Friday, February 28, 2014

Gay Germ Hypothesis

JayMan summarizes Greg Cochran’s “Gay Germ” Hypothesis
The case for the gay germ is somewhat indirect, but very strong. Critics often level the charge that there is “no evidence” for Cochran’s hypothesis – i.e., that the offending pathogen has yet to be identified. But the claim that there is “no evidence” isn’t really true; there is in fact plenty of evidence. The facts are certainly consistent with a pathogenic explanation, even if we don’t have the pathogen itself nailed down. But, the most compelling evidence comes in the form of ruling out potential alternative explanations. This itself is a form of evidence. The Sherlock Holmes quote, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” is an excellent guiding principle, and is certainly valid here.
This hypothesis seems extremely implausible to me, but I post it anyway to demonstrate the failure of other hypotheses.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Google uses IQ to hire

Google is famous for hiring people based on IQ tests, but they sure don't like to admit it. NY Times columnist Tom Friedman writes:
LAST June, in an interview with Adam Bryant of The Times, Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google — i.e., the guy in charge of hiring for one of the world’s most successful companies — noted that Google had determined that “G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. ... We found that they don’t predict anything.” ...

“There are five hiring attributes we have across the company,” explained Bock.

“If it’s a technical role, we assess your coding ability, and half the roles in the company are technical roles. For every job, though, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information."
In other words, they hire based on IQ, as Sailer explains at the above link.

It is not only fashionable to deny IQ, people also human rationality. Paul Bloom writes The War on Reason
Scientists and philosophers argue that human beings are little more than puppets of their biochemistry. Here's why they're wrong.

Aristotle’s definition of man as a rational animal has recently taken quite a beating.

Part of the attack comes from neuroscience. Pretty, multicolored fMRI maps ...

Another attack on rationality comes from social psychology. Hundreds of studies now show that factors we’re unaware of influence how we think and act. ...
Some of those factors are genetic, and all human behavioral traits are heritable.

The New Atheists have have own attack on rationality. For the most part, they deny free will, claim that religious people are brainwashed, and assert all sorts of leftist political positions without any reasoned argument.

Update: A new book, The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility, by Gregory Clark, argues:
How much of our fate is tied to the status of our parents and grandparents? How much does this influence our children? More than we wish to believe. While it has been argued that rigid class structures have eroded in favor of greater social equality, The Son Also Rises proves that movement on the social ladder has changed little over eight centuries. ... The bad news is that much of our fate is predictable from lineage.
This has already generated controversy, with the Economist magazine saying it "may not be a racist book, but it certainly traffics in genetic determinism."

Update: Other employers are interested in IQ also. The WSJ now reports:
Stephen Robert Morse was a candidate for a communications job when the recruiter told him to be ready to discuss his SAT score in a coming interview.

Mr. Morse, 28 years old, said he was "shocked" that a potential boss would be interested in the results of a test he took more than a decade earlier. He passed on the opportunity.

Proving the adage that all of life is like high school, plenty of employers still care about a job candidate's SAT score. Consulting firms such as Bain & Co. and McKinsey & Co. and banks like Goldman Sachs Group Inc. ask new college recruits for their scores, while other companies request them even for senior sales and management hires, eliciting scores from job candidates in their 40s and 50s.
The SAT test used to be more of an IQ test, but it was changed out of fear that it was being used as an IQ test.

Update: An LA Times op-ed explains:
First, decades of quantitative research in the field of personnel psychology have shown that across fields of employment, measurements of "general cognitive ability" — which is another way of referring to the old-fashioned concept of intelligence or IQ — are consistently the best tools employers have to predict which new employees will wind up with the highest performance evaluations or the best career paths. We shouldn't rush to assume that Google, with its private data, has suddenly refuted all that work.

How could Google be seeing no correlation between IQ and performance in their company? For the same reason that, say, there is no correlation between height and scoring in pro basketball. The average NBA player is almost 6 feet 7 inches tall, which is taller than 99% of the U.S. adult male population. The NBA selects its players based on height already, and it selects people who are outliers. Those NBA players facing one another are almost all extremely tall, which means factors other than height explain scoring. But put a team of NBA players up against a random bunch of guys, and height will make all the difference.

In the social sciences, this is known as the problem of "range restriction."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Islam is a political system seeking world domination

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh writes:
I have argued that many (though not all) of the things that are condemned as intrusions of Islamic law into American law are actually the applications of traditional American legal principles. Those who believe in equal treatment without regard to religion, I have argued, should extend to Muslims the benefits of those principles just as Christians, Jews and others can take advantage of those principles.

Some, however, have argued that Islam should not be treated the same as those other religions. One line of argument goes so far as to say (in the words of noted televangelist and political figure Pat Robertson) that “Islam is not a religion. It is a political system bent on world domination.”[111]

It’s hard to figure out exactly what the first part of this means. What constitutes a religion for legal purposes can be fuzzy around the edges,[112] but surely Islam — a prominent system of beliefs about God and God’s supposed commands to mankind — must qualify.[113] The argument, I assume, must be that Islam, though it is a religion, is not simply a religion but is also a political ideology and therefore loses its status as a religion for, say, religious accommodation purposes.

But that can’t be right. Many religions, especially many strands of Christianity, are “political system[s]” in the sense that they create an agenda for political action. The conservative Christian political program of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others is one example.[114] The “liberation theology” followed by some liberal Catholics is another.[115]
Yes, it can be right. While some Christians like Robertson are politically active, Christianity is not a political ideology and the mainstream Christian churches avoid politics, except when it directly interferes with their beliefs.
But whatever the difference between the religions, it can’t be that one is a “political system” and the other is not, or that one seeks “world domination” and the other does not. ...

People who want to set up Christianity as an official state religion are protected by the First Amendment.[121] So are people who overtly call for constructing a “theocracy” that “denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”[122]
Volokh appears to know nothing about Islam. The Wikipedia page says:
Mainstream Islamic law does not distinguish between "matters of church" and "matters of state"; the scholars function as both jurists and theologians.
That's right. In Islam, church and state are the same, while Christianity has a 2000 year old history of carefully distinguishing them.

Just look around the world. There are many countries that are officially Christian, like the UK, but they do not seek a Christian world domination. The UK takes in many Moslem immigrants, and makes no effort to convert them to Christianity. On the other hand, there are dozens of Islamic countries around the world, and they all persecute Christians and other non-Moslems. Their leaders, holy books, and centuries of history all teach that Islam in not just a religion, but also a political system and way of life that is to be imposed on the whole society.

Yes, if you look hard enough, you have find an obscure Christian somewhere who advocates a Christian theocracy, and he has the free speech to say so. But theocracy is not a part of the Christian religion, and it never has been. Theocracy is an essential part of Islam as it is practiced by about a billion people in the world.

The First Amendment was adopted by Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Unitarians, and others with a concept of religion based on Christianity. They would probably say that Islam is part religion, and part legal and political system, and that only the religion part deserves religious freedoms.

For another example of a silly attempt to equate Christianity and Islam, see this UK newspaper editorial against female circumcision, aka genital mutilation. It attempts to blame Christianity and Islam equally, and blame men instead of women. As explained here, this was not practiced in any Western Christian countries, until they started taking millions of Moslem immigrants.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Medical prices not available

Health care must be the only business where people are not allowed to know what they are paying for. NPR Radio reports:
Kershner works for a nonprofit called , which is starting to make health care prices publicly available in Colorado. His boss, , says knowing prices can change the whole health care ball game. ...

Colorado is one of eleven states that are starting to make public a lot of health care prices. It's taken years. An "" is the first step in Colorado. It's basically a giant shoebox that aims to collect a copy of every receipt for a health care service in a given state. Since doctors and hospitals generally don't tell people how much services cost beforehand, the best way to figure out the price is to get receipts from the parties that pay the bills: insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare, mostly.

The more such information is made public, Sonn says, the more people will "vote with their feet" and migrate away from high-cost providers.
But there are laws that get in the way:
But there's a glitch. In order to get the kinds of reports Ehrenberger and other health care providers want, they have to include price information from all payers, and one of the biggest is Medicare — it pays about a fifth of all health care bills in Colorado. At the moment, Edie Sonn explains, they cannot use that Medicare data in any of the custom reports they want to sell.
A snippet of the data ProPublica obtained from the federal government about Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit for seniors.

"Current federal law restricts what we can do with that Medicare data," she says. "The only thing you can use their data for is public reporting."
I don't get this. California car mechanics are required to give a written estimate in advance, or they are no right to get paid. Medical providers could do the same.

Only a dishonest business refuses to put its prices on its web site. I am surprised that anyone pays medical bills, when the amounts were never authorized in advance.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

IQ gene discovered

The UK Telegraph reports:
A gene which may make people more intelligent has been discovered by scientists.

Researchers have found that teenagers who had a highly functioning NPTN gene performed better in intelligence tests.

It is thought the NPTN gene indirectly affects how the brain cells communicate and may control the formation of the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the human brain, also known as ‘grey matter.’
It is surprising that there are hardly any results like this. It is known that IQ is heritable, along with several personality and behavior traits. But as far as I know, there is no explanation based on specific genes. This could be a first, but I would wait for confirmation as other claims like this have had to be retracted.

My guess is that those traits are complex combinations of many genes, together with later environmental influences. But the whole idea of IQ genes gets people spooked.

You may have heard of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank, and got the impression that it was some sort of evil Nazi eugenic failed experiment that was shut down after it was exposed. In fact the real name of it was the Repository for Germinal Choice, and its chief innovation was to give the human sperm buyers some choice about what they were getting. They produced over 200 babies, but none from Nobelist sperm.

According to a book review:
But in the end, the themes mesh. Plotz's meetings with employees, consumers and offspring of the repository, sympathetic people on the whole, may have led him to his understated conclusion that the enterprise wasn't so terrible. For one thing, Graham's inspired strategy of providing consumers a choice of the most desirable men possible freed women from the tyranny of early fertility doctors. And it has become standard industry practice; as Plotz says, ''All sperm banks have become eugenic sperm banks.''
That's right, the experiment was a huge success in the sense that it transformed the industry into allowing consumer choice. Apparently the eugenics of personal choice has become acceptable.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Success traits may be heritable

Tiger Mom Amy Chua has a new book getting a lot of publicity, titled The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.

She and her Jewish husband gave this NPR interview:
This is not saying that these groups are better in any way. [at 14:10]
Nonsense. All of her evidence consists of saying that some groups are doing better than other groups, according to various metrics. So she certainly is saying that some groups are better, at least in the ways measured by those metrics.

They kept saying that their book has been misunderstood as being about groups, as it is really about individuals so it is anti-racist. The book absolves itself by saying:
Group generalizations turn into invidious stereotypes when they're false, hateful, or assumed to be true of every group member.
The book just came out, and you can read the NY Times synopsis or review and get the message.

Her Jewish husband says that third-generation Asian-American kids do no better than average American kids, and:
What this does is totally explode the model-minority myth, it shows it's not innate, it shows it's not biological ... [at 7:00]
No, it does not show that. Their third "Triple Package" key to success is impoulse control, and research on The Heritability of Impulse Control shows that it is about 50% heritable.

The other two keys are having a superiority/inferiority complex, like the Jews and Chinese.

Maybe it is unreasonable to expect good social science from this book. The authors are just law professors, so their main training is in making legal arguments for clients, not social science.

The interviewer admits that he and his NPR radio associates were reluctant to allow the book's ideas on the air because it is un-American to look at facts that could have racially divisive implications.

For another view, see this video criticizing a popular museum exhibit on race in America, saying that it has political bias and factual errors.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

USA is neutral on legality of settlements

I was surprised to hear NPR radio say this:
HARRIS: Some activist group in this case means Oxfam International. Oxfam is against doing business of any kind with Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which many countries including the U.S. view as illegal under international law.
I knew that various people are always accusing Israel of illegalities, but had not heard this was the US view. Wikipedia says:
An opinion by a legal adviser to the U.S. Department of State found the settlements contrary to international law in 1978, though no Administration has officially stated so since the Carter Administration. ...

The United States has never voted in favor of any UN Resolution calling the settlements illegal except for Resolution 465 in 1980, and in that case the Carter administration subsequently announced that the vote had been cast in error[50] due to miscommunication ...

In February 1981, Ronald Reagan announced that he didn't believe that Israeli settlements in the West Bank were illegal.
This is out of my expertise. There are solid arguments for legality of the settlements. The USA does not take the position that they are illegal.