December Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • Would it be cruel and unusual to wake Cousin E with a rousing rendition of the Brigands’ Song from the Ronja movie?
  • Went to the snow-covered golf course, sat down in the moon shadow of a spruce tree at the edge of the fairway, watched until I had seen three meteors, went home.
  • Place-name scholar Ann-Christin Mattisson 1986: “Our knowledge about the nobility’s domestic architecture in the Middle Ages is … limited, i.a. because too few sites have been excavated and dated, but also because the remains are often too insignificant to merit any more thorough investigation.” (p. 25)
  • Movie: Fantastic Beasts. Confused plot involving magical beasts and wizardly problems in 1920s New York. Endless CGI property damage. Grade: OK.
  • Mainstream Western art from before the legalisation of porn is unbelievably pornographic. Nude 20-y-o girls and boys everywhere. It’s one big wankfest aimed at the moneyed middle-aged male. Amazing that people could have this stuff on their dining-room walls with a straight face.
  • The trailer for the new Assassin’s Creed movie made me extremely stoked to watch an indie film about gay cowboys eating pudding.
  • “Having dealt with the band name’s overt subversion of Late Modern masculinity, let us begin our penetration of the lyrics. The obvious place to start is ‘Lock up your daughter, lock up your wife / Lock up your back door and run for your life'”. M. Rundkvist, Pansexual Priapism. A Post-Orientational Reading of AC/DC, forthcoming from Verso Press.
  • I’m on The Archaeology Show podcast!
  • Movie: Rogue One. Loving continuation of the Star Wars saga with added diversity. Grimy, worn and sweaty. Grade: Recommended.
  • Tenure Track Assistant Professor of Pig Disease
My neighbourhood seen from the top of a new building next door.

My neighbourhood seen from the top of a new building next door.

Fisksätra Islet. The path used to run to the left of the young trees until blocked by a tree that fell in a storm 15-20 years ago. Now the fallen tree is gone but the new pavement has made the detour around it permanent.

Fisksätra Islet. The path used to run to the left of the young trees until blocked by a tree that fell in a storm 15-20 years ago. Now the fallen tree is gone but the new pavement has made the detour around it permanent.


63 thoughts on “December Pieces Of My Mind #2

  1. On a slightly lighter note, apparently you grow out of IKEA at age 34. I think I must have suffered from retarded development – I distinctly remember still buying and assembling IKEA stuff when I was in my 40s. But then, I didn’t get married until I was 29. Late developer. And my IKEA phase died suddenly and comprehensively soon after that late burst in my 40s.


  2. Very cool animated gif map of early Indo-European migrations here. It blows up so you can read the textual annotations.

    We need more of these to be able to visualise the stuff that gets complicated to follow in word descriptions. It would be even better if they added a time stamp in years BC for each migration. (See – I do learn from those who know better; I have accepted the merit of using ‘BC’.)


  3. “You only have to look at the disproportionately high number of Nobel Laureates who were Ashkenazi Jews to realise that they are a particularly intelligent group.”

    This is a good example illustrating the importance of environment, culture, tradition, etc. Remember Hilbert’s famous comment when he was asked by a Nazi official how mathematics in Göttingen had improved after it had been rid of Jewish influence: “There is no more mathematics in Göttingen”. But this has almost nothing to say about genetic predisposition to maths.

    As Asimov said, the higher one’s IQ, the less one thinks that it is a useful concept. 🙂


  4. So it has nothing to do with the Ashkenazim having a mean IQ of 112. Well, if you say so.

    If IQ is not a useful concept, then I got a scholarship for secondary school and a cadetship to enable me to go to university, and was permitted to enrol in engineering, and managed to graduate with good grades from a course with a drop-out rate of 90%, all under false pretences. I should have been a truck driver.


  5. BTW, there is no ‘genetic predisposition to maths’, except for the highly heritable component of general intelligence that is expressed in all kinds of endeavours, including music. The more that environmental factors that depress general intelligence, like childhood disease and malnutrition, are eliminated, the higher the heritable proportion of general intelligence becomes.

    This is why the Flynn effect has maxed out in the developed world, while it is still operating in under-developed countries/regions.

    But then, if you actually read anything worth reading on the subject, you would not just keep repeating your Asimov quote like it’s some kind of mantra. A lot of other informed and intelligent people know from real data that general intelligence, and IQ as a measure of it, are convinced that it is not only a useful concept, it is very important, and has strong predictive power for life outcomes in all sorts of ways, e.g. high IQ people live longer than low IQ people.

    You should read about it from experts, instead of just opinionating based on what happens to suit your ideology. You could start with Steve Hsu – he has lots of real life data which show that you don’t know what you are talking about.


  6. My point is that if this group has a higher than average IQ, then it is more likely due to environment and not to genetics. That’s all.


  7. General intelligence, as measured by IQ tests, has already been proven many times over to be highly heritable. The more that negative environmental factors that depress intelligence are removed, the higher the heritability gets – that process is happening right now in Africa and India. The data supporting that conclusion are overwhelming.


  8. Just consider adoption studies. A lot of those have been done in America; very large data sets. So, I assume you know about those, and are not just opinionating off the top of your head or because Isaac Ozimov told you so.

    The classic for adoption studies are Korean orphans adopted by white American parents, who also have some of their own children. Same home environment, same schools, same peer groups, same everything. But the Korean kids turn out to be a lot more intelligent than either their adoptive parents or their adoptive siblings, as measured both in IQ tests and in academic performance. So is that more likely due to environment?

    If environment is not the explanation in all of those studies, and I repeat that there have been really a lot of them, then why should environment be the explanation for why the Ashkenzim are the highest intelligence group in the world, by a full 6 points on the mean from Koreans, who are already a full 6 points higher on the mean from Europeans? Is environment also the explanation for why the Ashkenazim suffer from very high rates of some really awful genetic diseases, much higher than any other group in the world?

    If being forced to live in ghettoes and being shunned, beaten up and spat on by the rest of society results in such high intelligence, maybe we should all do it.


  9. A valid question for you to ask ([Redacted /MR]), given your conviction that the high intelligence of the Ashkenazim is a product of environment, culture and tradition, would be why is it only the Ashkenazim who have such extraordinarily high intelligence? Why not other Jews? The Sephardim don’t have it – they are just kind of world average, nothing special. And Jews who remained living in the Middle East are actually quite dumb.

    All of those other Jews had the same Jewish culture and tradition and, arguably, a better living environment than the Ashkenazim who, for much of the second millenium, were herded into ghettoes, generally pretty badly treated by everybody, and permitted to carry on only certain kinds of business; notably, money lending, which was forbidden for Christians. The Ashkenazim also went through a pretty severe genetic bottleneck at some time during their history – and I’m not referring here to the Holocaust, or at least not *that* Holocaust.

    So what was it about their (lousy) environment, and culture and traditions shared with other Jewish groups that are not notably smart to day, that produced a group of Jews living in mostly eastern Europe that produced a group of such astoundingly intelligent and successful people?

    I’ll give you a clue – the answer lies in natural selection. IOW, the explanation *is* genetic, in the sense that natural selection acting on them in the environment they were forced to live in resulted in their mean general intelligence rising higher than any other group in the world, by a long way, including other Jewish groups.

    There is nothing about converting to Judaism that will make you smarter – if there was, I might have tried it a long time ago. I did have an adopted Polish Jewish uncle from Warsaw who made it out in the nick of time before Germany invaded Poland, and who knew me and remained a close friend all of my life until he died a few years back, but that is as close as I ever got to it.


  10. I am not touching the IQ debate, not even with a long pole…

    Regarding horrible heritable disease, we can learn more about the genetic causes by studying the DNA of people living in regions with a high degree of consanguinity (cousin marriage).
    Saudi Arabia is one of those regions, and are beginning to do research, collecting DNA from large numbers of people.
    Not only does this provide clues to which genes are harmful, sometimes someone has escaped disease despite having two copies of the same harmful gene.
    By studying those fortunate cases mediine also gets a lot of information.


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