Open Thread for October

This month you get extra likes for mentioning orchids, bismuth and Queen Hatshepsut.

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

214 thoughts on “Open Thread for October”

  1. It looks like Elizabeth Warren has blown it, even with her strongest supporters. That’s the big risk of playing identity politics. Self-identifying as Native American from 1986 to 1995 was self-evidently a dumb and disingenuous thing to do, but she could have got out of that with an apology and due to the passage of time, plus some verbiage about how her family had certain handed-down Native American traditions or whatever (although cooking does not appear to be one of them).

    But she has doubled down on it by releasing her DNA results, which show her to be about 2% (Razib’s estimate, so a bit more than 1/64). The way that has been received, it seems like it was a big mistake – even some of her strongest supporters seem to think so. Well, identity politics is a big mistake, but that seems to be the game that everyone is playing. People are individuals, not groups. When you subvert the rights of the individual to the rights of some group or other, the individual suffers. Intersectionalism further complicates it – what do you do about someone who identifies with 5 different groups? It’s just a hopeless mess.

    So, if she runs in 2020, it’s likely to be all about this stupid issue, which Republicans will make political capital out of, rather than anything real, and she will lose. She’s blown it. And if she doesn’t realize that by now, she’s not listening, which begins to look like lack of awareness and arrogance.


    1. So, Razib is sniping at Nathan Robinson (the author of the above article), calling him a liar and defending Elizabeth Warren. On the face of it maybe that seems kind of strange, but I guess (and I’m just guessing) that he admires the fact that she took the DNA test and published the results – public honesty matters. For people of conscience, it matters more than political preference on an issue like this. Maybe he disagrees with her on some political issues, but you don’t make it personal, not if you are a decent person. Play the ball, not the man.

      I’m inclined to agree. I think what she did in the past was a dumb thing to do, and I wouldn’t have done it, indeed I have not done the equivalent myself although I could have, but that’s water long under the bridge; people make mistakes, or have their own reasons at the time. People piling on to her and kicking her now in the name of identity politics is really distasteful. It smacks of mob bullying, and if there’s anything I detest, it’s bullies. She did the honest thing.

      Of course I expect Trump supporters to behave like a bunch of thugs, but I had kind of come to expect a bit better than that from Democrats.


      1. This touches on the sensitive issue of how much Native American ancestry you need to have in order to count with that group, which has unusual political rights. Their organisations say that it’s about cultural tradition, not about genetics. In that sense, Senator Warren is no Native American since she was brought up entirely in the majority culture.


      2. Taken to absurdity, that means that someone with no Native American (or Aboriginal in the case of Australia) ancestry at all could claim to be Native American. (That applies to the legal definition of Aboriginal in Australia.)

        Different Native American groups have different ancestry ‘cut off’ levels. I don’t know what a sensible cut off value would be. My daughter is 50% Chinese and culturally Chinese, pretty much, but most Chinese people do not recognize her as Chinese (although some do, and the Chinese government does, which carries legal weight and the rights of citizenship). I think that is unreasonable. More to the point, so does she, but she knows it’s futile to rail against it. She’s resigned to it, although she does subtle humorous things to bug people – she read the Analects in Chinese just so she can quote Confucius to people who claim to be more Chinese than she is. When it becomes clear that she is much more knowledgeable about traditional Chinese culture than they are, it tends to make them shut up pretty fast.

        It’s also a matter of how genuinely acculturated modern Native Americans are – a lot of it is ‘manufactured’. Some is not – some groups have managed to retain a lot more than others.

        But, yeah, 2% ancestry, and growing up in white American culture with zero Native American influence, is well below any sensible definition. It was a nonsense for her to ever claim to be Native American and a ‘person of colour’ when she obviously isn’t. And she stopped doing it in 1990, and isn’t doing it now. I think people ought to quit beating her up about it. We all take missteps in life, and learn. It’s not like she murdered someone.


      3. Oddly enough, I knew that about the Sámi. I picked it up from watching a Youtube video of a Sámi guy who was an adoptee performing a Sámi song in a singing contest.


  2. I was wrong about India’s CO2 emissions – they are down at about 3 million tonnes/year, although currently steadily rising.

    The USA and Europe were both emitting about 6 million t/y each in 2,000, but both have been very slowly decreasing since than, both now getting down towards 5 million.

    The biggie is China. The emissions were around 3 million t/y until 2000, when they started rising rapidly, and continued to rise steadily to 10 million t/y in 2011. Since then they have leveled off and appear to be just starting to drop gradually. So, they are doing something about it, but they need to do a hell of a lot more. They currently make up 30% of the global total.

    This war against climate change will be won or lost in China, Europe and the USA. China and Europe are signalling best intentions. The USA, not so much. It will be a big challenge for China, and for Europe. Currently it seems like the USA has no intention of even trying.


  3. Genes linked to being gay may help straight people get more sex.

    So, the theory is that if you are a homozygote, you are gay. If you are a heterozygote, you are heteronormative and get more sex with more female partners than other men.

    Could explain the ‘puzzle’ that ‘gay genes’ don’t die out due to lower reproduction among gay men.


  4. Hard to get bored in Hackney board game cafe.

    I would be much too uncool for a place like that. The board game names mentioned sound kind of childish, though. But I’m certainly no connoisseur. I presume among 800 games to choose from, there must be something not childish. Or, I presume, one could take one’s own, looking for people to play it with.

    Do you get board game hustlers, like pool hustlers?

    I once got invited to play a game of pool by a guy in a pub in Oz. I should have realized I was being hustled the second he pulled out a case containing his own pool cue and screwed it together – who takes his own pool cue to a pub?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Designer boardgames of the kind found in game cafes are never played for money. In fact, I don’t think game cafes have gambling permits. So no, no hustlers.

      Though one of my friends does wander about gaming events trying to look like an average Boggle player when we all know that he is crushingly good at Boggle and refuse to play it with him.


  5. Elizabeth Warren’s report is here, for any that might be interested in the technical details:

    Click to access Bustamante_Report_2018.pdf

    The PCA plots are near the end. I think they are the easiest thing for lay people to grasp. A point of interest – the Ojibwa overlie the Cree; essentially they seem to be the same people genetically, pretty much, which fits with their respective geographical distribution in Canada, and what I have read about them.


  6. “You cannot serve God and Mammon. If you love the one, you will hate the other.” Jesus is supposed to have said this during the Sermon on the Mount. As Fred Clark notes, this is not a commandment; Jesus is just explaining how it works.

    Linked from that article: Pat Robertson officially declares himself to be on Team Mammon. He is actually advocating going easy on KSA over the Jamal Khashoggi murder, because it would jeopardize $100 billion in arms sales. As Birger noted upthread, it’s not really $100B, but let’s leave that aside for now. There are other ways Robertson could have made this argument: he could have claimed that KSA is a valuable ally in the war on terror (highly debatable but not facially ridiculous), or he could have made a Kissinger-style realpolitik argument (also ethically suspect but again not facially ridiculous). But no, Robertson is all about the money. Which is incompatible with serving God, as Robertson claims to do.

    This Mammon worship is common among self-proclaimed Christians in the US, although usually they are not as blatant about it as Robertson.


  7. The genetics of stupid: American extreme-right thugs are making a big deal of being lactose-tolerant, even having photo-ops of gangs of young white men without shirts guzzling milk.
    They see lactose tolerance as a “white” thing and are therefore proud of it. Jeez…


  8. Aaargh, the xenophobe party gets influence in coalitions in even more Swedish towns.

    About islam and islamophobia:
    The media are full of stereotypical reports about muslims, differing from troll factories only in a matter of degree.
    This has made debate difficult on issues like “honor” culture violence, since valid criticism of the culture practised by a subset of muslims (not only by muslims, BTW) can boost openly islamophobic and openly racist beliefs

    Clearly, the *beliefs*, not the people are defective and deserve to be fought, but with cognitive smart bombs that don’t target the people.
    So how to adress the issue of muslims who still believe the scriptures are to be read literally, without attacking the muslims?
    I have spent weeks of my spare time compiling notes that would be useful when discussing a literal versus allegoric interpretation with those who are still open to changing their beliefs.
    And boy, has that given me an unpleasant view of seventh-century societies.
    When I am done, I want to wash my brain with chlorine. And smoke some weed, to get poor memory.


  9. Data from 80,000 people in 76 countries show that social preferences (and incl. career choices) expand with rising wealth and greater gender equality.

    Here’s the conundrum – my own observation, based on some pretty large samples, is that this has not happened in engineering in East and South East Asia. As barriers to women becoming engineers have been eliminated, female participation in engineering has risen to parity with males. There is still a problem with career progression for female engineers, though, because their biological clocks are ticking, and at some point, around 30 or early 30s latest, they need to take time out from their careers if they want to have one or more children. There is no readily apparent solution to this, aside from something like egg freezing.

    It does suggest, though, that there are personality differences between East and South East Asian females on the one hand, and females of European and other ancestries on the other. Civil engineering is not a ‘soft’ choice, particularly in Asia – you have to work outside and get dirty in tropical and sub-tropical environments which are very physically taxing, and are subjected to physical risks, unlike say law, where you get to stay clean and work 100% of the time in safe, comfortable air conditioned buildings.

    I would love to conduct a test on a large sample of Chinese and Anglo-Australian women (or Scandinavian women, if it comes to that) on the Big 5 personality traits, each broken down into a couple of sub-traits, to see if it explains the differences I have observed. I would be very surprised if there were no mean differences.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have asked my daughter for a professional opinion on whether the various things Rhonda Patrick says are credible, but she is flat out busy working 6 days/week 12 hours/day, + a long commute, + taking an online university course in her ‘spare’ time, and her recreation time is very limited and precious to her, so it will take a while before she can get around to watching it, if ever.

      At least some of it I know is established science, e.g. physical exercise boosts brain function. Some of the other stuff, like the benefits of taking saunas, I just have no idea. I was already planning on doing that anyway when the very cold dry weather gets here, but in a wet sauna, not a dry sauna, to see if it will help prevent my skin from getting so ravaged. I already know that taking a wet sauna helps lung function when you live in a bad air environment, although she doesn’t say anything about that. So I might bring that forward and experiment on myself. No way I’m doing it for 30mins at a time though; my limit in a wet sauna is about 15-20 minutes, but I can handle doing that daily without any problem, or I could when I was doing it a few years ago. I’m just not going to get into any dry sauna though. The dry sauna at the gym I go to is at 84 Celsius and bone dry, and I ain’t doin’ that.

      But I’m not insulin resistant, so I have no way of experimenting with myself on that.


  10. I’m satisfied that Rhonda Patrick is legit, but she admits herself that she is obsessive about certain things. She gets really fixated on certain ‘super foods’ (although she doesn’t call them that), and things like that (she’s very big of cruciferous vegetables). But she has solid science to support everything she says – she doesn’t just make stuff up, and she has scientific explanations for all of the phenomena she describes associated with certain foods, time restricted eating, different forms of exercise, exposing yourself to heat stress by taking saunas, etc. And she’s careful – she doesn’t recommend that people who are already ill or are recovering from illness should take saunas, because their bodies are already stressed, and it’s just piling more stress on top of that, which is probably not a good idea.

    Following her advice is a different thing – takes a lot of lifestyle changes which could be difficult, particularly for busy people. Restricting eating (which includes the first morning coffee or herbal tea or whatever – anything other than water) to a 12 hour time window is hard for working people. It means they have to delay their morning caffeine fix, and take breakfast to work with them to eat at around 10.00am or later, if they don’t get to start having dinner until 8.00 or 9.00pm. I can’t do that – I can barely drag myself around in the morning after I get up until I have had something to eat and a cup of coffee.

    But she nails a lot of the usual suspects, like high fructose corn syrup – she gives a scientific explanation for why that stuff is really bad. She nails supplements – most of them don’t contain what they are supposed to contain, so it’s no surprise that they don’t work; they can’t. They’re not regulated. She regards the supplements industry as a massive scandal, which it is.

    And she’s very talkative, so you have to watch lots of hours of her talking to get all of this stuff. It would be good if she could compile it all into a manageable readable form with a set of succinct recommendations, instead of a whole load of 50 minute sound bites that have your head reeling. But a lot of it takes some explaining – like she advocates eating broccoli sprouts (which I like a lot, more than broccoli), but warns that they are very susceptible to developing E. coli, so you need to be careful, and she has to explain all of that, and suggests freezing them before cooking them or blending them raw into a shake you can drink; and they need to be cut or crushed to produce the active chemical that is the good stuff. It’s all rather involved, and the explanations are complicated.

    No one said biochemistry is easy.


  11. The population history of northeastern Siberia since the Pleistocene.

    Raises a lot of questions. For one thing: “they did not find any population with the affinities to Australo-Melanesian that several research groups have found among some Amazonians. Likely they are hiding somewhere…but the ancient DNA sampling is getting pretty good. We’re missing something.”

    Also suggests some intriguing possibilities about the source populations of West Eurasians and East Eurasians, and why that bifurcation occurred, seemingly very quickly around 40,000 years or so ago.


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