razib

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Open Thread, September 1-15, 2012

if LW gave me dictatorial powers i would have nuked this sub-thread a long time ago, and saved a lot of people productive time they could have devoted to more edifying intellectual pursuits.

also, as a moderate diss, i don't delve deep into LW comments much anymore. but some of these remind now me of usenet in the 1990s. what i appreciate about the 'rationality' community in berkeley is that these are people who are interested in being smart, not seeming smart.

Open Thread, September 1-15, 2012

i wasn't expecting much from that thread. i was more curious about the rationale of the atheism+ proponents. i got confirmation of what i feared....

Open Thread, September 1-15, 2012

the explanation is banal. 10 hour days at my "day job" + i sleep 6 hours + and have a daughter. not much on the margin. i devote way more time to moderation of comments than a typical blogger as it is, so it shows when i cut back.

Fallout from Razib banning or driving away quality commenters has reached even here.

i don't see what that has to do with anything. LW people say stupid things all the time.

addendum: i don't have much experience on this forum, but i am friends with people associated with the berkeley/bay area LW group. as i said, LW people say stupid things all the time. but, LW people tend to not take it personally when you explain that they're being ignorant outside of domain, which is great. so my last comment wasn't really meant as negatively as it might have seemed. but the back & forth that i have/had with the LW set does not translate well onto my blog, where there is usually a domain-knowledge asymmetry (i'm pretty good at guessing the identity of commenters who know more than me, and usually excuse those from aggressive moderation, because i wouldn't know what to moderate).

[SEQ RERUN] Zut Allais!

Aside from lactose tolerance (or more accurately, lactase persistence, as the "wild type" is "intolerance"), there are differences in enzyme quantities in saliva due to copy number variations between those populations which have a history of consuming carbohydrates and those which do not. There are also the various resistances to malaria. For multiple reasons, including history (e.g., malaria seems to have become endemic in the Mediterranean over the course of the Roman Empire), we know these are all new, anywhere from 6,000 to 500 years before the present. I can give other examples, but these are the most clear and distinct in the literature.

BHTV: Yudkowsky / Wilkinson

the video adds a lot if it is kerry and not will hosting free will. just sayin'.... ;-)

Brief Break

Hey, at least I got through over a solid year of posts without taking a vacation.

more a man than most!

The Psychological Unity of Humankind

eliezer,

hm. there's a lot to this...but let's just say that when it comes to psychology the residual of non-universality seems really important to focus on in the area of individual differences. specifically, it seems entirely possible that frequency dependent personality morphs abound; e.g., all the stuff about drd4 that i've been posting on my weblog. of course, this is single-locus, but i think it's just the locus of biggest effect. i suspect that what evolutionary psychology misses is that after you account for the substrate of human universals you've got personality morphs which are playing "games" with each other, and in particular there are a host of low frequency morphs running around. these morphs are "complex" to my way of thinking, though perhaps not complex in the way you're implying (i know the evo psych argument against a lot of variation on traits). i happen to think epistasis might also be pretty significant in the transient.

second, i'm also getting curious about variation in traits we perceive as on-off, where those who are "off" are purely pathological. e.g., it turns out that 2% of the population might be "face blind" but have been cryptic because they develop techniques to mask this problem and don't talk about it. i don't think it is just a 2% vs. 98%, i think there are a few other steps "in between", though there's a skewness toward the "normal" facial recognition ability side. on the basis of this i'm willing to dig a little deeper into "human universals" to see what might crop up on the margins.

A Failed Just-So Story

mike, for interdemic selection (one form of group selecction) there are models where altruists help the group grow but decrease in frequency over time, but then there is a disturbance where the groups reassort. at this point the altruists are at less an advantage and the groups without altruists go extinct, and the process begins anew as altruist frequencies decrease globally. see d.s. wilson's Unto Others for exposition (or an intro pop genetics book).

A Failed Just-So Story

There are similar problems with getting Tit-for-Tat strategies to accumulate in repeated ecological Prisoner's Dilemma tests. If there isn't a subgroup population of sufficient size, it never comes to dominate the population.

Sometimes particles tunnel out of very deep potential wells, is all I can say.

lt's separate cultural and genetic dynamics here. on the fine scale level between group genetic variance is simply often weak tea to within group variance, and as eliezer implies 'cheater' strategies are pretty good. in meta-population dynamics when one group exterminates another is it usually total genocide? my reading of the ethnography suggests that usually men kill men and boys. they keep women who are fertile. this means that between group competition results in genetic assimilation of losers via their female lineages. but, it often implies cultural annihilation. the descendants of the sabine women carried their genes, but not their culture (or at least proportionately less of their culture, and no identity as sabines).

how is this relevant to religion? i think it suggests that the case of cultural group selection for religion is viable, but genetic group selection is less so (that is, selection for religiosity on a biological level because of its functional benefits). the conversion of african tribe after tribe to christianity or islam en masse isn't one of genetic replacement by muslims or christians, it is one of flips of group identity.

A Failed Just-So Story

It's only comparatively recently that religion has been separate from nationhood or tribe, and its central tenets questioned. The fact that it's still around in a weakened state could simply be analogous to, say, our fight or flight mechanism. Or an appendix.

this is due to the fusion of religion with philosophy and the emerge of super-states which required super-religions. the first religious skeptics emerge in the record precisely when religion shifted from being informal implicit paganism toward a more formal structured system. e.g., the seeds of puranic hinduism, buddhism, jainism gave rise to the carvakas. the mystery religions were countered by lucretius and the epicureans. the religious enthusiasm of the mohists and some daoist groups was countered by the philosophical naturalism of xun zi.

It's only group selection when it's religious groups competing against nonreligious groups. It's individual selection when it's individuals in groups competing against loners.

no. david s. wilson connects group selection with functionalism. so the character of a religion counts, and the character of another religion counts. as a case study think of the syncretistic abangan islam of java, and the more orthodox santri islam of java. the latter is rising in frequency in relation to the former. why? rational choice theorists would argue that the latter is a more appealing product, it offers more goods & services. group selectionists or functionalists would assert that santri islam is better suited to the anomie and dislocation which post-village life imposes upon the typical javanese. if, for example, santri mosques served as a better social insurance system than the village institutions of the abangan one can imagine that over time group level effects would aid the santri. wilson would argue that the santri are a more integrated and efficient 'social organism.' rodney stark, a rational choice theorist, has made the same sort of argument for ancient christianity, suggesting that its self-help ideology and normatively enforced altruism & humanism (e.g., no exposure of babies, helping the sick, etc.) resulted in greater natural increase vis-a-vis pagans. finally, do note that cognitive psychologists tend to record no deep level differences in how religionists conceptualize their supernatural agent of choice, so that's the deeper substrate layer.

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