Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

March 15, 2019

Two phases of Brown Pundits

Filed under: Analytics,Blog — Razib Khan @ 1:03 pm

No idea what happened in Feb of 2018. But that’s when engagement/traffic really went up to a new plateau.

February 11, 2019

On the difficulties of cross-cultural communication

Filed under: Blog,Comments — Razib Khan @ 3:34 am

I speak English. But I speak a certain type of American English. I’m brown. But my culture is American.

On a blog like this, these structural problems give rise to particular issues. I actually saw it on the old Sepia Mutiny blog first. Indian English is a distinct dialect not only in accent and lexicon but also in idiosyncrasies in its idioms.

When we speak and write to the audience of this weblog, Indian and American (or British) audiences may actually infer different implications of the things we say. The easiest way to illustrate this is the use of the word “secularist.” The word is rich and pregnant with connotation and association for the Indian audience, but not so much for the American one, where it denotes something clear, distinct, and delimited. For the Indian audience, I avoid using the word “secularist” and “secular”, because I don’t want to get involved in a stupid argument that I have a marginal investment in.

I really can’t fix this issue of semiotics and linguistics. Sometimes confusions will ensue, and I will point out the reason.

But, there are two problems with some Indian commenters of this weblog that I want to highlight:

  1. Throwing up a “wall of text” in lieu of a concise argument.
  2. Obvious bad-faith posturing.

On my posts, if you engage in this behavior I may just delete your comments without warning. Those of you who have engaged in #2, I know exactly who you are, and I may delete your comments without warning too. Talking with a friend who is Indian but not raised in the United States, it could simply be that this behavior is taken for granted as normal by Indians (Hindu nationalist repurposing of SJW talking points without any shame suggests to me that this may be the case). That’s fine. But not on my posts.

I am not going to manage the posts of others. So perhaps my posts will become deserts of commentary. I am at peace with that.

July 22, 2018

Why moderating this weblog has become more difficult

Filed under: Blog — Razib Khan @ 11:36 pm

This is still a modest weblog. But engagement is high (average time on the website is 4+ minutes). And the proportion of Indian readers getting is higher and higher. At some point in 2019, conservatively, I think this weblog will have more Indian readers than American.

That is a problem for me because I have a hard time understanding a lot of the references or anticipating triggers. So flame-wars are getting common as I’m not sanitizing much….

June 2, 2018

Results of 2018 Reader Survey

Filed under: Blog,Reader Survey — Razib Khan @ 3:31 pm

There are currently 104 people who have responded in various degrees to the reader survey.

If I limit to South Asians only, the modal reader is an Indian national, though not overwhelmingly so:

In terms of religious identity, Hindus are modal, but those who are not religiously identified are very common (I selected this latter option despite my “Muslim name” and familial cultural background, as I am not not part of any Muslim community and my children have no affinity or affiliation with that identity):

South Asian readers of this weblog are very skeptical of God:

The communal background is what you’d expect:


About 20% of South Asian respondents identify as Hindu nationalists, while average self-reported socioeconomic status is high.

About half of the readers of this weblog are European/white. They are more irreligious and more religiously skeptical than the South Asians. Their self-reported socioeconomic status is somewhat lower.

21 respondents said they were Hindu. Only 1 was a convinced theist:

Among the Muslim respondents 4 out of 6 seem to identify as agnostic or atheist.

Of the self-identified Hindus, 8 out of 21 were Hindu nationalists. The caste breakdown of those who said they were Hindu indicates that South Asians who do not identify with Hinduism are less elite on the varna ladder:

Overall, the sex ratio is one notable aspect of this blog’s core readership: 95% are male.

About 50% of the traffic on this website is from American IPs. But 40% is from Indian IPs.

May 30, 2018

The once and future “Brown Pundits”

Filed under: Blog,Brown Pundits — Razib Khan @ 4:18 pm
Country Users Rank % Rank
 China 746,662,194 1 53.20% 109
 India 391,292,631 2 29.55% 143
 United States 245,436,423 3 76.18% 54
 Brazil 123,927,230 4 59.68% 90
 Japan 117,528,631 5 92.00% 15
 Russia 110,003,284 6 76.41% 53

The “Brown Pundits” blog was formed on a lark about 7 years ago. The Sepia Munity weblog was clearly winding down, and people like Zach and I didn’t feel too well represented. What I mean is that weblog in its latter years reflected a certain activist Left-wing South Asian American perspective which naturally didn’t include all Diaspora South Asians. In some ways this was a shift away from its original years, when it was more politically eclectic, with some center-Right and libertarian voices, to go along with conventional center-Left viewpoints.

Two of the co-founders I knew personally before the blog was founded, and we had a small e-list where we discussed cultural and social issues. To a great extent, I think the Sepia Mutiny blog reflected a decade in transition for South Asian brown Americans. Most of the contributors were of an age where they would be routinely asked where “they were really from,” and all of us understood that we were seen to be a novel and exotic contribution to the American landscape.

Things have changed a lot since then. Most particularly in 2008, Barack Hussein Obama was elected president of the United States. Where black Americans rejoined in the election of a black man, I suspect many Americans of Asian background noted his exotic background and name. If a man with such a foreign name could become head of state of the United States could we be such aliens after all?

I do understand that some people feel that the election of Donald J. Trump has rendered us aliens in our own land again. Overall, I disagree. In a Spenglerian sense, I see the election of Trump as a crying in the wilderness of an old America which is feeling less at the center of our culture, as well as the more general atavisms triggered by globalization.

South Asian Americans, which mostly means Indian Americans, have a place and a role in American culture that can’t be denied. Most Indian Americans have followed a “Jewish model”, aligning with the political and social Left, especially a small activist class.

A framework to understand the trajectory of young 2nd and later generation South Asian Americans that I outlined over 10 years ago I think is a useful model. Roughly, there are three broad classes of South Asian Americans (with overlap):

  • Assimilators. Unlike some groups, South Asian Americans are physically distinct enough that assimilation doesn’t involve “passing” into another identity. Rather, assimilation involves intermarriage and socialization with a broad set of Americans and a very loose attachment to distinctively South Asian cultural markers ad community institutions. Most of the children of assimilators will be mixed, and so will not have a singular South Asian identity in an authentic way.
  • South Asian Americans. This group is perhaps equivalent to Indian identities in the West Indies, which have become distinct from Old World self-conceptions while retaining a sense of South Asianness. In some ways, I think this was a core group for the Sepia Mutiny blog. These are the sort of people who might marry other Indian Americans, but these marriages are often cross-regional, cross-caste, and even cross-religion. To give a concrete example, I know that two of the original Sepia Mutiny bloggers married and had children with someone whose family was from a different ethnoreligious tradition from their own. The sort of marriage which would raise eyebrows in South Asia, but wouldn’t be viewed that strange in the American context.
  • Finally, traditionalists. There are American-born and raised Patels who marry other Patels. There are Dawoodi Bohra Muslims who marry other Dawoodi Bohra Muslims. This group would be most recognizable to people from South Asia.

But to me, that’s the past. I think it’s done. I don’t see Brown Pundits contributing to that discussion or cultural space, for various reasons (the primary one being most that none of the contributors are of the second class). Rather, I’ve started to get interested in Brown Pundits in large part because it seems that Asia, including South Asia, is getting to be a bigger and bigger part of the discussion. There are now more Indians browsing the internet than Americans!

Yes, it’s mostly on mobile phones, but most Americans were on dial-up until the mid-2000s.

May 29, 2018

Brown Pundits 2018 Reader Survey

Filed under: Blog,Survey — Razib Khan @ 5:38 pm

I created a SurveyMonkey poll. Check it out….

(after you are done, you can check out the results)

Create your own user feedback survey

April 16, 2018

Brown Pundits, big in India!

Filed under: Blog,India — Razib Khan @ 9:49 pm

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll reiterate something I’ve noticed recently: this website is getting bigger and bigger in India. More precisely, though traffic is increasing in the USA, traffic is increasing from Indian IPs even faster.

Here is the breakdown for the last month:

Country % Users
United States 35%
India 29%
UK 6%
Canada 5%
Pakistan 5%
Australia 2%
Germany 1%
France 1%
UAE 1%
Bangladesh 1%

In terms of where the traffic is coming from, the map above shows the cities.

I’m of two feelings about this.

  1. This is going to cause issues because of cultural differences. Educated Indians speak English, but norms and idioms differ. In general, my personal strategy is to hegemonically impose American norms.
  2. Over the past few years I have become bearish on the United States, and bullish on India and China. I’m very curious what people in Asia think, because I think the Asian future is coming at us more quickly than I’d anticipated just a few years ago (American decline, rather than Asian ascension being a cause).

April 2, 2018

Where readers come from….

Filed under: Blog — Razib Khan @ 1:30 pm

A little surprised.

January 12, 2018

From the content to the creator

Filed under: Blog — Razib Khan @ 9:24 pm

The science fiction writer S. M. Stirling has a problem with his series centered around the Domination alternative history because readers often confuse the narrative of the alternative history for the author’s endorsement of its arc and philosophy. You see, the novels and stories depict a world where a quasi-Nazi ghoulishly Nietzschean race termed the Draka eventually rise to conquer the whole world. Similarly, the fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson has had problems with readers who are curious why he has sympathetic atheist characters, despite he himself being a devout Mormon.

Obviously, some writers focus on what they know and have experienced. Jhumpa Lahiri comes to mind. She has said that she has no plans to delve beyond the purview of her West Bengali story arcs. But other writers like to explore viewpoints which are startlingly novel and at variance with those of themselves. This is probably particularly true of speculative fiction. Part of being human is the ability to do this with varying levels of fluency.

It is important in any case not to confuse the writer with what they are writing about.

Some of the same applies to what I talk about on this blog. This is clear and obvious when I’m considering the selection coefficient of a novel allele. But what about the Iranian regime?

  1. I am not personally a fan of the regime.
  2. I also believe it is important to describe it accurately and in its own terms.

Some of the latter is for instrumental reasons: if you are to defeat the enemy you must understand it. Even in the early 9/11 years, this was clear, but many people resisted this attempt, as emotions were quite raw. Islamist radicals were viewed in almost metaphysical terms, as forces of nature, evil essences of the universe. The reality though is that they are embodied creatures with needs, wants, and delusions, just like any other.

Ultimately I’m generally pretty frank with my views on a topic if I have them and want to express them. I’m not being cryptic. In some cases, I don’t want to interject my own personal views (which most can infer or know in any case). In other cases, I don’t have a strong opinion.

December 19, 2017

A living fossil, back to GNXP.COM

Filed under: Blog — Razib Khan @ 4:29 pm

Just a note. I am moving back to the original Gene Expression domain. If you consume my content through my Twitter auto feed (not my main Twitter account) or my Total Content Feed, it’s pretty irrelevant, since all the places I post content to push to them (I still post to Brown Pundits and Secular Right now and then). If you use bookmarks, here is the page:


There’s not much to say about why I’m moving. My “side-hustle” energies have shifted to DNA Geeks, while I’m cranking out content for Insitome as well. Speaking of which, our second podcast is up for The Insight.

You can get it at iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play right now (just search “The Insight” and “Insitome”). Submitted to Spotify too! (though to be honest, I have a paid subscription to Spotify and it seems weird to listen to podcasts through that app).

We’ve got two Neanderthal-related conversations being edited right now, including one where we have John Hawks on as a guest. And we have plenty of ideas for what we’ll be talking about come 2017.

One thing we’ve floated is a “Journey of Man Redux.” Basically, it’s a review of the topics that Spencer Wells, my boss, covered in his early 2000s book The Journey of Man. What stood the test of time? What new things do we now know?

Finally, moving back to the old domain has me thinking about blogging and my own location in the ecosystem. In the 2000s someone like me wasn’t exceptional. Generalist bloggers with a few primary foci. Today, in 2017, I think that’s pretty rare. A lot of what would have been blogging in the 2000s is now on Twitter or Facebook. Many bloggers have become highly professionalized, and where blogging stops and journalism begins is very blurred (many now are journalists!).

And yet I also feel that outside of a few fields, such as economics, independent academic blogging has also withered. They either got swallowed up by a journal or field-specific publication or, their purview is very narrow and specific to the output of their scholarship. There’s a place for that. But that naturally narrows the space of topics which they explore.

As for what I’m doing, I still don’t really know. There isn’t a “purpose” or “end” to all of this. This is just something I’ve been doing since 2002, and I’ll probably keep doing it until professional or family obligations (or both) get in the way.

The main thing I would observe is that I suspect that we might see platform disaggregation soon. I suspect it will be technology driven. The dominant trend of acquiring information through social media has already removed the personal relationship between producers and consumers of content.

Addendum: I’ll probably do a URL redirection for the archives here, but I’ve now copied over the whole of everything from 2002 to 2017 on GNXP.COM except for this one post.

September 29, 2017

Why Brown Pundits?

Filed under: Blog — Razib Khan @ 8:45 pm

This post is in response to Zach and Zimriel.

Why Brown Pundits? Why this blog? And why do I post here, as opposed to Gene Expression or Secular Right, or various other venues which I have access to?

To a great extent the origins of this blog for me go back to the early 2000s, when I began to have some discussions with a few South Asian friends/readers through carbon copy emails. Two of those individuals later went on to co-found the Sepia Munity weblog.

Growing up in an overwhelmingly white America my understanding of South Asians was parochial and superficial, or at least academic, until I entered adulthood. At that point I met various South Asian Americans, and formed some friendships of some durability, and began to see how they viewed the world. How their experiences differed from mine, and how they were similar.

There was, and is, a lot of diversity. But I didn’t see too much of my own perspective being represented. Books such as the Karma Of Brown Folk reflected what I think the most dominant and “hip” element of American South Asian subculture, which is culturally left-wing, and aspires toward what has become bracketed under the term “intersectional.”

I’m not saying that these people are the majority. Just that they vocal, and active, and the ones who are likely to agitate and organize around a South Asian American identity (as opposed to local particularistic identities, such as being a Tamil Brahmin, or a more general identity, such as being a liberal Democrat or conservative Republican).

This blog is a way to get some more heterodox and diverse views out there. For example, I am a libertarian leaning conservative who is an atheist, whose children are “white presenting” as they would say today. I am Bengali by birth and upbringing, but it is unlikely that my descendants will be Bengali in anything but distant lineage. That’s a statement of fact, and neither positive or negative. It probably influences my negative attitude toward fashionable anti-white poses struck by gentry left-wing American South Asians (poses struck in solidarity with other “PoC”), as anti-white prejudice impacts my family directly.

As for what I post here vs. what I post elsewhere: if I’m not aiming toward generality of inference or lesson I’ll post them here. A South Asian illustration of a general principle can be posted elsewhere, but sometimes issues and questions exhibit strong South Asian particularities, and they belong here.


Why Brown Pundits?

Filed under: Blog — Razib Khan @ 8:45 pm

This post is in response to Zach and Zimriel.

Why Brown Pundits? Why this blog? And why do I post here, as opposed to Gene Expression or Secular Right, or various other venues which I have access to?

To a great extent the origins of this blog for me go back to the early 2000s, when I began to have some discussions with a few South Asian friends/readers through carbon copy emails. Two of those individuals later went on to co-found the Sepia Munity weblog.

Growing up in an overwhelmingly white America my understanding of South Asians was parochial and superficial, or at least academic, until I entered adulthood. At that point I met various South Asian Americans, and formed some friendships of some durability, and began to see how they viewed the world. How their experiences differed from mine, and how they were similar.

There was, and is, a lot of diversity. But I didn’t see too much of my own perspective being represented. Books such as the Karma Of Brown Folk reflected what I think the most dominant and “hip” element of American South Asian subculture, which is culturally left-wing, and aspires toward what has become bracketed under the term “intersectional.”

I’m not saying that these people are the majority. Just that they vocal, and active, and the ones who are likely to agitate and organize around a South Asian American identity (as opposed to local particularistic identities, such as being a Tamil Brahmin, or a more general identity, such as being a liberal Democrat or conservative Republican).

This blog is a way to get some more heterodox and diverse views out there. For example, I am a libertarian leaning conservative who is an atheist, whose children are “white presenting” as they would say today. I am Bengali by birth and upbringing, but it is unlikely that my descendants will be Bengali in anything but distant lineage. That’s a statement of fact, and neither positive or negative. It probably influences my negative attitude toward fashionable anti-white poses struck by gentry left-wing American South Asians (poses struck in solidarity with other “PoC”), as anti-white prejudice impacts my family directly.

As for what I post here vs. what I post elsewhere: if I’m not aiming toward generality of inference or lesson I’ll post them here. A South Asian illustration of a general principle can be posted elsewhere, but sometimes issues and questions exhibit strong South Asian particularities, and they belong here.


August 16, 2017

Blogging on an island as opposed to an archipelago

Filed under: Blog — Razib Khan @ 10:17 pm

On a Twitter conversation it came up yesterday that a lot of people know each other from blogging in the 2000s. It was a different world back then, and the pond was much smaller. To my knowledge Derek Lowe is the only continuously active science blogger who has been at this longer than me (there are some, such as Dave Appell, who began blogging before me, but stopped for a while before starting up again). I’ve seen a lot of changes. Some good. Some perhaps not so good.

One major aspect is that blogging is no longer a conversation with many nodes. Rather, it’s a platform for individuals or networks to speak to their particular audience. I’m obviously part of this. I don’t subscribe to many blogs in my RSS feed. Basically I use Twitter to find blog posts. There are a few blogs I subscribe to, like Why Evolution Is True, but mostly I just wait until content shows up in my timeline.

And I’m not the only one. I have Google Analytics that go back very far. Below are referrals by site for equivalent periods in 2007, 2012, and 2017. I’ve standardized the top referral source (in pageviews) to 100.

2017, June – Aug
1 twitter 100
2 mobile facebook 38
3 unz.com 36
4 facebook 33
5 feedly.com 20
6 slatestarcodex.com 19
7 razib.com 11
8 brownpundits.com 9
9 eurogenes.blogspot.com 9
10 vox.com 6
2012, June – Aug
1 reddit.com 100
2 stumbleupon.com 60
3 facebook.com 49
4 scienceblogs.com 34
5 gnxp.com 31
6 fark.com 31
7 pulsenews 21
8 twitter 13
9 digg.com 12
10 isteve.blogspot.com 10
2007, June – Aug
1 digg.com 100
2 reddit.com 38
3 slashdot.org 20
4 isteve.com 19
5 stumbleupon.com 17
6 scienceblogs.com 11
7 dilbertblog.typepad.com 6
8 instapundit.com 4
9 del.icio.us 4
10 buzzfeed.com 3

I removed stuff like organic Google search, which I get a fair amount of. Additionally, I bolded all the sites where I am somehow involved in driving the traffic. So in 2017 I bolded Twitter because I have a big Twitter footprint that drives a lot of the traffic. I did not bold Facebook because I don’t use Facebook much to promote this website. Other people are sharing my posts. I separated mobile and non-mobile Facebook to show you that in 2017 mobile really matters.

You can see that over the years I’ve had to drive more and more of the traffic. I never posted my posts to Reddit. But for Twitter I push all my own content.

June 5, 2017

Open Thread, 06/05/2017

Filed under: Blog,Open Thread — Razib Khan @ 11:08 am

Just a plug for Elements of Evolutionary Genetics by Charlesworth & Charlesworth. These are two great evolutionary geneticists, and we’re lucky to have a “core dump” from them on hand.

The curious thing is that there is so much science that is tacit and implicit, that the passing of each generation of scholars means that hidden reaches of knowledge are passing away. This is the flip side of the idea of progress being made through the death of older scholars and the acceptance of novel (and more right) paradigms.

Both Charlesworths are authors on a new paper (along with Nick Barton) in The Proceedings of the Royal Society, The sources of adaptive variation. Here’s the abstract:

The role of natural selection in the evolution of adaptive phenotypes has undergone constant probing by evolutionary biologists, employing both theoretical and empirical approaches. As Darwin noted, natural selection can act together with other processes, including random changes in the frequencies of phenotypic differences that are not under strong selection, and changes in the environment, which may reflect evolutionary changes in the organisms themselves. As understanding of genetics developed after 1900, the new genetic discoveries were incorporated into evolutionary biology. The resulting general principles were summarized by Julian Huxley in his 1942 book Evolution: the modern synthesis. Here, we examine how recent advances in genetics, developmental biology and molecular biology, including epigenetics, relate to today’s understanding of the evolution of adaptations. We illustrate how careful genetic studies have repeatedly shown that apparently puzzling results in a wide diversity of organisms involve processes that are consistent with neo-Darwinism. They do not support important roles in adaptation for processes such as directed mutation or the inheritance of acquired characters, and therefore no radical revision of our understanding of the mechanism of adaptive evolution is needed.

Another riposte to the EES. Entirely unsurprising that these authors and this venue would offer criticism to a reframing of the field of evolutionary biology. But it gets to the heart of the reality that this is going to be an argument that will be resolved through publication of new papers, not books or long popular science articles. The footprint of the EES in evolutionary biology popular science field is heavier than within evolutionary biology itself.

The prominent medical genomicist Dan MacArthur stated yesterday:

Not to be churlish, but let me clarify judging by the numbers of people Dan followed there were conservatives and libertarians he followed, he just didn’t, and doesn’t, know who they are. Also, there were several people he followed with center-right or libertarian views as a point of fact. I know because because I’m open about my right-wing views, and these people feel and felt comfortable telling me that they don’t agree with the vocal Left-liberalism which is pervasive in the political atmosphere on science twitter. Though most science twitter people don’t post much about politics, if they do, a substantial proportion are “social justice” oriented. That’s tolerable for most people because most scientists are on the Left side of the political spectrum.

My tendency to post right-wing political stuff into the feeds of scientists is annoying for many (or as some would say “problematic), but I don’t care. I know I speak for a substantial minority in the aggregate, and in some cases the majority (in terms of the latter, what I mean is that though most scientists are liberal, most are not on that far Left, though they may fear being attacked by the far Left and so are careful not to enter into any public dissent when that contingent starts to get a little out of control).

In a curious inversion with the norm I guess, my Twitter timeline is balanced politically. If anything, it’s more liberal than not. I don’t know what it would be to be in a political silo. I hear it feels good.

Detecting polygenic adaptation in admixture graphs. Educational attainment and unibrows. Yeah. One thing: “An open question in human evolution is the importance of polygenic adaptation.” This is literally true, but I think it is pretty obvious that the latest work is suggesting there has been a lot of it.

Widespread signatures of negative selection in the genetic architecture of human complex traits.

The Genomic Health Of Ancient Hominins.

May 14, 2017

Open Thread, 05/14/2017

Filed under: Blog,Open Thread — Razib Khan @ 2:31 pm

I’ve been working on some issues related to the website. Of most relevance for readers, https:// formatting should now no longer be broken. Also, please mention it if you get a 503 in the comments. Some people probably still get them, but they should be rare (I can track hourly hits, and there hasn’t been a systemwide drop in traffic since April 22nd; basically I have a script running which pings the site for 503s and reboots Varnish if it gets them).

I also know that the MySQL database locks up sometimes. There is a script to restart it but looks like it can take at least one minute. I had one that ran more consistently but it doesn’t seem to be working.

There has only been one update on my newsletter, but if the site goes down it’s probably best just to sign up for that if you care (when it goes down for a while people email me, which is fine, but responding to emails can get tedious).

When people ask me about textbooks on population genetics, I can rattle off many because I own many and have a sense of all of them. In contrast, for evolution the only text I have is Futumya’s. Does anyone have experience with the Ridley or Bergstrom and Dugatkin texts?

Science is by its nature subject to silos. That’s unfortunate, but it’s true. Evolutionary geneticists don’t really know too much more about paleontology than the average person. I have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on human population genomics, and perhaps mammalian population genomics, but outside of that not so much.

Speaking of Lee Dugatkin, his new book, How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) is out. I don’t have time to read it now, but as I have said he’s a good writer.

As some of you may know I’m taking a one week sabbatical from social media (I’ll be back on Thursday), which consists of Twitter and Facebook. That means that there are things that need to be said which need an outlet. So I put up a post on Henry Wallace over at Secular Right. An op-ed in The New York Times by Wallace’s grandson hailing is grandfather’s prophetic prediction of American fascism doesn’t mention that he was notorious for not understanding the threat of Communism in his time (and literally being deceived by Potemkin villages in 1944).Also, Brown Pundits might make a comeback as a group blog soon (also, I’m not missing it to be honest).

If you subscribe to my total content RSS feed I do try and push stuff on other blogs/publications into that.

I may start writing again outside of the purviews of this weblog. But, I think more and more it is critical to control your own means of production. Much of the web-only content at high profile sites like The New Republic from the 2000s is not accessible because of reconstitutions of their archives.

And of course, relying on Twitter or YouTube as sole distribution channels has problems. Twitter as a solo-play is I think probably not going to work. I think it could work if they kept their ambitions and aims in check, but the combination of the public stock markets and the egos of their executives means that they’ll swing for the fences. Probably they will get acquired in the next 5 years, after which who knows what the new owners will do? Just because the name Twitter will be around in 2030 doesn’t mean you’ll recognize it (go check out MySpace some time).

As far YouTube is concerned, I think for now YouTube’s content is safe, but people who are trying to make a living off it have been whipsawed by changes in policies in advertising revenues. Diversification is key.

Over at Secular Right Dain has a post up, Anti-SJW Sentiment in China. The full article is fascinating, The curious rise of the ‘white left’ as a Chinese internet insult. I will say that amoral atomization often gives way to moral revivals, so don’t expect China’s John Galt moment to last too long.

A note on comments. I notice that some people say things like “I don’t want to presume….” That’s good. One of the most annoying things about having a blog with a reasonable amount of content is that socially deficient individuals think they can start drawing conclusions about your life or situation from what you make visible. For most of this blog’s history I actually hid much of my non-blog life. When my daughter was born and I wanted to talk about her genetics obviously I had to put a bit more into the public. But it’s always good not to infer too much about people who you read. They tell you on a need-to-know basis unless their lives are their brand (here’s an example, an anonymous regular commenter once left comments talking about aspects of my personal life I’d rather not have in comments; this person remains carefully anonymous themselves. This is the kind of shit I never forget and why I have some contempt for many, though not all, commenters).

A problem as a person who is not liberal on the internet that I encounter is “lib-splaining.” Basically, since I am not liberal and they are liberal (or to the Left of center for Europeans), the prior assumption is that they can explain to me how evolution, genetics, Islam, or many aspects of history work. If they are not stupid, they immediately realize the error of their ways, though the Dunning-Kruger effect is something I confront in that the duller the person the more difficult it is to explain to them that I’m not as ignorant as they might think (this is one of the things that annoys me about Twitter).

A major dynamic that many people of any ideology seem to have is a narrowness of view that occludes many major patterns for me. One problem is that few people know much history beyond a narrow subset of regions or periods. For the stereotypical conservative one might encounter assertions such as “America is the greatest nation in the history of the world” (what does that even mean?). The reasons offered for this tend to be…well, problematic. E.g., America is always on the side of freedom. Arguably, even if tendentiously, this was not even true of the Founding! (the revolutionary side was diverse, I would suggest that the New England partisans were people who we moderns would easily identify with, but the grandees of the Tidewater less so).

For liberals the problem tends to crop up when they are speaking cross-culturally. It usually turns out that these people only know a shallow sketch of even Western history, and no non-Western history, so they don’t have any basis to make any comparisons. Part of this is the abomination which is post-colonial theory, which has replaced the need for facts with a broad-overarching Manichean vision of the world.

One place I wish everyone would start out with is to study the history of China. There are several reasons why this is important. First, much of the human past is a history of China. One can not understand the history of the world without the history of China. One can not understand Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, without understanding China. Second, one can not understanding today’s China without understanding the China of the past, and one can not understand the 21st century without understanding China.

I will make some concrete recommendations. In sequence of order chronologically, The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han, China between Empires: The Northern and Southern Dynasties, China’s Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty, The Age of Confucian Rule: The Song Transformation of China, The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, and China’s Last Empire: The Great Qing. I think all these books are both scholarly, and accessible to the lay audience. The Han dynasty surveys usually distill what you need to know from the earlier periods, so that is more purely academic (and the Shang dynasty is really the purview of archeology and not history).

Some of you may want a gentler introduction. John Keay’s China: A History would fit the bill. But please don’t stop at Keay. It is more a primer, and won’t give you much depth. John King Fairbanks’ China: A New History is good for depth, but it focuses way too much on recent events. I have a soft spot for A History of Chinese Civilization by Jaques Gernet, but it’s not that easy to always find a copy that is not priced outrageously (I read it as an undergrad via a library copy).

It is hard to ignore when one reads Chinese history that there are both clear similarities and obvious differences in relation to the West. For example, the analogy between the Kangxi Emperor and Marcus Aurelius jumps out at you, despite 1,500 years of space and the geographical-cultural chasm (one could argue that Marcus Aurelius is a bit idealized, while we know a great deal about the Kangxi Emperor from documents). A contrast is the role of religion in Chinese history. Though religion is important, the dominant recurring theme of subjugation of religious passions and concerns to that of public order and life was a revelation to Enlightenment intellectuals, who saw in China a “better way.”

Which brings me to a thought, would readers be interested in a “book club” format? I’ve had friends do this before on their blogs, and it’s worked out. But we’d need enough buy in. I’d put up a post once a week, perhaps every Sunday, and others would jump in.

Accumulation And Functional Architecture Of Deleterious Genetic Variants During The Extinction Of Wrangel Island Mammoths. If this was going to happen, it was going to happen to this population.

Blatant hypocrisy: Milo Yiannopouos now part of demonstration to cancel a graduation speaker. The fundamental issue, which I alluded to earlier this week, is that it may not be that the center can hold. Once the far Left began utilizing tools of speech suppression, which has been the norm throughout human history, it wasn’t going to be limited to them. Old fashioned liberals, generally older white men, are exactly correct about what will happen. It doesn’t matter, because norm-based group are so segregated the campus Left won’t back down and put away the ticking time bombs it’s been blackmailing the administration of universities with. Perhaps they know that everyone is going to jump off the cliff together, but it doesn’t matter.

Inferring Genetic Interactions From Comparative Fitness Data. There were some. Interactions that is.

One may have noticed that I’ve switched over to linking to biorxiv more and more. I also am forgetting to say “preprint” instead of “paper.” I think this presages a shift toward post-publication review. The future is finally almost here.

Phenotypic heterogeneity promotes adaptive evolution.

Also, Scireader seems back up.

This is the week you should be reading the Bell Beaker blog.

Coalescent theory. Do you know what it is? If not, you probably should if you are interested in population genetics.

May 7, 2017

Open Thread, May 7th 2017

Filed under: Blog,Open Thread — Razib Khan @ 7:18 pm

I read some of Wendy Doniger’s translation of the The Rig Veda. It’s about ~10% of the hymns in the whole work, but the author claims they’re the more important and evocative ones. There is a reasonable amount of commentary as well.

Two things so far. First, little similarities between Indo-European mythologies I was not aware of, such as the relationship between Indra and his father and Zeus and his father. Second, the Vedic Aryans were truly barbarians. I do not say that in a pejorative sense, but simply descriptive in that these are people who are outside of the gates of civilization. They were most def most total bros.

Reading some of Richard Haier’s The Neuroscience of Intelligence (I got a review copy, though I forgot I’d gotten a Kindle edition earlier). It is a short work, and though I haven’t gotten much through it it reminds me somewhat of Stuart Ritchie’s Intelligence: All that Matters. The main difference is that there is more of a focus on neuroscience.

Psychometrics, like the cognitive anthropology of religion, is a field I take some interest in, but mostly I’ve gotten what I want out of it and do not follow it closely anymore. That being said, I thought I would bring up an issue in relation to intelligence tests.

It is common to assert among many, including many biologists I know, that intelligence testing only measures how well you can take a test. This is false. It is well known that intelligence testing robustly predicts later academic performance to a reasonable degree of correlation. Of course a correlation of 0.50 can be highly significant, and also have lots of exceptions. But that is not a rebuttal, because no psychometrician would assert that their instrument is a perfect predictor, in large part because they also agree that academic performance has other major dimensions, such as conscientiousness, which are not accounted for by these tests.

Probably the major issue that highly educated people do not account for is range restriction. The issue is simple, but often overlooked. One of the professors I TAed for once explained to a class his graduate school did a survey and the correspondence between GRE score and grades to later scientific achievement was low to nonexistent. I asked him what university he went to. He said Stanford, and I immediately pointed out to him that Stanford graduate students are not a typical sample. He grasped what I was getting at because as a biologist he understands range restriction in other contexts, and we did not engage in a debate on this issue any further.

An interesting chart from the book, derived from the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, illustrates that standardized tests are highly predictive, even when you move many sigmas from the mean. Below are results for mathematically gifted 13 year olds and their outcomes as a function of their result on the math SAT at that age:

Remember that a math score of 450 for a 13 year old is not that bad. So the kids in the 700 range are truly exceptional.

To me the regional differences in voting in France are fascinating. I suppose I’ll get the raw data and look at some point myself. More rural de-industrialized areas went for Le Pen, as did the far south, which has long had tensions with its Muslim population (and where the pied-noir population tended to settle; randomly I just found out that the actress Eva Green has a Sephardic Jewish pied-noir mother).

For a while several readers have complained that the archives are incomplete. There are two reasons for this.

One reason is that they were from RSS feeds and so in some cases the source website did not show the whole post. This leads to a cutting off of most of the content. The second reason is that about six months ago I mistakenly removed several years of posts on the aggregator website, so there was a major gap between 2013 and later.

Thankfully Ron Unz’s IT guy had formatted a version of the websites that put them into MySQL files. Because of different versions of WordPress it has taken about a week tinkering here and there, but the full archives are now online (see to the right). Please note that some of the older ones are going to be wonky because of CMS changes (e.g., going from blogger to movable type to blogger to WordPress).

Aside from reader demand one reason I set the archives up is that my archives are pretty valuable for Google. The archives went live overnight and Google has already been hitting them as Analytics tells me that organic search has shot way up.

This is important. I am frankly disturbed how social media drives much of the traffic to this website. Facebook is pretty opaque; you don’t know who the referral is from and what they’re saying. Twitter, I’m not sure Twitter will be around much longer (I think most of the Twitter referral is at least from me).The days of getting links from other blogs are pretty much gone from what I can tell (and to be honest, I don’t link to other blogs much because I don’t read other blogs much anymore)

Google is in many ways a monopoly, but it’s another pipeline to get traffic and have some visibility. More is better.

In the near future I think a lot of ‘media’ is going to disaggregate. We’ve seen many prominent bloggers become the media or join the media. That’s fine, but at some point in the next decade or so I wonder if the media landscape will thin out even more than it has today.

Scientific blogging is in many ways on a downswing. Many scientists go straight to Twitter. There are problems with this. In relation to the epistasis paper in  Science I mentioned earlier, here is a bloggy behind the scenes from the first author. The authors tweets are much harder to follow and may not be around years from now.

You have probably heard about the controversy around Rebeca Tuvel, This Is What a Modern-Day Witch Hunt Looks Like. The problem is with the “academics.” The rank-and-file students are much more tolerant. And it’s not all of the academia. Frankly it is those fields populated by style, posing, and signaling, rather than substance. I think this will take care of itself. These people burn witches for fun and profit. Once it’s less fun, and there’s no profit, they’ll move on.

Is there any reason the public funds should support this behavior:

Others went further and supported Tuvel in private while actually attacking her in public. In private messages, these people apologized for what she must be going through, while in public they fanned the flames of hatred and bile on social media. The question is, why did so many scholars, especially feminists, express one sentiment behind closed doors and another out in the open? Why were so many others afraid to say anything in public?

The worst thing for Tuvel is that she now truly knows what craven cretins her colleagues and peers are.

Just curious if readers are finding many 503’s? I think I finally tweaked the varnish restart script appropriately so that this doesn’t happen much, though I’m worried about comments.

Just a quick shout out to those who are using Amazon link to buy stuff. Looks like more people are using this option. There was one Christmas someone bought an expensive gaming computer and I got $480 total (not just because of the computer). I wouldn’t mind if revenues got that high!

King James asserted that “No Bishop, No King.” I think this was wrong. But what follows from what? That is the question. What if we all agree that truth is not the goal, but social harmony is. What follows from that?  I have some ideas. More for later….

Hope the Wonder Woman movie isn’t ruined by DC’s kiss of death.

May 5, 2017

BaneCat is back!

Filed under: BaneCat,Blog,Culture — Razib Khan @ 9:39 pm

May 1, 2017

Open Thread, 05/01/2017

Filed under: Blog,Open Thread — Razib Khan @ 6:24 pm

The survey suggests that 14% of my readers (or at least 14% of the 425 people who responded to the survey) consider themselves geneticists in some fashion. Above you see all the types of geneticists read this weblog. Remember that people can, and did, check more than one box. Not surprisingly, 75% of people who said they are “genomicists” also stated they were “computational biologists.”

In terms of knowledge, only 50% of geneticists who read this weblog could recall Hamilton’s Rule or the rate of substitution in a neutral model. Somewhat surprising to me, but only one out of three geneticists reading consider themselves a population geneticist so it is not entirely unreasonable.

If you have read me for a long time you know I’m a fan of alternative history, and alternative history fiction (some of you have followed me from USENET from those groups).

Though I think Harry Turtldove has gotten a little hackish recently (too much quantity, not enough quality), his older stuff is good. Agent of Byzantium in particular is good, not taking the easy way out of later books, which basically dress up events from our timeline in somewhat different garb. For the mainstream science fiction reader Years of Rice and Salt is probably what they are most familiar with, though I think it’s a little overrated. The Uchronia website has a good list of books and works, but I thought I’d pass something else along I found on Twitter, Clash of Eagles, which is volume 1 of a trilogy. Too bad I don’t have much time to read fiction…it looks like there’s some really good work being produced today.

A question in the comments below, isn’t 2007’s Principles of Population Genetics a bit on the old side? I don’t think this is a big issue. But if you want a more recent book, 2013’s An Introduction to Population Genetics: Theory and Applications is more what you are looking for I guess. Here is the publisher introduction:

“A text for a one-semester course in population genetics. It introduces students to classical population genetics (in terms of allele and haplotype frequencies) and modern population genetics (in terms of coalescent theory). It presents numerous applications of population genetic methods to practical problems, including testing for natural selection, detecting genetic hitchhiking and inferring the history of populations.

Basically the reason this book exists, in my opinion, is that older works don’t explore in much detail genomic applications of population genetic theory. And that’s the main reason you would be unsatisfied with an older work, because it doesn’t grapple with genome-wide data, because that was not a major concern when population genetics was being developed as a field. Even a book that was published in 2007 just isn’t really going to be up to date when it comes to genomics, because 2017 is so much further along.

But ultimately genomics isn’t really necessary to understand population genetics. Kimura and Crow’s Introduction to Population Genetics Theory, written in the late 1960s, would be more than sufficient I would think (though I do have to say that An Introduction to Population Genetics is very good about integrating a coalescent framework into one’s thinking, which is obviously not the case with older texts).

I think I figured out the way to resolve the 503 error problem (more precisely, I figured out how to set up the script that checks for 503 errors and restarts varnish if it’s giving 503 errors). I’m also working on restoring the full archives of my content (have to get the MySQL tables working in my database for this weblog).

Lee Alan Dugatkin’s How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution is out. I’ve enjoyed three of the author’s books, The Imitation Factor: Evolution Beyond The Gene, The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness, and Game Theory and Animal Behavior. He’s a great writer, and an accomplished scientist, so I’m sure How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) will be good.

King James asserted “No bishop, no king.” I would say, “no science, no liberal democracy.” Not that I think science is the root cause of liberal democracy, I think the two emerge from a particular view of the world and how to engage it and talk about it. The decline in scientific discourse then won’t cause the decline of liberal democracy, but will signal the diminishing of the fuel which fires both. More on that later.

I said this on Twitter because I think this might be a serious idea:

People are saying I should read something “out of the norm.” I used to do that more often in the past. For example, I read The World Beyond the Hill – Science Fiction and the Quest for Transcendence. Though I guess it was literary analysis and history of a genre which I found interesting. But what specific books should I read? I’ll pick one and get back to you with my opinions….

The Evolution Of Covert Signaling. Rule-of-thumb, if it has Richard McElreath on the author list, it’s worth reading.

My request for readers to buy things from Amazon through the links on this website has been modestly successful. I didn’t make a “record” amount of money, but I did notice more “random” things than usual, which suggests to me that I pushed more revenue through that avenue than would be otherwise expected.

If winning is all that matters, then there are no rules in the game.

Now and then I wonder why I’m still blogging all these years later. I don’t make much income off it. If I wanted to be “famous” I would have been much more careful about what I said over the years. Part of it is that I get some interesting comments from readers who aren’t stupid, unlike most humans, who are basically the literal definition of vacuous. But part of it is that I don’t quite see anyone else saying some of the things I say or occupying the same space. So here I am. For now. If someone else is occupying the same space…, tell me and I’ll perhaps retire.

April 26, 2017

Why do you read me and who are you

Filed under: Blog,Unlurk — Razib Khan @ 8:20 pm

The first time I tried to get through Scott Atran’s In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion, I gave up because it seemed so pretentious and impenetrable. My curiosity was piqued by the fact that the subtitle alluded to evolution, and I was interested in evolutionary psychology. But though In Gods We Trust does talk somewhat about the evolutionary origins of religion, fundamentally it’s a work of cognitive anthropology.

Because I did not know about this field, its lexicon struck me as totally opaque, and there seemed something almost Post-Modern and French about Atran’s prose. Actually though this perception made some sense, Atran, Dan Sperber, Pascal Boyer, and Larry Hirschfeld actually came up with the naturalistic paradigm in anthropology while meeting at Sperber’s home in Paris in the early 1980s.

I did end up reading In Gods We Trust front to back a year after I initially tackled it, along with some other books on religion from this perspective (e.g., Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer). Up until 2007 or so I would write extensively on cognitive anthropology and religion, but I got what I wanted to in terms of insight after period and do not write much on this topic (in 2006 I actually got invited to a conference with a press pass on the topic of religion and evolution, my interests had become so well known in this domain).

So I was surprised to see this comment:

I’ll give it a go. I tried starting with Principles of Population Genetics but found it heavy going (Ive only been reading here for a few years and mainly got into it for the posts about religion, but the genetics stuff is quite interesting)

I suppose I still write about religion enough that that might hook some people. Though honestly I don’t have anything original to say…it’s just that much of mainstream commentary strikes me as totally dumb and uninformed.

But that prompts me. Consider this an “unlurk” thread. Two questions:

1) Why do you read me? (and implicitly, what should I write about more?)

2) Tell me anything about yourself that you think would be of interest to me or other readers (some of you are not anonymous, so I know those who are lawyers in Colorado or engineers in Australia; that sort of thing)

April 23, 2017

LaTeX notes

Filed under: Blog,LaTeX — Razib Khan @ 11:40 pm

I recently installed a plugin that will allow me to render LaTeX. Mostly this is because I’ve long avoided writing out equations because it’s awkward in HTML, and it gets unintelligible quickly. This will allow me to explore population genetics in its “natural language” a little easier.

But I just noticed on my RSS feed view the LaTeX is not rendering for whatever reason. Where there should be equations or LaTeX rendered text there is a blank space. This is unfortunate, but I don’t know what to do about it. So just click through if you want the equations. If you are willing to “hum through” those portions it shouldn’t matter. The equations aren’t going to take up much of any post.

Also, Donald Knuth is a god. Probably he’ll think that’s blasphemous because he’s a Lutheran and all, but The Art of Computer Programming beats the Bible in my book!

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