linkfest – 02/24/14

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 Queendom.com 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!)

not so many luddites after all

over the weekend, one of my younger first cousins once removed declared that he absolutely, definitely will be a fireman when he grows up (he’s three). his father, one of my in-laws, (half-)jokingly said that, no, you’ll be a lawyer or a doctor or a professor. i chimed in with: “get into genetics, kid. that’s where all the money will be.” (heh! as if i would know.)

my cousin-in-law responded: “genetics? but that’s unethical.” this from a man with a marketing degree. (~_^)

i have to admit i was pretty flummoxed and didn’t really know how to respond or even where to start. our follow up discussion was brief so i didn’t get a satisfactory explanation as to what’s “unethical” about “genetics,” but i got to wondering what the rest of america thinks. thankfully, they’re not so skeptical:

Survey finds wide public support for nationwide study of genes, environment and lifestyle
Nov 12, 2008

Four in five Americans support the idea of a nationwide study to investigate the interactions of genes, environment and lifestyle, and three in five say they would be willing to take part in such a study, according to a survey released today. The research was conducted by the Genetics & Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University with funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)….

“Our survey found that widespread support exists in the general public for a large, genetic cohort study. What’s more, we found little variation in that support among different demographic groups,” said David Kaufman, Ph.D., lead author of the paper and project director at the Genetics & Public Policy Center, which is located in Washington….

The online survey of 4,659 U.S. adults was conducted between December 2007 and January 2008. When asked about their support for and willingness to participate in a large genetic cohort study, 84 percent of respondents supported the study and 60 percent indicated they would definitely or probably participate in such a study if asked.

Survey respondents were carefully selected to reflect the demographic makeup of the United States. No significant differences in support or willingness to participate were observed between whites, Hispanics, African Americans and Asians. American Indian and Alaska Native respondents expressed less support for the study (65 percent), but were just as likely to be willing to participate (63 percent) as other respondents….

the pew folks also conducted a “town hall meeting” about genetics in 2008 — a set of five focus group sessions held around the country. from the report [pg. 11]:

“Participants were asked to consider what types of research should and should not be done with the information collected by the proposed study. Research aimed at curing disease was commonly cited as acceptable, and some participants named conditions such as cancer, birth defects, and diabetes….

“Human cloning was cited in every town hall as an unacceptable use of the proposed biobank, although in one case participants differentiated between reproductive cloning (unacceptable) and cloning aimed at regenerating organs or otherwise curing disease (acceptable). Participants frequently named research aimed at altering humans or creating ‘designer babies’ as unacceptable. Another area of concern was ‘things that point out differences between gender, or race, or anything like that that people use to discriminate.’ Other areas mentioned included weapons development, intelligence, alcoholism, and sexual orientation….”

so a lot of americans don’t like the idea of cloning. personally, i’m looking forward to being able to clone myself. i mean, how great a world would it be with more MEs in it? (~_^) and why should bacteria and some lizards have all the fun anyways?

and a lot of americans don’t like “designer babies” either. the funny thing is, of course, that they don’t realize that that’s what they’re aiming for when they look for that perfect someone to marry, i.e. kids to match their heart’s desire. in fact, a lot of americans don’t like anything that smacks of eugenics. i guess that’s not too surprising at this point in time.

at least the majority haven’t written off the whole discipline of genetics as “unethical” though.

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

linkfest – 01/23/11

Mammoth ‘could be reborn in four years’

Average IQ by occupation (estimated from median income) – by mr. audacious

Roman rise and fall ‘recorded in trees’“An extensive study of tree growth rings says there could be a link between the rise and fall of past civilisations and sudden shifts in Europe’s climate.”

Dieting while pregnant can lower your baby’s IQ – (duh)

Religiosity and the origins of civilization – @evo and proud – “The causes of civilization are not to be found in early art, writing, or architecture. These are merely the consequences of a preceding mental revolution.”

Best friends forever: It’s all in our genes, say scientists – genetic similarity theory. see also Brain Genes Influence Friend Choices @futurepundit.

Blood group O ‘protects against heart attacks’

Watch out feminists: Why acting like a man at work won’t get you promoted at work

White ethnic groups more likely to vote Republican than whites in general and More on ethnicity and voting among whites from inductivist. “Americans of English/Welsh, Dutch, and German descent are significantly more likely to vote Republican, compared to other whites.”

Dumb Farmers @overcoming bias. see also If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking?

Miscellaneous musings on the Ainu, I @ahnenkult. via race|hist|evo notes.

Worm Sperm“Sperm built to resist being sucked out after copulation.” see also The sexual battles of flatworms: barbed sperm, mating rings, traumatic insemination, and going down on yourself

9,000 Years Ago, North Americans Tamed–and Ate–Dogs