Of Course your Enemies are Organized

Organization is a spontaneous feature of all human societies. Heck, bees are organized.

There is a myth, routinely proposed by those who know no better, that other people are acting completely independently. Independent action, flowing spontaneously from one’s sense of morality or injustice, prompting sudden, wide-spread social change.

Then people discover that, contrary to this ignorant assumption, other humans actually put in a bunch of effort to organize, choosing carefully when and where they should act or at least helping each other out, and they are shocked, just shocked.

Somehow, spontaneous action is regarded as purely motivated, whereas organized action–the natural result of all human socializing–is impure, some kind of dastardly conspiracy.

Don’t be dumb. Of course your enemies are organized–whoever your enemies happen to be.

The Rosa Parks story comes immediately to mind, as analyzed by Herbert Kohl in Should we Burn Babar? Kohl, I should be clear, does not regard Mrs. Parks as an enemy–he wants her story to be told accurately. Kohl examines school textbook accounts of Mrs. Parks’s story, finding, IIRC, that most were inaccurate.

One of the most common inaccuracies Kohl found in the textbooks was the description of Mrs. Parks as a totally normal person, (just like you and me!) not involved in any political movements, who was just really tired one day and didn’t want to move.

This is wrong, of course. Rosa Parks was an active member of a civil rights organization. Her refusal to move was not the spontaneous result of being tired one day, but a planned protest against segregation. Mrs. Parks was not the first black person who refused to give up her seat on a bus, but civil rights leaders chose to publicize her case and not earlier cases because they thought the American public would find Mrs. Parks a more sympathetic character–you see, the other lady who did the exact same courageous act as Mrs. Parks but hasn’t received any credit for it was divorced.

If you find this surprising, please ask yourself Why? Do you really think the March on Washington or Montgomery Bus Boycott happened without organization? At the very least, people had to get to work.

Kohl offers unsatisfying explanations for the inaccuracies in textbook accounts of Mrs. Parks’s story, mostly because he doesn’t quite understand the writers’ motivations. Here’s what I think happened:

In Mrs. Parks’s time, liberals tended to be on the side of the Civil Rights movement, and conservatives tended to be against it. Both sides knew darn well that the Civil Rights movement was organized.

Today, even conservatives are generally in favor of Civil Rights–conservatives I know wax rhapsodically and frequently about how much they love Dr. King. I shit you not, I know white, southern conservatives who actually see themselves in solidarity with Blacks and Hispanics against evil white liberals.

But these rather conventional, mainstream conservatives do not believe in radical, organized protest against the state. That is a liberal thing. Mainstream conservatives like the status quo and generally seek to protect it (and supporting Civil Rights is now status quo, so they do,) but organized protest is anti-status quo, so they don’t like it.

To make Mrs. Parks an appropriate conservative hero, capable of appearing in children’s history texts without inspiring parental protest that the texts are teaching politics instead of history, Mrs. Parks’ associations with organized liberalism have been scrubbed. A conservative hero like Mrs. Parks couldn’t possibly do something so controversially liberal as join a social organization in favor of her own self-interest.

 

The recent riots in Baltimore and elsewhere are another example. People report, most conspiratorially, that these riots were organized. Of course they were organized! We call them campus organizations for a reason. Heck, I know people who can’t get together with their friends to play video games without setting up a treasury and by-laws, but people are surprised to learn that folks who’ve been in Social Justice organizations for years might donate money to help protesters with legal fees or organize transportation together.

It’s one thing for people to just spontaneously decide to protest. It’s a totally different matter to carpool.

 

Conservatives organize too, btw. Evangelical churches, talk radio, and various conservative think tanks have been organizing conservatives for decades. Conservatives are quite good at organizing, as they tend, even more than liberals, to like being part of an organized social hierarchy. These organizations have had a pretty big effect on the American political scene, because they are very effective at getting their members to vote in lock-step for whatever policies and politicians they support. Thus, four decades years after Roe V. Wade, conservatives still pose a real threat to legal abortion. (Evolutionist X believes abortion should be free and easily available.)

 

Whoever your enemies are, of course they are organized. Organization is a basic feature of all human societies. Stop acting surprised.

A Structural Proposal

I have read that people are capable of maintaining about 150 relationships with other humans. This therefore seems like a reasonable maximum size for human organizations — churches, businesses, towns, etc. For maximum trustiness, perhaps all humans should live in communities of 150, which could then reasonably organize for their own self-interest, well-being and happiness.

But humans seem to desire to live in slightly bigger communities, and to network between much larger groups of people. So how to manage it?

First, each community of 150 could appoint one person to go to a meta-council of 150 people from 150 other communities.

That would be kind of pressing our meta-council members, but they would probably be able to maintain close relationships with enough of their constituents and enough of their fellow meta-council members to effectively represent their areas and cooperate with each other for regional benefits. This allows for the governing of 22,500 people, or a small city. (For comparison, the island of Palau has about 21,000 people; a few other small island nations have similar population sizes.)

The meta-meta level seems difficult to achieve, as we’re already asking people to effectively have 300 contacts, and anyone appointed to a meta-meta council would really have their primary interests back in their 150 member community, and so would do a bad job of representing the interests of everyone else in their 22,500 meta-community. (This is precisely the problem of Congress.)

The meta-meta level might be doable on a basic referendum level–that is, if the meta-meta councilors simply represent the majority views of their meta-regions in a system that does not require them to interact with or convince each other. This would allow for the administration of about 3.4 million people–a large city or small country. (By comparison, Iceland has 330,000 people; Lithuania has 2.9 million, and New Zealand has 4.6 million.)

However, we might be able to organize a few more people into our system by taking advantage of some sort of network effects at the bottom level. Perhaps instead of including all 150 people in our community in a community council, we utilize 150 heads of households (each household can appoint whoever it wants to the council). If we estimate about 4 people per household, then the basic community has 600 people, the meta-community has 90,000, and the meta-meta community has 13.5 million. (Belgium has 11.2 million people.)

Effective, long-term organization beyond this size probably becomes very difficult (unless you are okay with dictatorship, and even that can fail miserably at organizing things).

Predictive value: If my train of thought is correct, communities of <14 million should generally be stable, high-trust, efficient, and effectively democratic in nature. Communities of >14 million should generally be low trust, unstable, inefficient, or undemocratic.

 

A quick glance at a list of countries by size indicates that there are a bunch of small, poorly-run countries, which may contradict the theory. Perhaps badly run countries break up into pieces until they find an organizational level they can function on.

Here is a list of countries by interpersonal trust. (Unfortunately, this dataset seems to lack many of the tiny countries. Anyone else got a better dataset?) The top scorers–countries where most people reported trusting most of their neighbors, were:

New Zealand: trust level 102.2, population 4.6 mill

Vietnam: trust level 104.1, population 91.5 mill, not democratic

Saudi Arabia: trust level 105.8, population 31.5 mill, not democratic

Switzerland: trust level 107.4, population 8.2 mill

Finland: trust level 117.5, population 5.5 mill

China: trust level 120.9, population 1.4 billion, not democratic

Denmark: trust level 131.9, population 5.7 mill

Sweden: trust level 134.5, population 9.8 mill

Norway: trust level 148, population 5.2 mill

So, it’s a small set of countries and the small ones generally aren’t in the dataset, but the democratic, high-trust countries are all between 4 and 10 million people. The larger high-trust countries are all not democracies.

The worst scorers (countries where fewer than 1 in 10 people said they thought most people were trustworthy):

Trinidad and Tobago: trust level 7.9, population 1.3 mill

Cape Verde: trust level 9, population 500 thousand

Rwanda: trust level 10.2, population 11 mill

Turkey: trust level 10.2, population 78 mill

Botswana: trust level 12.3, population 2 mill

Malawi: trust level 14.9, population 16 mill

Cambodia: trust level 15.6, population 15.4 mill

Indonesia: trust level 16.9, population 255 mill

Brazil: trust level 17.5, population 204.3 mill

Malaysia: trust level 17.7, population 30.6 mill

Looks like unpleasant countries can come in any size.

 

I’d love it if someone made a scaterplot of size vs. trust, with democracies in blue and non-democracies in red. :D

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just about the best thing I could find today (light and BMI):

“The results of this study demonstrate that the timing of even moderate intensity light exposure is independently associated with BMI. Specifically, having a majority of the average daily light exposure above 500 lux (MLiT500) earlier in the day was associated with a lower BMI. In practical terms, for every hour later of MLiT500 in the day, there was a 1.28 unit increase in BMI. The complete regression model (MLiT500, age, gender, season, activity level, sleep duration and sleep midpoint) accounted for 34.7% of the variance in BMI. Of the variables we explored, MLiT500 contributed the largest portion of the variance (20%).”

From “Timing and Intensity of Light Correlate with Body Weight in Adults” by Kathryn J. Reid, Giovanni Santostasi, Kelly G. Baron, John Wilson, Joseph Kang, and Phyllis C. Zee.

Waco

My Facebook Feed is all full of articles/comments/posts about how the Waco Shootout shows just how differently the media deals with white gang violence than black gang violence.

Meanwhile, my Facebook Feed has zero articles/comments/posts about black gang violence.

So, I guess we deal with white gang violence by focusing on it, and black gang violence by ignoring it as much as possible.

In the interest of fairness, I will note that Asian gangs also exist, though Asians have a much lower overall crime rate than whites.

 

Nature Observations

Just some observations, attempts at making sense of the world. I may be wrong. I admit that these are opinions, based on my experiences.

 

Liberals tend to believe that people are inherently good. Conservatives tend to believe that people are inherently bad. Liberals believe that evil is a result of negative environmental conditions that cause people to deviate from their inner badness. Conservatives believe that goodness is a result of negative environmental conditions that cause people to repress their inner badness.

Compare, for example, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” to, say, any liberal parent you’ve ever met.

Or compare the conservative reaction to ISIS (“Bomb them until they convert to Christianity or all die,”) to the liberal, “To defeat ISIS, we need more jobs for people in the Middle East.”

Liberals are generally more pleasant to be around, even if they are occasionally delusional.

In general, both sides tend to act like there exists one single, agreed-upon definition of what “good” is, even though a conversation with virtually any other human being on the face of this planet will quickly reveal that this is entirely untrue, as that other person holds forth that all sorts of horribly dumb ideas are good and that all of your best traits are really really bad.

Conservatives claim they know what “good” is because “God said so,” and anyone who doesn’t agree with them about what God says is Obviously Evil. It’s not much of a position, but at least you can defend it if you accept the initial premise.

Liberals think that everyone else sees “good” and “bad” the same way they do just because to do otherwise would meant that other people are doing things that liberals see as “bad” even without negative environmental effects, which blows the whole shebang out of the water. Which is really kind of annoying when someone really and truly doesn’t get that you actually do see XYZ as good rather than the result of some horrible trauma that made you do bad, though that’s still not as bad as conservatives dropping bombs on you.

Of course, in reality, most people try to do “good” as they themselves see it, moderated somewhat by their genetic inclinations and culture. The guys in ISIS really and truly do see themselves as good guys, while homeless people fret over the sin of stealing a shopping cart so they have a place to put their stuff.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that all morality is relative, you can’t judge anyone else, etc. etc. I would say that our basic understanding of “good” and “evil” people/actions/behaviors is very specific to our own particular culture/subculture/immediate group of friends & family, and probably just isn’t a very meaningful way of understanding the actions of people outside of those groups.

Hey, DNA: What is it good for?

So why do we still have bits of Neanderthal DNA hanging around after so many years? Of course it could just be random junk, but it’s more fun to think that it might be useful.

And the obvious useful thing for it to do is climate adaptation, since Neanderthals had been living in dark, cold, ice-age Europe for much longer than the newly-arrived h. Sapiens, and so might have had some adaptations to help deal with it.

Okay, so here is something related I was reading the other day, that I consider pretty interesting. So it looks like the people who live up on the Tibetan Plateau (like the Tibetans,) are really well-adapted to the altitude. No mean feat, considering that other populations who live at similar altitudes don’t seem to be as well-adjusted, despite living up there for similar lengths of time.

Well, now it appears that the Tibetans have actually been living in Tibet for waaaay longer than expected, because the original h. Sapiens who moved into Tibet intermarried with archaic hominids who had already lived there for hundreds of thousands of years, and so probably picked up their altitude adaptations from those guys.

BTW, “species” is a social construct and you probably shouldn’t bother with it here.

So what kind of useful stuff might we have picked up from Neanderthals?

First I’d like to interject that I still find declarations of “aha, we got this gene from Neanderthals and it does this!” to be speculative and prone to changing. All of the articles I’ve read tend to report the same list of stuff in a similar fashion, so I suspect they’re all workign off one or two sources, which makes everything doubly sketchy. So we’re going in here with a big “if” this is true…

Some of the results are fairly boring, like Neanderthal DNA affecting hair and skin. We already speculate that skin tone helps us deal with sunlight levels, so that’s sensible.

More interesting is the claim that Neanderthal DNA may predispose people to Type-2 Diabetes and depression.

Now why the hell would it do that? It’s probably not *just* random–after all, large stretches of DNA have little to no Neanderthal admixture at all, suggesting that genes in those spots just weren’t useful, so why would we have retained such apparently negative traits?

Maybe, like sickle cell anemia, these things actually have a positive function–at least in the right environments.

I read a fascinating theory a few years ago that Type 2 Diabetes and Seasonal Affective Disorder are actually just part of our bodies’ natural mechanisms for dealing with winter. Basically, you’re supposed to eat plants and get fat all summer long, while plants are available, and then by winter, your ability to absorb more glucose shuts down (there’s no point since the plants are all dead) and you switch over to burning ketones instead and eating an all-mammoth diet.

(Some groups, like the Inuit and Masai, historically [and may today still] survived on diets that included virtually no plants and so ran all of their cellular energy needs through the ketogenic instead of the glucose system.)

During this winter time, humans, like other animals, slowed down and semi-hibernated to save energy and because why the fuck not, it’s dark and no one has invented lightbulbs, yet.

By spring, you’ve lost a lot of weight, the plants come back, and so does your ability to use glucose.

This theory is laid out in the book Lights Out by T. S. Wiley, if you’re curious. I thought it was a really interesting book, but you might just think it’s all crank, I dunno.

Anyway, a big hole in Wiley’s plot is how we actually got this adaptation in the first place, since it’s a pretty complicated one and h. Sapiens hasn’t actually been living in places with winter for all that long. Wiley just claims that it’s a deep internal mechanism that animals have, which always struck me as kinda bunk because why would a species that evolved in Africa, from other animals in Africa, etc., probably going back for million upon millions of years, have some sort of complicated system like this still functional in its genome? A trait that is not undergoing positive selective pressure is probably going to become non-functional pretty quickly. But the theory was cool enough otherwise to ignore this bit, so I’ve kept it around.

Right, so here’s the (potential) answer: h. Sapiens didn’t have this adaptation hiding deep inside of them, Neanderthals had it. Neanderthals had been living in cold places for way, way longer than h. Sapiens, and by inter-breeding with them, we got to take advantage of a bunch of cold-weather adaptations they’d developed over that time frame–thus getting a jump-start on evolving to cope with the weather.

At any rate, if Wiley is correct, and SAD and Type-2 Diabetes are actually part of a dealing with winter complex that benefited our cold-weather ancestors, then that wold explain why these genes would have persisted over the years instead of being bred out.

An easy way to test this would be to compare rates of Type-2 Diabetes and SAD among African immigrants to Europe/other wintery latitudes, African Americans (who have a small amount of Euro admixture,) and Europeans. (Watching out, of course, for Vit D issues.) If the Euros have more SAD and Type-2 Diabetes than Africans living at the same latitude, then those would appear to be adaptations to the latitude. If the Africans have more, then my theory fails.

Neanderthals!

So I still haven’t tracked down anything I consider a good source on the percent of Neanderthal DNA in people from particular regions of Europe, and I should note that at this point, I consider pretty much *everything* in the field of Neanderthal DNA in modern homo Sapiens quite speculative and not nearly has solid as people make it ought to be. But it’s still really interesting stuff, so here goes. I’ll start with a little background information in case you haven’t been following along:

1. Modern people tend to have a little bit of archaic DNA from non-human hominins. Pretty much everyone outside of Africa (including African Americans and even some Africans) has Neanderthal DNA; folks down in Papua New Guinea also have Denisovan DNA (I can’t remember if people outside of PNG have Denisovan.) People in Africa, I hear, have their own admixture from whoever else was living down in Africa. Oh, and people in Tibet have admixture from the hominins who used to live in Tibet before them.

2. Interestingly, the Neanderthal DNA does not appear to be concentrated where you’d think it would be. Sure, Neanderthals themselves hung out primarily in Europe and the Middle East, but American Indians seem to have the most Neanderthal DNA, followed by East Asians. (I consider these findings especially speculative.)

I have noticed in studying maps of different waves of human migrations that where one wave follows another, the first wave ends up way out in the fringes. Take, for example, the parts of Europe where people speak Celtic languages. Celtic languages were once widespread in Europe, covering France, Spain, Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, and a few other places, like possibly a town in Turkey. Today, Celtic languages are spoken in isolated pockets on the outer costs of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. There are a few other isolated spots on the mainland coast where the languages persisted until fairly recently. Germanic peoples invaded all of these countries, taking them over and imposing their languages, until the Celtic languages are only left at the fringes, in places protected by their isolation.

So, likewise, perhaps Europe itself, being closer to Africa, had more invasions and so ended up with less Neanderthal DNA than the Americas, which were really bloody hard to invade.

There are a lot of other ways one group could get more Neanderthal DNA than another.

3. So how Neanderthal are you? On average, I believe non-African people have about 2.5% Neanderthal DNA.

For perspective, you have 32 great-great-great grandparents, who were probably born around 150 years ago, and 64 great-great-great-great grandparents, whom we’ll just neatly say were born around 170 years ago.

1/32 = 3.1%, so you’d expect to receive about 3.1% of your DNA from each of your 3xGreat Grandparents. 1/64 = 1.6%, so you get about 1.6% from each of your 4X Great Grandparents. So that’s where the average person’s Neanderthal contribution is–it’s like having one Neanderthal ancestor from the mid 1800s.

A lot of people claim to be ethnically Irish based on less.

4. I suspect Europe’s Neanderthal hotspot is Sardinia.

Speculations later.

Convert Me (Open Thread)

Despite my cold, unfeeling, atheist heart, I’ve always had a soft spot for religions.

And since many religions encourage their followers to convert as many people as possible, the point of this thread is to give you a chance to try.

Here are the rules: You post the best argument you can for why I should follow your religion, preferably in under a billion words. I will attempt to make a thorough and polite response.

You may recommend your favorite book on the subject, but please understand that I probably won’t have time to read it. Oh! Also, my computer is old and Youtube makes it crash, so no videos.

Also, please understand that my most likely answer is, “Sorry, I remain unconvinced.”

You guys are also free to try to convert each other, so long as everyone remains civil. :)

(I’m gonna figure out how to put a link to this thread on the sidebar, so it doesn’t get lost.)

Now go!

Species is a Social Construct: Or my Grandfather’s Totally Badass Dog

Coydogs
Coydogs, Wyoming

My grandfather was a badass kind of guy, so of course his dogs were awesome, too.

He lived in a part of the country where coyotes were still a problem for livestock producers (it’s always a bummer when your favorite chicken gets eaten,) so he got this German Shepherd.

The German Shepherd proceeded to kill all the male coyotes in the area.

The next spring, we kept spotting half-German Shepherd, half-coyote pups.

 

Unlike mules, coydogs are fertile, and can continue making more generations of coydogs–or whatever they happen to mate with. In fact, it appears that most species of the Canis genus–various wolves, domestic dogs, dingoes, coyotes, and some jackals–can interbreed. Foxes and other less-closely related members of the family Canidae, however, cannot breed with canids–they have different numbers of chromosomes, which makes the genetics not really work.

(This is what is up with mule, btw. Horses and donkeys have different numbers of chromosomes.)

The history of different canid species actually gets kinda complicated when you look at the inter-species mixing. According to the Wikipedia:

“…melanistic coyotes have been shown to have inherited their black pelts from dogs likely brought to North America through the Bering Land Bridge 12,000 to 14,000 years ago by the ancestors of the America’s indigenous people.”

” Northern Canada’s Aboriginal populations were mating coyotes and wolves to their sled dogs in order to produce more resilient animals as late as the early 20th century.”

(Well that explains the wolf admixture in National Geographic’s article on dog genetics! I’ve been wondering about that.)

“Some 15% of 10,000 coyotes taken annually in Illinois for their fur during the early 1980s may have been coydogs based on cranial measurements… Of 379 wild canid skulls taken in Ohio from 1982 to 1988, 10 (2.6%) were found to be coydogs.”

From the article on coyotes:

“Coyotes have hybridized with wolves to varying degrees, particularly in the Eastern United States and Canada. The so-called “eastern coyote” of northeastern North America has been confirmed to be of mixed wolf-coyote parentage, and probably originated in the aftermath of the extermination of wolves in the northeast, thus allowing coyotes to colonize former wolf ranges and mix with remnant wolf populations.”

” In 2011, an analysis of 48,000 SNP chips in the genomes of various wolf and coyote populations revealed that the eastern wolf …and the red wolf… both previously labeled as species distinct from the gray wolf, are in fact products of varying degrees of wolf-coyote hybridization. The wolf-coyote admixture resulting in the development of the eastern wolf may have occurred on the order of 600–900 years ago between gray wolves and a now extinct pre-Columbian coyote population. The eastern wolf has since backcrossed extensively with parent gray wolf populations. The red wolf may have originated later, approximately 287–430 years ago, when much of the southeastern U.S. was being converted to agriculture and predators were targeted for extermination. During this period, declining local wolf populations would have been forced to mate with coyotes, with the resulting hybrids backcrossing to coyotes as the wolves disappeared, to the extent that ~75–80% of the modern red wolf’s genome is of coyote derivation.

And jackals:

“…since 1975, Russian scientists have bred quarter jackal hybrids, initially from jackals and Lapponian Herder reindeer herding dogs, called Sulimov dogs in order to take advantage of the jackal’s superior olfactory abilities combined with the Lapponian Herder’s resistance to cold. They are owned by Aeroflot – Russian Airlines and trained as sniffer dogs for use in airports. According to the breed’s creator, first-generation hybrid pups could only be produced by male dogs and female jackals, as male jackals refused to mate with female dogs.”