Friday, January 31, 2014

We non-Africans are part Neanderthal

For decades we have been told that anatomically modern humans emerged from Africa about 50k to 100k years ago, and that there has been no human evolution since. But there has been overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the latest being this:
Neanderthals died out long ago, but their genes live on in us. Scientists studying human chromosomes say they've discovered a surprising amount of Neanderthal DNA in our genes. And these aren't just random fragments; they help shape what we look like today, including our hair and skin.

These genes crept into our DNA tens of thousands of years ago, during occasional sexual encounters between Neanderthals and human ancestors who lived in Europe at the time. They show up today in their descendants, people of European and Asian descent.

The snippets that come from Neanderthals can be identified because a few years ago, scientists were able to extract DNA from Neanderthal remains and read out their genetic blueprint.

A startling 20 percent of Neanderthal genes live on in us today, according to a published Wednesday in Science magazine. Researchers found that out by combing through the genes of more than 600 living people.
By "our genes", NPR radio means the genes of non-Africans. The NY Times made a similar mistake.

The out-of-Africa folks are always telling us that all humans are the same, while the scientific evidence is always pointing to variation among humans. Many have trouble accepting the variation:
continuing on from the other day, jamie bartlett and timothy stanley are flat-out wrong that human biodiversity (hbd) is “neo-fascist” “bad science.” human biodiversity is simply the diversity found among and between human populations that has a biological basis.
Steven Pinker is one of those academic leftists who reluctantly accepts biological differences, but announces:
Behavior = Genes + Environment
He merely points to technical difficulties in giving precise definitions to Genes and Environment. But he cannot dispute that behavior is some complex combination of nature and nuture. While no one has figured out how individual genes affect behavior, there is strong evidence that psychometrics are heritable. The heritability of behavior traits is typically about 50%, with the rest usually assumed to be environmental but maybe just random.

Update: John Hawks explains Multiregional vs. Out of Africa in 2005, and comments in 2010 that recent DNA evidence shows Multiregional evolution lives! Wikipedia says that Out Of Africa is the most widely accepted theory, with the main rival being Multiregional origin of modern humans. I have a feeling that the Out Of Africa folks will never admit to being wrong.

Update: The LA Times reported:
Mating between Neanderthals and the ancestors of Europeans and East Asians gave our forebears important evolutionary advantages but may have created a lot of sterile males, wiping out much of that primitive DNA, new genetic studies suggest.

The comparison of Neanderthal and modern human genomes, published online Wednesday in the journals Nature and Science, identified specific sequences of altered DNA that both Neanderthals and several hundred modern Europeans and Asians had in common.
This is misleading. The DNA comparison proves that Neanderthals are among the ancestors of Europeans. The first sentence is written as if the Neanderthals and European ancestors were two different groups. Then it goes on to mention "primitive DNA", whatever that is.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Silicon Valley CEOs against competition

I am surprised that this case has not gotten more publicity:
Between approximately 2005 and 2009, Defendants Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, Lucasfilm, and Pixar allegedly engaged in an “overarching conspiracy” to eliminate competition among Defendants for skilled labor. The conspiracy consisted of an interconnected web of express bilateral agreements among Defendants to abstain from actively soliciting each other’s employees. Plaintiffs allege that each agreement involved a company under the control of Steve Jobs (Co-Founder, Former Chairman, and Former CEO of Apple) and/or a company that shared at least one director with Apple’s Board of Directors. Defendants memorialized these nearly identical agreements in CEO-to-CEO emails and other documents, including “Do Not Call” lists, thereby putting each Defendant’s employees off-limits to other Defendants. Each bilateral agreement applied to all employees of a given pair of Defendants. These agreements were not limited by geography, job function, product group, or time period. Nor were they related to any specific business or other collaboration between Defendants. ...

What is stunning is all the exchanges among top executives. The filing quotes numerous e-mails among Jobs, Sergey Brin, Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen, and other Silicon Valley heavy-hitters that talk openly about the agreement and various threats when a member to an agreement falls out of line.
I was a student at Princeton when the university officials openly bragged about various policies designed to reduce competition with other Ivy League colleges.

The above companies located in the Silicon Valley area largely because it is so easy to poach employees from other companies.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Billions of years of climate change

President Barack Obama said in the 2014 SOTU:
Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air. The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.
The fact is that the Earth's climate has been changing for billions of years. Obama sounds scientifically illiterate when he says "Climate change is a fact.", as if that were the meaningful outcome of a scientific debate.

He is like those who define evolution as change in the history of the universe, or generational variation in DNA, then proudly assert that evolution is a fact.

The speech had nothing about nuclear power, the only practical carbon-free large-scale power technology.

If our children's children complain about atmospheric carbon, they will ask why we encouraged China and India to develop fossil fuel based economies. Those are the countries that are increasing their carbon emissions.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Obama has not advanced stem cell medicine

Four years ago I posted The stem cell hoax, showing that Pres. Obama had not significantly expanded stem cell research over what Pres. G.W. Bush allowed. Now, the Obama administration has only approved one clinical trial for an embryonic stem cell therapy, and that has been abandoned.

Wikipedia says:
President Bush announced, on August 9, 2001 that federal funds, for the first time, would be made available for hESC [human embryonic stem cell] research.
Because of the development of non-embryonic pluripotent stem cells, it is nor clear that the controversial embryonic stem cells will ever be useful.

Supposedly we were losing embryonic stem cell research to overseas scientists, but much of that foreign research has been tainted with fraud, and is of dubious value.

For years, all the so-called experts told us that Bush was anti-science, and Obama pro-science, and that the proof was going to be in miracle stem cell cures. All those people are quiet now, as they were proven wrong.

Update: Another stem cell fraud.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

900 year old stereotypes

From Ethnic Stereotyping in Twelfth-Century Paris:
the English were drunks and tail-bearers, the French arrogant, weak and effeminate, the Germans furious, with disgusting manners, the Normans vain and boastful, the Poitevins traitors and adventurers. The Burgundians were reputed to be vulgar and stupid. They reproached the Bretons for being frivolous and fickle, often teasing them about Arthur’s death. They called the Lombards greedy, malicious and cowardly; the Romans seditious, violent and avaricious; the Sicilians tyrannical and cruel; the Brabanters bloodthirsty, arsonists, brigands and rapists; the Flemish self-indulgent, rich, gluttonous, and weak and soft as butter.
Wow. Funny. No word on how accurate these stereotypes were.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The movie Her is boring

I am surprised by all the praise for the new movie Her, considering that it is a dull two-hour movie about a man talking to his pocket computer. It is yet another story about an AI bot that is likable at first, but ends up misbehaving. That idea has probably been done in the movies 100 times.

The hero writes letters for a living, so I was expecting him to use the 1000s of letters to train the bot to understand what he likes and does not like. That would explain how the bot could be uniquely customized to his personality, and know how to make him happy. Loss of the bot could be genuinely upsetting to him if he had personally invested many weeks teaching the bot what he likes and does not like in his letters.

But in the movie, the bot is not customized to him at all. Hardly at all, as he just initializes it with his name and a couple of other facts. The bot chooses a name, but the name is not based on his likes or interests at all. Nothing about her is, and for all we know, the bot is essentially the same program that is shipped to all the other customers.

When the bot goes bad, the hero takes it as a personal betrayal, but for all we know, it is just a system bug that will be corrected with the next update. I guess the movie is trying to tell us that the man should not have taken the bot so seriously, and human connections are better. Or maybe the opposite, as all the human relationships in the movie are cold, sterile, boring, and broken.

I am not saying the movie is bad, but if you are looking for something thought-provoking about artificial intelligence, there are many better AI movies.

I was likewise surprised as so much praise for the Brad Pitt zombie movie, when so many other movies have much better zombies.

Update: For comparison, see this video promotion for the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet with Robby the Robot.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why some people do not donate organs

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne writes:
Only about 45 percent of adults in the U.S. — nearly 109 million people — are organ donors, a figure that donation and transplant experts say seems tragically low when the public’s attention is riveted on the lack of organs for a child such as Sarah. ...

My theory, which is mine, is that this reluctance is based largely on a religious fear that if they take out an organ when you die, you’ll show up in heaven without a kidney or a liver!
I doubt it, as Christians seem to donate more than other religions.

My theory is not even mentioned by him or his commenters. The donors cannot be lawfully paid in the USA. Dick Cheney probably paid $200k for his heart transplant surgery, but not a penny went to the man who supplied the heart.

I don't think that there are any good medical or economic reasons against paying donors. Apparently some people have some sort of ethical or religious objection. Since Coyne likes to attack irrational superstitions, it is funny that he does not attack this one.

Update: Gary S. Becker and Julio J. Elias write in the WSJ:
Finding a way to increase the supply of organs would reduce wait times and deaths, and it would greatly ease the suffering that many sick individuals now endure while they hope for a transplant. The most effective change, we believe, would be to provide compensation to people who give their organs—that is, we recommend establishing a market for organs.
Maybe the organ donors ought to go on strike.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Three Feet for Safety Act

I occasionally hear automobile drivers complain that bicyclists do not obey traffic law. I think that they are hallucinating, as bicyclist overwhelmingly obey laws better than car, in my experience. In particular, most cars violated these laws every day, and endanger bicyclists in the process.

  • Exceeding speed limits.
  • Weaving in and out of the lane.
  • Turning right across a bicycle lane without looking.
  • Passing too close to a bicycle (3 feet minimum now required in California).

    Yes, a bicyclist will sometimes blow thru a 4-way stop with no one is around. but cars have the much more significant violations.
  • Sunday, January 05, 2014

    Democrats say they believe in evolution

    Dana Milbank writes in the Wash. Post:
    For several years, the two major parties have been moving gradually toward opposite poles: Democrats growing more liberal and secular, Republicans becoming more conservative and religious. But a survey out this week shows just how far and how fast the GOP has gone toward becoming a collection of older, white, evangelical Christians defined as much by religion as by politics. ...

    Forget climate-change skepticism: Republicans have turned, suddenly and sharply, against Darwin.
    This poll is not so much about science, as in using "evolution" as a code word for secularism. More and more, Republican is the Christian party, and Democrat is the anti-Christian party.

    Peterike comments on the same Pew poll:
    But the truth is that Progressive Liberals don’t believe in Evolution. They are Creationists.

    If they believed in evolution they would necessarily have to concede that humans “evolved” differently over time and in different places, adapting to their environments the same way animals did. It would then follow that different groups of humans — which we conveniently label as “races” — would not be identical, and that includes above the neck as well as below the neck.

    Yet Progressive Liberals DO believe that humans are “created” equal — there’s that word. They believe there is no substantial differences between races that cannot be explained entirely by the local environment and nurturing the humans receive. This is as stupid and unscientific as any Evangelist saying the earth is only a few thousand years old.

    Liberals believe all kinds of other pseudo-science, but to say they believe in evolution is not consistent with what they say about human development. Just because they say they believe in it doesn’t mean they actually do, or that they understand the implications of what they claim to believe. The main reason Liberals “believe” in evolution is because they’ve been told that’s what smart people believe in. If the media went into full-blown campaign mode for creationism — a campaign similar to their pro-gay campaign, for instance — then ten years from now the majority of Liberals would say they are Creationists.
    Milbank concludes:
    But give Republicans credit for this: They don’t just doubt the theory of evolution; they’re out to prove it wrong. If they believed in the survival of the fittest, they’d be expanding their racial and ideological diversity. Instead, they’re trying to demonstrate that devotion to God can trump the Darwinian rules of politics.
    No, Milbank is the one who misunderstands evolution. If human differences stem from inherited characteristics, as is the basis for human evolution, then Republicans might be better off concentrating on its main constituency of white married Christian taxpayers, as opposed to the non-white unmarried non-Christian freeloading Democrats. Republicans would shut down immigration, both legal and illegal.

    Update: According to this, the belief in evolution may not have changed. The Pew claim about a trend is probably wrong.

    Friday, January 03, 2014

    Attacking nationalism

    Libertarian economist Bryan Caplan writes:
    White nationalism is one of the most reviled ideologies on earth.  But what exactly is so awful about it?  Menachem Rosensaft's piece in Slate quotes some leading white nationalists, but never really explains why this nationalism is worse than all other nationalisms. 

    As you'd expect, white nationalists dominate Rosensaft's comments.  Several point out that he's is a staunch Zionist, and quip, "Nationalism for me but not for thee."  I'm a staunch anti-nationalist, ...
    Apparently a lot of Jews prefer to identify as non-whites, and to promote their own ethnic interests over those of non-Jewish white groups. As Caplan explains, they are just showing in-group loyalty. Rosensaft quotes an explanation for why he favors in-group loyalty for his fellow Jews but not other groups:
    Jewish activity collectively, throughout history, is best understood as an elaborate and highly successful group competitive strategy directed against neighboring peoples and host societies. The objective has been control of economic resources and political power. One example: overwhelming Jewish support for non-traditional immigration, which has the effect of weakening America's historic white majority.
    Caplan may not be Jewish, but he does advocate a libertarian open immigration in order to destroy nationalism. He continues:
    After all, white-majority countries still have greater military power than all other countries combined. ...

    So how bad is white nationalism? Back when white nationalism was popular, its sins were massive, but hardly unique. The doctrine currently does little harm because it's so rare. If however white nationalism regained popularity, it would be a cataclysmic disaster because white-majority countries have the firepower to wreck the havoc other nationalist movements can only fantasize about.
    I am not sure about the terminology here. Every country in the world is nationalistic. It is not clear how the world could function without nationalism.

    I don't know why anyone would call the Nazis white nationalists. They were German nationalists. If you are going to lump together majority-white countries, it seems to me that they are some of the least nationalist countries, as many of them allow large immigration from other ethnic groups. Furthermore, the European and American countries have long histories of making the world a better place.

    Caplan's main argument is that in-group bias is a human failing. This is about like saying that love is a human failing. Most, if not all, humans have in-group biases. He complains that a Chinese leader sides with the Chinese, but what else does he expect?

    Even if Caplan could somehow persuade everyone in the world to treat the interests of others equally, how would that work? How could we have representative democracy, unless the representatives can favor their constituents? How could we have capitalism, unless the board of directors can favor the stockholders?

    These arguments against nationalism just boil down to Rosensaft and Caplan not liking the nationalism of other groups.

    Wednesday, January 01, 2014

    What I learned in 2013

    The medical industry is more hopelessly screwed up than I thought. The providers do not treat the patient as the customer, and do not give a price schedule or any reasonable expectation of costs. I wonder why anyone pays medical bills, considering that Pres. Obama says that health care is a right, and the patient has not agreed to the fees.

    I learned more things that we cannot say, as Paula Deen and others got ostracized for trivial comments. But apparently the Duck Dynasty guys can still say that they prefer to be heterosexual.

    Moral philosophy is in a sorry state. I have listened to the leading experts, and I think that 10yo kids have more common sense. Wittgenstein was right about much of philosophy being worthless.

    There are some limits to the trend towards pathologizing male behavior -- Asperger syndrome was dropped from the DSM-5.

    Modern civilization was made possible by technology, and also advances in science, politics, religion, etc. A book on the invention of Europe tells how family structures and ideologies have played a big part.

    The invention of bitcoin, explained here, has proved that non-governmental cryptographic currency is possible.

    Southern California has become the world center for sperm donors, egg donors, gestational carriers, test-tube babies, and doctored birth certificates. The brave new world birthing technologies are illegal in most of the world and most American states, but legal in California. In particular, gays can marry and contract to be the legal parents of test-tube babies.

    There is a growing atheist movement, but it is hopelessly intertwined with leftist politics and unscientific views like saying humans have no free will. They hate religion but seem mostly concerned with harmless symbolic expressions. There are atheist conferences, but if you google what is discussed, you may find that you would not want anything to do with those on either side of the argument.

    Ed Snowden has revealed much more about NSA spying that anyone thought possible, and people do not seem to care much because the spying by others is much more threatening.

    A lot of smart people seem to misunderstand concepts like infinity, counterfactuals, randomness, time, and probability. I thought that these were concepts that children understand.