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

May 31, 2011

Hold the praise (re: comments)

Filed under: Administration,Comments — Razib Khan @ 11:11 pm

So over the past few months there has been an issue where manual comment spam is getting more sophisticated. The strategy is to leave an anodyne comment with really vague references to how the post is “great” and “very informative” or something like that. The English would usually pass a grammar check, but there’s a strangeness that suggests to me that the commenter isn’t a native speaker, and quite often they link back to some spam site. Obviously I don’t post these and tag them as spam, but it’s kind of becoming harder & harder to avoid false positives while also keeping a check on false negatives.

What I’m asking is that if you want to leave a short comment to the effect of “thanks, great post!”, please think twice. The spammers have ruined this sort of polite and human interaction at this point, as I’m often suspicious now that someone who is expressing heartfelt praise is trying to get me to approve the comment so that they can get a little PageRank.I’m prompted to put this post up mostly because I’ve had some “near misses” where I assumed that an individual was leaving comment spam, when they were just being ...

Farrokh Bulsara rockin’ it

Filed under: Culture,Freddie Mercury — Razib Khan @ 10:59 pm

The Rights of Woman

Filed under: Sex — Razib Khan @ 10:53 pm

All the talk about the ladies, I poked around The World Values Survey. I was going to post the results in relation to “women” related questions, but I’ll leave it to you. I will say this:

- Muslim and East Asian societies are the least forthrightly supportive of female political and social equality

- There doesn’t seem to be much difference between Muslims and non-Muslims in conservative non-Western nations (e.g., Egypt or Ghana)

- There’s a huge difference between Muslims and other groups in European nations

Amongst the believers

Filed under: creationism — Razib Khan @ 9:17 pm

I don’t post Creationist related stuff often, but Harun Yahya always brings out the funny in people. So check this out, In France, a Muslim offensive against evolution. First, some standard dullness:

Dressed in a traditional black robe decorated with rhinestones and a white veil that she wears “only” when she comes to the mosque, Maroua admits that she has always wondered about “the dinosaurs and the origin of man…but at school, it cannot be refuted: we’re taught that man descended from monkeys. At home and in the Koran, [we’re taught] that we descended from Adam and Eve, and that God created all living beings.”

Ali Sadun Engin, Yahya’s representative in the current tour of French mosques, seems to have convinced the young girl. “I find his explanations logical,” she says. The proof for creationism is demonstrated with some perfunctory presentations of fossils, including bear, crocodile, and tortoise skulls, and can be summarized in a few brief sentences: “If fish left the water to walk, if dinosaurs were transformed into birds, then we should discover fossils of these beings in transition. However this is not the case. Science thus shows one sole truth: creation as we know it from the ...

Now that’s how it’s done!

Filed under: Sexism — Razib Khan @ 8:40 pm

Woman takes attacker’s penis to cop:

A 40-year-old Bangladeshi woman cut off a man’s penis during an alleged attempted rape and took it to a police station as evidence, police in a remote part of Bangladesh said on Monday. The woman, a married mother of three, was attacked while she was sleeping in her shanty in Jhalakathi district, some 200 kilometres (120 miles) south of Dhaka, on Saturday night, officers said.

Mediterranean men on the move

ResearchBlogging.orgSeriously, sometimes history matches fiction a lot more than we’d have expected, or wished. In the early 2000s the Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes observed a pattern of discordance between the spatial distribution of male mediated ancestry on the nonrecombinant Y chromosome (NRY) and female mediated ancestry in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). To explains this he offered a somewhat sensationalist narrative to the press about possible repeated instances of male genocide against lineage groups who lost in conflicts.

Here is a portion of the book of Numbers in the Bible:

15 – And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?

16 – Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.

17 – Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

18 – But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

Then there is the rape of the Sabine women. The ethnogenesis of the mestizo and mulatto populations of ...

A lighter shade of brown

Filed under: Culture,Identity — Razib Khan @ 12:23 pm

Kalki Koechlin:

Kalki was born to French parents in a small village in Pondicherry. Her parents had come to India 38 years ago and settled there after they fell in love with the country. Her parents are devotees of Sri Aurobindo.

As an American I really get aggravated at some of the exclusionary “race popery” which occasionally crops up in the comments of Sepia Mutiny. For example: “Sujay Tale looks part East Asian.” Obviously there’s a normative expectation for what a brown person looks like, but hard & fast rules, even implicitly, are not something that I’d ever get behind.

She speaks English with an “Indian”* accent and Hindi with a Tamil accent:

* No idea if it sounds like a Tamil Indian accent.

Ban them! (including ancestry analysis)

Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Tests Neither Accurate in Their Predictions nor Beneficial to Individuals, Study Suggests:

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests give inaccurate predictions of disease risks and many European geneticists believe that some of them should be banned, the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics heard May 31….

Here’s the abstract for the talk which argued that DTC companies don’t give the best disease risk estimates:

Objective: Direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies predict risks of common complex diseases on the basis of genetic markers. Given the low number of markers involved and their small effect sizes, it is unclear whether high-risk groups can be identified. We investigated the risk distributions generated by two DTC companies for 8 diseases.

Methods: We simulated genotype data for 100,000 individuals based on published genotype frequencies. Predicted risks were obtained using the formulas and risk data provided by the companies.

Results: The table presents observed and trimmed ranges of predicted risks. The two companies used different formulas to calculate risks. One company predicted risks higher than 100% for 5 out of 8 diseases, which for AMD concerned 1 in 200 individuals. Observed ranges were smaller for the second company, except for Type 1 Diabetes. Predicted risks higher than 50% ...

The mess that is mouse

Recently an evolutionary geneticist told me that his colleagues who worked with mice really didn’t have their stuff together. Actually, his language was a touch more colorful than that. But the gist of the argument seemed plausible enough to me. I tend to avoid reading papers using the mouse as a model organism in genetics because I recall getting confused by the pedigrees and various strain acronyms and abbreviations (nonstandard acronyms and abbreviations have also been a problem for me whenever I try to read developmental genetics). If I want to look at the genetics of a mammal besides a human being I often like to focus on dogs. The breeds of dogs actually mean something to me. There’s only so many skinned mouse hides I want to stare at.

ResearchBlogging.orgWith all that said there is a huge scientific complex devoted to the mouse. If the house of mouse is a mess, then someone needs to do cleaning at some point. A new paper in Nature Genetics starts the process, using SNPs and variable intensity oligonucleotides (VINOs) to assess the relationships between distinct ...

May 30, 2011

Hope before the fall

Filed under: Jason Kidd,NBA,Sports — Razib Khan @ 10:08 pm

I think it is pretty irrational to bet on the Mavericks against the Heat in the NBA Finals. And since my Celtics lost I haven’t been following what’s going on closely, but I hope Jason Kidd gets his ring. He’s had some ups and downs, but I do remember being amazed by him when he was a freshman at Cal (though watching tape of Magic it was clear that he had the same panache when it came to assists):

Incredible human journeys (and more)

Filed under: Human Evolution,Human Genetics,Incredible Human Journeys — Razib Khan @ 8:29 pm

A reader pointed out that the BBC series The Incredible Human Journey is online on YouTube thanks to the WhyEvolutionIsTrue channel. You can find all the episodes here. I’ve embedded episode 1 below. For what it’s worth I am no longer am confident that we should start these sorts of narratives like the presenter does, by suggesting that “a handful of African families could become a whole world of people.” I suspect that the emergence of modern humans is not so neat & tidy.

The rise and fall of societies in Greenland

Filed under: Climate change,Greenland,History — Razib Khan @ 8:10 pm

I have no idea when the paper will be on PNAS‘s website, so I thought I would at least point to the ScienceDaily release, Climate Played Big Role in Vikings’ Disappearance from Greenland:

Greenland’s early Viking settlers were subjected to rapidly changing climate. Temperatures plunged several degrees in a span of decades, according to research from Brown University. A reconstruction of 5,600 years of climate history from lakes near the Norse settlement in western Greenland also shows how climate affected the Dorset and Saqqaq cultures…..

The Dorset were the non-European population which preceded the Inuit, and the Saqqaq preceded them. Last year Nature published a paper based on 350,000 SNPs from an ancient Saqqaq male which showed that he was related to modern Siberian peoples, and not to the later Inuit. That’s at least a very clear argument for why we should be very cautious about extrapolating from the genetic patterns of the present back to the past (and to be fair, poking around Google Books it seems that the archaeologists were skeptical of continuity between Saqqaq and Dorset cultures on empirical grounds, even if their theoretical disposition tended toward establishing an evolutionary relationship between the two).

One major issue ...

Egypt: illiberal democracy?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Razib Khan @ 7:39 pm

Egypt’s Christians Fear Violence as Changes Embolden Islamists:

The headline screamed from a venerable liberal newspaper: Coptic Christians had abducted a young Muslim and tattooed her with a cross. “Copts kidnap Raghada!”

“They tied me up with ropes, beat me with shoes, shaved my hair,” Raghada Salem Abdel Fattah, 19, declared, “and forced me to read Christian psalms!”

Like many similar stories proliferating here since the revolution, Ms. Abdel Fattah’s kidnapping could not be confirmed. But for members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, the sensational headline — from a respected publisher, no less — served to validate their fear that the Egyptian revolution had made their country less tolerant and more dangerous for religious minorities….


1) Liberals and Christians know that there is simply no mass support for the revocation of at least a nominal tie between the state and the Muslim religion. That is actually not that great of an issue in this in my opinion; there are connections between religion & state in much of Europe as well as in places like Cambodia. The problem is that in Muslim majority societies the role of Islam tends to be heavy-handed, and the arm of the state becomes a tool for theocrats and populists against minorities.

2) The Coptic minority themselves are conservative and don’t necessarily want anything like a ‘uniform civil code.’ Rather, they want their own religious norms more equitably enforced, and a more “fair go” as far as the Egyptian de facto millet system is implemented. In other words, only a tiny minority of Egyptians seem to want to force through a change so that individuals are not identified with a particular sectarian community.

3) This section seems deceptive:

The most common sparks for sectarian violence, however, come from Egyptian laws dating from the end of the colonial era. One imposes stricter regulations on building churches than on mosques. Christians often look to get around the restrictions by constructing “community centers” with altars and steeples — sometimes provoking Muslim accusations of deceit and Christian charges of discrimination.

When you tell a Western audience that something dates to the colonial era you imply that this was a division or injustice imposed from the outside, by Western powers. That is not the case here. It was normal in the Muslim world that dhimmis faced such restrictions, and colonial powers simply codified and accepted the terms and conditions which had existed prior to their arrival.

’tis a far far better thing that they do….

Filed under: Inbreeding — Razib Khan @ 7:16 pm

Pakistani microcephalic

In response to my recent posts on inbreeding, a friend who is an academic human geneticist observed:

My sense from the papers I read is that the human genetics community owes much of its continued success to Muslim inbreeding. Inshallah, they’ll keep it up.

Who needs unethical breeding experiments? Pakistan Muslims will perform the experiments naturally and call them godly!

Rape in Norway

Filed under: Uncategorized — Razib Khan @ 4:50 pm

Jump to 1:35 for the section relevant to readers of this weblog.

Honestly, with statistics like that I’m not sure that I’d be comfortable going to Oslo looking the way I do. Even assuming some skew in the reporting of rape, the statistics are overwhelming. The vast majority of brown and black men in Oslo are not rapists, but the vast majority of rapists in Oslo seem to be brown and black men. One thing that is not stated in the video, but seems likely, is that the fact that ethnic Norwegian women are the targets of sexual assault and rape in these statistics is probably an artifact of the reality that women in non-white communities in Norway are far less likely to report being raped.

A conflict of visions

Filed under: Culture,Multiculturalism — Razib Khan @ 4:43 pm

In a post below where I allude to a religious riot on the part of Sikhs in the UK, a commenter observes:

I am in no way excusing the Sikhs here for what happened, especially in regards to the damage to the center but British Sikhs as a group in the UK have delinquency and crime levels on par with the white British last I checked so it’s not like British Sikhs as a whole are disproportionately criminal.

This brings up the “problem of minorities,” and how we need to disaggregate the issues. Consider the British Pakistanis and British Afro-Carribean communities. Both of these communities have problems correlated with lower socioeconomic status. But the two communities exhibit very different “threats” to the British order, at least potentially. The Afro-Carribean community intermarries a great deal with the majority population, while the Pakistani community less so. To a great extent the difficulties of the Afro-Carribean community can be attributed to racial issues as well as the general problems of the British lower middle class as it transitions to a knowledge-based global economy. The problem with Pakistanis is similar, but there are also different dimensions.

To my knowledge black nationalism among Afro-Carribeans is very weak in the UK, as reflected in the extremely high intermarriage rates. There are problems with the community in terms of social pathologies like crime and destabilized family units, but these are acknowledged to be problems which must be overcome. The difference with British Muslims is that some of them present a different positive vision of the Good Society, at variance with of the majority of Britons.

Some of the same is evident among the Sikhs of Britain. They may not be explicitly oppositional to the British majority by and large as a minority of British Muslims are, but many of them espouse values which are very alien to the modern British mainstream. Here is a quote from about 5 years back:

The sold-out run of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play, drama Behzti, or Dishonour, which depicts murder and rape scenes taking place in a Sikh temple, has been cancelled after violent protests by Sikhs in Birmingham, England. The play will not be shown again. Welcoming the decision, a representative from a local Sikh temple, Mohan Singh, chastised the theatre for not heeding the warnings of Sikh leaders. He contended that free speech was not at issue. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham is quoted as saying, “Such a deliberate, even if fictional, violation of the sacred place of the Sikh religion demeans the sacred places of every religion.”

Mohan Singh, from the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in south Birmingham, also welcomed the decision, but said it had come a week too late.

“Free speech can go so far. Maybe 5,000 people would have seen this play over the run,” he said.

“Are you going to upset 600,000 thousands Sikhs in Britain and maybe 20 million outside the UK for that?”

There are plenty of similar quotes in regards to free speech which came out of that episode. Singh’s argument is totally coherent, and is a “good fit” with the norms in much of the world in regards to religious sensitivity in speech. But, it is somewhat out of step with contemporary Western norms, though not earlier Western norms. A violent communal response to speech which offends religious sensibility is an Islamic and South Asian norm. It is not viewed as deviant or criminal in these societies, but an appropriate communal response to offense.

This is a conflict of visions or values. The main problem I see in the modern West is that the ideology of multiculturalism has pushed back to the implicit background the values which characterize the Western world as it is today. Many non-Westerners, or those who identify with non-Western societies, have no such hang-ups. They are proud of African or Asian values, or wish to aim for an “Islamic society.” The most vocal champions of singular Western values are actually cultural conservatives, further discouraging liberal Westerners from espousing a positive moral vision of society (as opposed to a laundry list of social goods).

A public service to inbred brown people

Filed under: Uncategorized — Razib Khan @ 3:29 pm

One generation of out-breeding can “mask” most of the deleterious gene copies you carry. So don’t get down that you exhibit a lot of runs-of-homozygosity, just consider going outside of the family for fun!

P.S. South Indian Hindus should doing the Uncle-niece marriage thing. That’s 2 X worse than first cousin marriages. Just so this doesn’t get turned into a Muslim thing.


Filed under: Bigotry — Razib Khan @ 3:25 pm

Over at Talk Islam thabet put up an interesting pointer to Richard Dawkins’ hostility toward Islam, which prompted a reader to ask whether Dawkins was an Islamophobe. thabet’s clarification was spot on:

Agreed. But I don’t think he holds a special animus against ‘Muslims’. You can be sure he has as much hatred against Catholics (not in the news enough) or religious Jews (too small a group in the UK).

I think he is a stupid man when not working in his own domain.

Dawkins famously has a knee-jerk repulsions. The fact that he has regularly been accused of being an “Islamophobe” shows how stupid the term is being used in execution, as Dawkins is also strongly anti-Catholic of much longer standing (I was in the room once when he was giving a talk and kept dropping gratuitous anti-Catholic comments). The term “anti-Semite” is also stupid in terms of its execution.

The reality is that a full-throated criticism of the way of life of Hasidic Jews is going to seem to appeal to anti-Semitic tropes, because anti-Semitism has a partial root in the fact that separationist Jewish life is deeply alienated from the Western mainstream, and always has been. This explains why liberal assimilationist Jews in the Reform movement often engaged in rhetoric which seems to be patently anti-Semitic when taken out of context.

Sikhs behaving badly

Filed under: Religion,Savage,Sikhs — Razib Khan @ 12:25 pm

CCTV checked after dispute at Sikh cultural centre:

Up to 200 people went in the building in Dudley on Saturday angry that meat and alcohol was being served, which they feel is against the religion.

It is understood they were there for five hours until managers agreed to ban the supply of meat and alcohol.

A man arrested on suspicion of violent disorder was released on police bail.

Police said “significant damage” was caused to the centre.

“Inbreeding” is Islamophobic?

Filed under: Genetics,Inbreeding,Incest — Razib Khan @ 12:21 pm

So apparently expressing thoughts which are the natural result of over a century of biological science is now prejudice:

Professor Steve Jones, from University College London, said the common practice in Islamic communities for cousins to marry each other increased the risk of birth defects.

‘There may be some evidence that cousins marrying one another can be harmful,’ he told an audience at the Hay Festival.

Studies have shown that 55 per cent of British Pakistanis are married to first cousins – and in Bradford, this rises to 75 per cent.

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, which promotes the image of Muslims in Britain, said: ‘I know many Muslims who have married their cousins and none of them have had a problem with their children.
‘Obviously, we don’t want any children to be born disabled who don’t need to be born disabled, so I would advise genetic screening before first cousins marry.

‘But I find Steve Jones’s comments unworthy of a professor. Using language like “inbreeding” to describe cousins marrying is completely inappropriate and further demonises Muslims.’

First, Steve Jones’ pussyfooted. There isn’t any qualification about this. You can find straightforward calculations of the difference in recessive disease risk in terms of odds as a function of inbreeding and basal population risk (the rule of thumb is that the rarer a recessive disease is in the general population, the more it will be concentrated in inbred lineages). This isn’t speculation, but long established science, with a particular relevance to medical genetics and animal breeding.

Second, Mohammed Shafiq is probably lying. Yes, there have been some reports about diseases of inbreeding being problematic in the British Muslim community, but more importantly the Gulf Arab countries are funding a lot of biomedical research on helping infants who exhibit signs of these diseases. It isn’t as if Muslims aren’t unaware of these issues, and in places like the Gulf where there’s money they’re trying to alleviate some of the downsides. Many stupid Muslims assume that there is something to do with blood group incompatibilities, but unless the leaders are morons they have to know this is an issue (Shafiq acknowledges the problems by emphasizing the utility of genetic screening).

Third, the problem is not first cousin marriage, but repeated marriages within a lineage. In other words, a custom of first cousin marriage tends to foster the emergence of lineage networks which are highly inbred. Far beyond the level of relatedness typical for most first cousins (who share two grandparents in common).

Finally, there are probably many issues with being inbred which don’t show up on genetic screens. Doctors are focusing on diseases, but people who are inbred and don’t manifest a recessive disease, are probably “less fit” all things equal. First cousin marriage docks 5 I.Q. points from expectation last I checked.

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