Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Genius of Birds

Clare with her new new summer dress and book

She also has the new Chris Packham book.


Our new mattress is due to be delivered tomorrow, so this may be the last day the cat can place itself in the groove - at least in this particular way.


There's discussion (West Hunter, Gene Expression) about a new genome analysis method (SDS):
" that can detect human adaptation over the past couple of thousand years. And there is some, of course. They found strong signs of selection at lactase and HLA, and in favor of blond hair and blue eyes. This new method (SDS, Singleton Density Score) can also detect signs of polygenic selection, and they found that selection for increased height ‘has driven allele frequency shifts across most of the genome’.

"They found evidence for selection acting on other polygenic traits: favoring increased infant head circumference, increased female hip size, and later sexual maturation in women.

"You can do a million cool things with this method. Since the effective time scale goes inversely with sample size, you could look at evolution in England over the past 1000 years or the past 500. Differencing, over the period 1-1000 AD. Since you can look at polygenic traits, you can see whether the alleles favoring higher IQs have increased or decreased in frequency over various stretches of time. You can see if Greg Clark’s proposed mechanism really happened. You can (soon) tell if creeping Pinkerization is genetic, or partly genetic.

"You could probably find out if the Middle Easterners really have gotten slower, and when it happened.

"Looking at IQ alleles, you could not only show whether the Ashkenazi Jews really are biologically smarter but if so, when it happened, which would give you strong hints as to how it happened."
But there's a lot of stuff out there already on heritability; detailed analyses of just how little personality, intelligence, antisocial behaviour and the like are amenable to environmental interventions.
 - Top 10 Replicated Findings From Behavioral Genetics (h/t SSC)

 - My response to the NYTimes article on school districts, test scores, and income (h/t MR)
This, if believed, would not be good news for liberal opinion; therefore it will not be believed, no matter what the evidence, at a public policy level.

Dr Cochran already made this point.


Various thinkers (Charles Peirce, Aristotle) have distinguished between practical and theoretical beliefs. A practical belief, such as that fire can burn you, is rooted in experience and disbelieving it has real consequences; a theoretical belief such as 'the Earth goes round the Sun' delivers no consequences to disbelievers unless you're a rocket scientist.

Most of the beliefs propagated through formal education are theoretical, and that's why so much liberal nonsense goes unchecked. If you are a well-off journalist living in a pleasant part of the capital, your belief that (for example) a large group of itinerant Roma are deserving immigrants who should be welcomed as a put-upon minority has no practical consequences. They won't be showing up anywhere near you.

Theoretical beliefs become practical when they have real-world consequences. Up to my thirties, I had a lazy, egalitarian political philosophy, in which I was strongly (I thought) opposed to paid medical care. 'No queue jumping!' I said to myself and to others.

Then I had a really bad, painful attack of hemorrhoids (heritability 0.6 - my father also suffered) and found that my company medical scheme would pay for an operation. The wait for NHS treatment would have been months and I would have found it difficult to do my airport-hopping telecoms consultancy work in graded variants of pain.

What did I do?

I considered the matter for just a few hours - I would say for the first time in seriousness - and queue-hopped.

I expect just the same with genetics. No-one will want to hear about the genetics of improved health or cognitive abilities until the genome-engineers offer it to the middle-classes as a real option. And then watch opinion shift in an instant.

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