Biopolitics

I have said before that no currently popular ideology acknowledges well-established results of behavioral genetics, quantitative genetics, or psychometrics. Or evolutionary psychology.

What if some ideology or political tradition did? what could they do? What problems could they solve, what capabilities would they have?

Various past societies knew a few things along these lines. They knew that there were significant physical and behavioral differences between the sexes, which is forbidden knowledge in modern academia. Some knew that close inbreeding had negative consequences, which knowledge is on its way to the forbidden zone as I speak. Some cultures with wide enough geographical experience had realistic notions of average cognitive differences between populations. Some people had a rough idea about regression to the mean [ in dynasties], and the Ottomans came up with a highly unpleasant solution – the law of fratricide. The Romans, during the Principate, dealt with the same problem through imperial adoption. The Chinese exam system is in part aimed at the same problem.

Every society, then and now, selects for something, but it’s hard to believe that selection pressures were deliberate choices, part of some long-term plan. Many past societies would have understood the notion of deliberately breeding people for certain qualities, but I don’t see much sign that anyone ever actually did it, not least because it would take longer than a human lifetime. Now today we could do a much better job: we have a quantitative theory of selection, buttressed with a detailed understanding of genetics, both routinely used in animal and pant breeding. At the same time all the powers that be plotz at the mere mention of selection on humans. Cause they’re nuts.

At least some past societies avoided the social patterns leading to the nasty dysgenic trends we are experiencing today, but for the most part that is due to the anthropic principle: if they’d done something else you wouldn’t be reading this. Also to between-group competition: if you fuck your self up when others don’t, you may be well be replaced. Which is still the case.

If you were designing an ideology from scratch you could make use of all of these facts – not that thinking about genetics and selection hands you the solution to every problem, but you’d have more strings to your bow. And, off the top of your head, you’d understand certain trends that are behind the mountains of Estcarp, for our current ruling classes : invisible and unthinkable, That Which Must Not Be Named. .

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Neanderthals human?

Razib Khan suggests that the fact that we could and did interbreed with Neanderthals shows that they were really ‘human’, whatever that means. I don’t think that is necessarily the case.

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Sexual selection vs job specialization

Pretty much every species is subject to sexual selection: heritable characteristics that lead to more mates or better mates can be favored by natural selection. Typically, sexual selection favors different strategies in males and females. Generally, males can gain fitness with increased mating opportunities, while females gain more from high-quality mates or mates that confer resources. Since the variance in reproduction is usually greater in males than females, sexual selection is usually stronger in males, although it exists and is significant in both sexes.

Usually, though, males and females of a given species have very similar ways of making a living. A male deer and a female deer both eat grass or arugula or whatever. Sexual selection may drive them to evolve in different directions, but finding something to eat mostly drives them in the same direction.

Humans are an exception. In the long past, men hunted and women gathered. The mix varied: in Arctic regions, men produce almost all the food (while women made and repaired gear, as well as raising children). In groups like the Bushmen, women produced most of the calories, but done rightly you would count more than calories: if most of the local plants had low protein or low-quality protein (wrong amino acid mix), meat from hunting could be important out of proportion to its caloric value.

This has been going for a long time, so there must have been selection for traits that aided provisioning ability in each sex. Those job-related selective pressures probably changed with time. For example, male strength may have become less valuable when the Bushmen developed poison arrows.

I was looking for an intelligent discussion of this question – but I ran into this and couldn’t force myself to read further: ” It should not simply be assumed that the exclusion of women from hunting rests upon “natural” physiological differences. ”

God give me strength.

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Experimental Psychologist wanted

I mentioned this a few years ago: there is reason to suspect that just as an increased pressures of nitrogen has a narcotic effect, a zero-nitrogen breathing mixture [ presumably heliox] might leave you abnormally sober. On oxygen, I’ve felt something like that – anyone have the same experience?

Anyhow, someone is interested in checking this out. So I need an experimental psychologist.

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Dweck as in Wreck

Carol Dweck has won a juicy prize for work on ‘growth mindset’ – the notion that belief that your intelligence is a fixed trait cripples you, while a ‘growth mindset’ allows progress.

Her studies do not replicate, of course, because this idea is false. It’s obvious bullshit. As it turns out, ants can’t move rubber tree plants.

What do ‘grit’, ‘growth mindset’, ‘power posing’, ‘priming’, and ‘stereotype threat’ have in common? As far as I can tell, the more obvious the bullshit, the better the Fools at the Top like it.

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NYT: For all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big

like “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”

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Ancient British Diversity

Some archaeologists apparently think that there was a lot of diversity in Roman Britain, which means black people. There’s zero hard evidence of a single one. Which doesn’t prove that some Nubian with a serious case of wanderlust didn’t end up in Londinium, but it can’t have been common, and possibly it never happened at all. Ancient DNA could settle the question once and for all.

Some of this has been fueled by archaeologist claims of finds of non-local skeletons. North Africans were part of the empire and must have showed up occasionally, but I wouldn’t think in very large numbers. There’s no genetic trace, any more than there is of ancient sub-Saharan African admixture.

A lot of this confusion seems to have originated in a craniometric analysis program, FORDISC. Which is apparently a total piece of crap. This may have increased its popularity: a program that generates entertainingly wrong results will inevitably produce many interesting and publishable results. Note to readers: trust, but verify.

There’s a hot-off-the-internet paper by Alexander Platt and Jody Hey claiming that recent sub-Saharan African gene flow (~400 years ago) account for 1.2% of the UK gene pool. What rot. SSA genes are as different from Europeans as people get – easy to identify. Yet no-one else has seen this. That recent, there would be lots of linkage disequilibrium – it’s not there. Moreover, only a historical illiterate could ever have made this claim. There was no influx of Africans in the 1600s: it never happened. By the 1700s there were some free blacks in England, especially in London, but they don’t seem to have done very well. London was a pesthole for everyone (average life expectancy of 29) but those free blacks did worse – poverty and pneumonia, I think. Anyhow, if this secret black immigration had really happened you’d see gradients: high in the home counties, low in the Outer Isles, etc.

I am trying to think of a good excuse for Alexander Platt and Jody Hey. So far I can’t. Reader’s suggestions are welcome.

This reminds of the paper a couple of years ago that assumed that ancient Egypt was black and was only Natufianized by the Arab conquest. You know, there must be a lot of people attending university and accumulating vast debts that actually believe the flaming radioactive crap taught there. Partly this may be because some universities look impressive: I was talking with some people at Princeton this summer and it was clearly trying to be imposing. Perhaps if we re-sited those dubious departments, removed them from the poison ivy halls of academe, students would develop appropriate levels of skepticism.

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