasians migrated back into Africa many thousands of years after they first left. And several of the populations were descended from the Bantu, a group that spread across Africa about 5,000 years ago.” — see also: The African Genome Variation Project shapes medical genetics in Africa.

and here is dienekes on the above study: African Genome Variation project paper“In too many papers to count, decreasing genetic diversity from East Africa was taken as evidence of an origin of H. sapiens in that locality and its expansion from there to Eurasia. This ‘East Africa=cradle of mankind’ theory has, as far as I can tell, nothing really to stand on. Granted, the oldest anatomically modern human remains have been found in East Africa 200-150 thousand years ago. But, the fact that old sapiens have been found in East Africa and not elsewhere is easily explained by the excellent conditions for preservation (as opposed, e.g., deserts or rainforests of Africa or elsewhere), and by the extraordinary effort by palaeoanthropologists in that area. One also needs to overlook a century of physical anthropology that concluded that East Africa was a contact zone between Caucasoids and Sub-Saharan Africans. We now know that there is no deep lineage of humans in modern east Africans. Take out the Eurasian ancestry and only a paltry Fst=0.027 remains with other Sub-Saharan Africans, a fraction of the Fst between, say, Europeans and East Asians.”

Living African group discovered to be the most populous humans over the last 150,000 years“New genetic research reveals that a small group of hunter-gatherers now living in Southern Africa once was so large that it comprised the majority of living humans during most of the past 150,000 years. Only during the last 22,000 years have the other African ethnicities, including the ones giving rise to Europeans and Asians, become vastly most numerous…. ‘This and previous studies show that the Khoisan peoples and the rest of modern humanity shared their most recent common ancestor approximately 150,000 years ago, so it was entirely unexpected to find that this group apparently did not intermarry with non-Khoisan neighbors for many thousand years….'” — see also The Least Bottlenecked Humans of All from razib.

Ants, altruism and self sacrifice“It’s the selfishness of genes that makes us unselfish…. ‘Group selection’ has always been portrayed as a more politically correct idea, implying that there is an evolutionary tendency to general altruism in people. Gene selection has generally seemed to be more of a right-wing idea, in which individuals are at the mercy of the harsh calculus of the genes. Actually, this folk understanding is about as misleading as it can be. Society is not built on one-sided altruism but on mutually beneficial co-operation. Nearly all the kind things people do in the world are done in the name of enlightened self-interest. Think of the people who sold you coffee, drove your train, even wrote your newspaper today. They were paid to do so but they did things for you (and you for them). Likewise, gene selection clearly drives the evolution of a co-operative instinct in the human breast, and not just towards close kin.” – from matt ridley. — see also: E.O. Wilson’s The Social Conquest of Earth from jason collins. h/t billare!

Genetic Variation in Human DNA Replication Timing“Replication timing, a driver of locus-specific mutation rates, varies among humans…. Replication timing associates with common polymorphisms near replication origins….” – whoa.

Genetic and environmental exposures constrain epigenetic drift over the human life course – h/t casey brown! who tweeted: “Worth repeating: DNA methylation is more genetic than epigenetic.”

IQ is in the genes“How parents raise us has no impact on how smart we become, a new study finds.”

Link discovered between fathers’ criminal history and sons’ intelligence“Sons whose fathers have criminal records tend to have lower cognitive abilities than sons whose fathers have no criminal history, data from over 1 million Swedish men show. The research, conducted by scientists in Sweden and Finland, indicates that the link is not directly caused by fathers’ behavior but is instead explained by genetic factors that are shared by father and son.”

Are bright people normal?“‘We found no support for the genetic Discontinuity Hypothesis that nonadditive genetic variance is greater for high intelligence….'” – from dr. james thompson.

Booze culture may date back 10 million years say scientists“A new study suggests that primates may have begun drinking alchol 10 million years ago, as fermented fruit on the forest floor…. Experts at Santa Fe College in the US studied the gene ADH4 which produces an enzyme to break down alcohol in the body. It was hypothesised that the enzyme would not appear until the first alcohol was produced by early farmers. But scientists were amazed to find it 10 million years earlier, at the end of the Miocene epoch.” – (them’s *my* ancestors right there! (~_^) )

Psychiatry: End of the Road for “Endophenotypes”?“In a nutshell, the researchers ran seven different genetic studies to try to find the genetic basis of a total of seventeen neurobehavioural traits, also known as ‘endophenotypes’…. Essentially an endophenotype is some trait, which could be almost anything, which is supposed to be related to (or part of) a psychiatric disorder or symptom, but which is ‘closer to genetics’ or ‘more biologica’ than the disorder itself. Rather than thousands of genes all mixed together to determine the risk of a psychiatric disorder, each endophenotype might be controlled by only a handful of genes – which would thus be easier to find…. Over 89% of the searches came up null in this way; for eight of the seventeen traits, the researchers found no associated genes using *any* strategy.” – from neuroskeptic.

Unequal fates for maths superstars“The fates of US child prodigies of the 1970s reveal great accomplishments but strong gender differences…. [B]oth genders reported unusually high levels of satisfaction with their lives and careers. ‘It seems that both sexes got what they wanted from life, even if those things were somewhat different….'” – h/t charles! – see also: Sometimes men and women want different things from ben southwood.

Are Chinese babies more docile? – peter frost on the freedman studies.

Inferior Faunas – from greg cochran.

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2014 released this week.

Domestication and Human Evolution Symposium @getCARTA sessions now available to watch online.

Does evolution need a revolution? – from jerry coyne.

Experimentally induced innovations lead to persistent culture via conformity in wild birds – birds have culture.

A Magisterial Synthesis Of Apes And Human Evolution“[Russell H.] Tuttle’s tome is a grand synthesis of all the latest research and data about apes and their relation to us…. He believes that bipedalism preceded the development of the brain in early humans –and was likely something inherited from smaller apes already used to using their feet to move laterally along branches in trees. Although chimpanzees and bonobos are our closest relatives on the evolutionary tree, they do not represent in their own locomotion good proto-models of what led to human upright posture and walking.”

‘Superbugs’ Kill India’s Babies and Pose an Overseas Threat“A growing chorus of researchers say the evidence is now overwhelming that a significant share of the bacteria present in India — in its water, sewage, animals, soil and even its mothers — are immune to nearly all antibiotics.” – h/t razib!

The RNA World: molecular cooperation at the origins of life“The RNA World concept posits that there was a period of time in primitive Earth’s history — about 4 billion years ago — when the primary living substance was RNA or something chemically similar. In the past 50 years, this idea has gone from speculation to a prevailing idea. In this Review, we summarize the key logic behind the RNA World and describe some of the most important recent advances that have been made to support and expand this logic. We also discuss the ways in which molecular cooperation involving RNAs would facilitate the emergence and early evolution of life.”

Tool to edit DNA revolutionizing research in Boston area – CRISPR.

Thomas Docherty on academic freedom“Managerial fundamentalism has taken hold in universities, with scholars viewed as resources that must be controlled…. A creeping incremental assault on academic freedom threatens not just what can be spoken aloud, but also what it is permissible to think: thought itself is to be subjected to management, so that its critical power is neutered or constrained….”

The Dark Enlightenment for Newbies“So what is dark about the Dark Enlightenment? Absolutely nothing. The Dark Enlightenment only looks dark in contrast to the blinding (as in, it blinds you) optimism of flash in the pan of blank slate equalism. The things that the DE contend about human nature — that parents naturally favor their children, that sexual attraction is a biological phenomenon, that some people are naturally smarter than others — were all accepted as common sense for most or all of human history. It is the unrealistic utopianism of modern liberalism which is ridiculously absurd. The Dark Enlightenment might be better termed The Return to Normalcy. So the phrase “Dark Enlightenment” might not be the best, but it has received enough attention that I don’t think we should abandon it.” – very nice post from empedocles.

Tanzania evicting 40,000 people from homeland to make room for Dubai royal family“It will become a private hunting reserve” – =/ (i’m linking to salon!) – h/t john durant!

bonus: Why Some Mosquitoes Spread Malaria and Others Don’t“Sequencing the genomes of numerous Anopheles mosquito species from locations around the world has shown why some can carry and spread the deadly disease malaria while others don’t.” – h/t srikant mantri!

bonus bonus: Humpback Whales in the Arabian Sea Have Been Isolated for 70,000 Years

bonus bonus bonus: A diet to die for“One bird feasts on food that would leave most other animals stone dead.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Insect Swarms Go Critical“Scientists have found tantalizing evidence that diverse biological systems, including the human brain, gene expression networks, bird flocks, and fish schools, behave as though they are near the ‘critical point’ of a phase transition, like correlated spins in a magnet on the verge of ordering.” – h/t jayman!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Weird Physics Can Make an Invisible Cat Visible“These cat pictures are brought to you by quantum entanglement as discussed by Einstein and Schrödinger.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: “The Feynman Lectures on Physics”, The Most Popular Physics Book Ever Written, Now Completely Online

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Tette per la Scienza – boobies! (it really IS this time! (~_^) )

(note: comments do not require an email. quantum cats!)

Europeans drawn from three ancient “tribes”“The modern European gene pool was formed when three ancient populations mixed within the last 7,000 years, Nature journal reports. Blue-eyed, swarthy hunters mingled with brown-eyed, pale skinned farmers as the latter swept into Europe from the Near East. But another, mysterious population with Siberian affinities also contributed to the genetic landscape of the continent.” – see also: Before Slavery“From what I can see so far, it looks as the invaders killed all the LBK-descended farmers in northern Europe, or nearly so. The locals had had long trapezoidal houses clustered in small villages: the Corded Ware culture has almost no buildings at all, and a lot less agriculture. They didn’t make the EEF guys serfs and get a cut of their grain – the villages disappeared. They didn’t tax them, but then money and bureaucracy hadn’t been invented yet. Same for slavery: hadn’t been invented, probably. Judging from the mtDNA patterns, they didn’t even grab many of the nubile women. The genetic mix changes little as you move across the north European plain: if the invaders were picking up local genes as they rolled along, it should have. We used to call Corded Ware the Battle-Axe culture, but that’s too accurate for comfort.” – from greg cochran.

They weren’t wimps: how modern humans, like Neanderthals, braved the northern cold“Recent finds at Willendorf in Austria reveal that modern humans were living in cool steppe-like conditions some 43,500 years ago – and that their presence overlapped with that of Neanderthals for far longer than we thought.” – h/t mr. robert ford!

Stone Age groups made similar toolmaking breakthroughs“Different palaeolithic populations around the world might have developed a crucial toolmaking skill independently. This conclusion, based on the analysis of hundreds of artefacts from a recently excavated archaeological site in Armenia, weakens a long-held theory that Stone Age people in Eurasia learnt sophisticated techniques from migrating African tribes. The work is published in Science.”

Human paternal and maternal demographic histories: insights from high-resolution Y chromosome and mtDNA sequences“Comparisons of maternally-inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and paternally-inherited non-recombining Y chromosome (NRY) variation have provided important insights into the impact of sex-biased processes (such as migration, residence pattern, and so on) on human genetic variation…. Our results confirm the controversial assertion that genetic differences between human populations on a global scale are bigger for the NRY than for mtDNA, although the differences are not as large as previously suggested. More importantly, we find substantial regional variation in patterns of mtDNA *versus* NRY variation.” – h/t juan fernández lópez! – see also: New analysis of human genetic history reveals female dominance – (heh. that was a nice twist on the story! (~_^) ) h/t frau katze!

23andMe mega-study on different American groups – @dienekes’. see also: The genetic ancestry of African, Latino, and European Americans across the United States.

Admixture in Latin America: Geographic Structure, Phenotypic Diversity and Self-Perception of Ancestry Based on 7,342 Individuals“We estimated individual ancestry proportions in a sample of 7,342 subjects ascertained in five countries (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, México and Perú). These individuals were also characterized for a range of physical appearance traits and for self-perception of ancestry. The geographic distribution of admixture proportions in this sample reveals extensive population structure, illustrating the continuing impact of demographic history on the genetic diversity of Latin America. Significant ancestry effects were detected for most phenotypes studied. However, ancestry generally explains only a modest proportion of total phenotypic variation. Genetically estimated and self-perceived ancestry correlate significantly, but certain physical attributes have a strong impact on self-perception and bias self-perception of ancestry relative to genetically estimated ancestry.” – see also razib: The Phenotypic and the Genotypic.

Ashkenazi Jewish population has distinctive, yet similar genomes“Post-population bottleneck, descendants of Eastern European Jews are all 30th-ish cousins…. Compared to genomes of modern Europeans—in this case, the genomes of 26 Flemish people—the Ashkenazi genomes have 47 percent more novel DNA differences per genome. These DNA variants, while novel, are population specific; sequence sharing, where two individuals have a set of the same variants, is eight percent more abundant among the Ashkenazi Jews than it is between the two populations or even among the Flemish genomes.” – h/t billare!

Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa? – from steve sailer.

Force of nature gave life its asymmetry“‘Left-handed’ electrons destroy certain organic molecules faster than their mirror versions.”

make sure not to miss jayman’s new Obesity Facts page. and give him some money, too! (^_^)

A fruitful encounter“Did the Christian doctrine of original sin create the guilt cultures of Northwest Europe? Or did the arrow of causality run the other way?” – from peter frost.

Review: G Is for Genes: The Impact of Genetics on Education and Achievement (Kathryn Asbury, Robert Plomin) – from emil kirkegaard.

The hereditarian hypothesis almost certainly true“Surely, there are huge benefits to being the first author to publish a study that almost conclusively disproves the genetic model for AA’s. Researchers with access to the data have a strong incitement to publish such a study. If the data supports the view, they have all the necessary means too. Since they haven’t published it, we can hence infer that the data does not support the politically favorable non-genetic conclusion, but instead the genetic model.” – also from emil kirkegaard.

Cognitive ability and party identity in the United States“[I]ndividuals who identify as Republican have slightly higher verbal intelligence than those who identify as Democrat…. [H]igher intelligence among classically liberal Republicans compensates for lower intelligence among socially conservative Republicans.” – the results suggest. – h/t stuart ritchie!

Lighter-skinned minorities are more likely to support Republicans

A study of the performance of Egyptian college students on the Advanced Progressive Matrices“The Egyptian raw scores were transformed to British IQ equivalents using the published 1992 British norms for the APM, on which the sample obtained a British IQ of 89.5. Science students obtained a significantly higher average mean score than arts students by 7.5 IQ points. Male students obtained a non-significantly higher average IQ than female students 1.2 IQ points. Male students had greater variability than the female students.” – h/t erwin schmidt!

The Available Pool – ed realist goes all voldemort on us. again.

Epigenetics, the Glory and the Hype“Epigenetics is real. But it doesn’t change everything. That needs to be said, because people seem to get the impression that everything is changed.” – from razib.

Human preferences for sexually dimorphic faces may be evolutionarily novel [pdf] – “A large literature proposes that preferences for exaggerated sex typicality in human faces (masculinity/femininity) reflect a long evolutionary history of sexual and social selection. This proposal implies that dimorphism was important to judgments of attractiveness and personality in ancestral environments. It is difficult to evaluate, however, because most available data come from large-scale, industrialized, urban populations. Here, we report the results for 12 populations with very diverse levels of economic development. Surprisingly, preferences for exaggerated sex-specific traits are only found in the novel, highly developed environments. Similarly, perceptions that masculine males look aggressive increase strongly with development and, specifically, urbanization.” – h/t jayman!

Do your genes skew how you taste alcohol?“A new study shows that how people perceive and taste alcohol varies as a result of genetics. The scientists focused on three chemosensory genes—two bitter-taste receptor genes known as TAS2R13 and TAS2R38 and a burn receptor gene, TRPV1. The research is the first to consider whether variation in the burn receptor gene might influence alcohol sensations, which has not previously been linked to alcohol consumption.” – alcohol tastes gooooood! (~_^) – h/t phillip melton!

Parent–Offspring Similarity for Drinking: A Longitudinal Adoption Study [pdf] – “Findings imply that genetic influences on drinking behavior increase with age while shared family environment influences decline, especially during the transition from late-adolescence to early adulthood.” – h/t emil kirkegaard!

Violent Video Games and Real-World Violence: Rhetoric Versus Data“Contrary to the claims that violent video games are linked to aggressive assaults and homicides, no evidence was found to suggest that this medium was positively related to real-world violence in the United States. Unexpectedly, many of the results were suggestive of a decrease in violent crime in response to violent video games. Possible explanations for these unforeseen findings are discussed and researchers are cautioned about generalizing the results from laboratory and correlational studies to severe forms of violent behavior.” – h/t mugwump! who tweeted some of the tables here, here, and here.

The Objective Morality Delusion“Atheists often scorn those who believe in the God Delusion. The faithful, in turn, scorn those atheists who believe in the Objective Morality Delusion. The scorn is understandable in both cases, but I give the nod to the faithful on this one….” – from helian.

Paradox of nationalism“Nationalism as we know it arose in modern times in Europe. Other countries outside Europe just don’t seem to have the same thing, although there are exceptions, such as Japan, or maybe Turkey. And in fact, nationalism was at one time considered a part of liberalism – which is another European invention…. Other countries that don’t have the same history as Europe seem unlikely to develop that kind of nationalism. Think of Iraq, Syria, most African countries, even China: they are more given to clannishness than patriotism.” – from mr. mangan, esq.

Plant breeding, not working slaves harder, drove cotton efficiency gains in the US South – from pseudoerasmus.

Confusion Over the Biological Reality of the Human Races“[O]ne can see clearly why Wade’s argument is not racist: at the core of his argument is his claim that the tribalism of racial ethnocentrism belongs to an ancient stage of human evolution that has to be overcome to move into modern states and inclusive institutions (see Wade, 136, 173-82, 196-97).” – larry arnhart on A Troublesome Inheritance.

Yes, it’s official, men are from Mars and women from Venus, and here’s the science to prove it“In his fascinating new book the developmental biologist Lewis Wolpert argues that there is actually hard science behind many of our stereotypical gender roles.” – h/t claire lehmann!

The Woman’s Heart Attack“[M]en more typically have ‘crushing’ pain; women, nausea. That women are likelier to have early warning signs, such as unaccustomed fatigue or insomnia (unaccustomed: That’s the key word here). That we are likelier — this spooked me and kept me, for months, glued to calendars — to die within a year of a heart attack. That our symptoms can be so varied and nuanced that we feel no fear, seek no help, and possibly die — which may be why, although more men have heart attacks, a greater percentage of women die of them.”

The Evolution of Culturally-Variable Sex Differences: Men and Women Are Not Always Different, but When They Are…It Appears *Not* to Result from Patriarchy or Sex Role Socialization“[E]vidence is marshaled across 21 data sources that directly challenge this foundational assumption of social role theory. Empirically, sex differences in most psychological traits — in personality, sexuality, attitudes, emotions, behaviors, and cognitive abilities — are conspicuously *larger* in cultures with more egalitarian sex role socialization and greater sociopolitical gender equity. Even sex differences in many physical traits such as height, obesity, and blood pressure are larger in cultures with more egalitarian sex role socialization and greater sociopolitical gender equity.”

School Performance After Preterm Birth“An increased risk of poor school performance for children born preterm has been shown in many studies, but whether this increase is attributable to preterm birth per se or to other factors associated with preterm birth has not been resolved…. Preterm birth was strongly and negatively correlated with school performance. The distribution of school grades for children born at 31-33 weeks was on average 3.85 (95% confidence interval = -4.36 to -3.35) centiles lower than for children born at 40 weeks. For births at 22-24 weeks, the corresponding figure was -23.15 (-30.32 to -15.97). When taking confounders into account, the association remained. When restricting the analysis to siblings, however, the association between school performance and preterm birth after week 30 vanished completely, whereas it remained, less pronounced, for preterm birth before 30 weeks of gestation. Our study suggests that the association between school performance and preterm birth after 30 gestational weeks is attributable to factors other than preterm birth per se.”

Are Neighborhood Health Associations Causal? A 10-Year Prospective Cohort Study With Repeated Measurements – h/t amir sariaslan! who tweeted: “Neighborhoods did not cause health outcomes in Australian large longitudinal within-individual study over 10 years.”

Seat of Selflessness Found in Brains of Extreme Altruists“In this case researchers chose to study people who donated a kidney to a complete stranger. They found that not only are extreme altruists’ brains different from a normal person’s, they’re basically the opposite of a psychopath’s in one key way – indicating that a specific brain region may play an important role in people’s ability to care for one another.” – n=39, but it’s a start!

Can the Game of Thrones option save the UK?“The situation now resembles the Union of Crowns from 1603-1707 when Scotland had its own parliament but was still under the king in Westminster, and Cameron is behaving like Charles I: making promises to his northern kingdom that affect the southern one, without regards to how the southerners feel. Just as in 1640, the greatest protests are coming from the east of England, once the stronghold of Puritanism and the parliamentary rebels and now the Ukip heartland.” – from ed west.

God, Darwin and My College Biology Class“[A] third consequence of evolutionary insights: a powerful critique of theodicy, the scholarly effort to reconcile belief in an omnipresent, omni-benevolent God with the fact of unmerited suffering. Theological answers range from claiming that suffering provides the option of free will to announcing (as in the Book of Job) that God is so great and we so insignificant that we have no right to ask. But just a smidgen of biological insight makes it clear that, although the natural world can be marvelous, it is also filled with ethical horrors: predation, parasitism, fratricide, infanticide, disease, pain, old age and death — and that suffering (like joy) is built into the nature of things. The more we know of evolution, the more unavoidable is the conclusion that living things, including human beings, are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator.” – david barash, pessimist(?).

Incest a “fundamental right” says German committee says“Anti-incest laws in Germany could be scrapped after a government-backed group said relationships between brothers and sisters should be legal.” – those wacky germans! h/t anatoly!

Radicalised Muslims in UK more likely to be born in Britain, rich and depressed“Young British Muslims whose families have lived in the UK for generations are more at risk of radicalisation than recent migrants to Britain, according to new research which reveals the common characteristics of those most vulnerable to recruitment by terrorists.” – we’ve seen that pattern before. h/t ed west!

Millions of Old Tyres are Dumped Near Empty Apartment Blocks in Spanish Ghost Town – you HAVE to see the photos! h/t ian geldard!

bonus: Skin coloring of rhesus macaque monkeys linked to breeding success, new study shows

bonus bonus: Fantastically Wrong: Europe’s Insane History of Putting Animals on Trial and Executing Them – h/t kyle hill!

bonus bonus bonus: Belgium to build beer pipeline under Bruges – those wacky belgians!

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


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