Community round-up, Comment of the Week, Open Thread, and Similar Matters

Cognitive Bias Codex--you'll need to zoom in
Cognitive Bias Codex–you’ll need to zoom in

I’ve been thinking of doing some form of regular “comment of the week” to highlight particularly good comments, along with “most interesting things I read elsewhere.” And sure, it can be an Open Thread, too, though really, you’re pretty free to treat every thread like an Open Thread. :) This would be in addition to the regular posts, not in place of them. Which day do you think would be better: Wedensday or Saturday?

So this week’s Comment of the Week award goes to Ertuğrul Aşina, for adding yet more information to my post on the Turkic Peoples:

There are Turks in Turkey, like my family, that still uses their Asian family names. Mine are called Aşinas, which probably is a corrupted form of Ashina Clan and Meteçanyus which is likely to refer to Moduchanyu. … My paternal family hails from a pretty isolated town of northern Turkey, where almost everyone looks like blonde Asians and talk in a manner that rest of the Turks don’t really understand easily. …

I encourage you to read the whole comment.

(L-R) Daniel C. Dennett, Napoleon Chagnon, David Haig, Steven Pinker, Richard Wrangham, John Brockman, with thanks to Edge.org
(L-R) Daniel C. Dennett, Napoleon Chagnon, David Haig, Steven Pinker, Richard Wrangham, John Brockman, with thanks to Edge.org

In other news, I read a fabulous interview with Napleon Chagnon, Blood is their Argument. (Also staring Steven Pinker, Richard Wrangham, Daniel C. Dennett, David Haig, and Richard Dawkins.) Chagnon wrote Yanomamo: The Fierce People, in which he showed–via extensive demographic data–that the Yanomamo tribesmen who had the most children were also the ones who had killed the most other people.

For this significant accomplishment, of course, he has been “vilified by other anthropologists, condemned by his professional association (which subsequently rescinded its reprimand), and ultimately forced to give up his fieldwork. Throughout his ordeal, he never wavered in his defense of science. In 2012 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.”

But back to the interview:

STEVEN PINKER:  You’re one of the last of the classical ethnographers, someone who goes in to study a relatively uncontacted, technologically traditional hunting people.  That’s not the way a lot of anthropology is done these days. I remember a conversation at a faculty lunch with a professor of anthropology, and I asked him what tribe he studied. He said he studied the nuclear engineers of Los Alamos Labs in New Mexico.

I believe he is referring to Hugh Gusterson’s Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War, thought it is actually set at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. (That is a really easy thing to mix up.)

… Can you just tell us what’s it like to go out and study an uncontacted people in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest? Do you pack a steamer trunk full of bug spray and peanut butter, and hire someone to drop you off and say, “Pick me up in six months?”

NAPOLEON CHAGNON:  Well, remarkably, Steve, that’s pretty much the way some of it happened. But when I first walked into the Yanomamö village thinking I was going to do the perfunctory one-year field research or maybe less, go back to my university, write my doctoral dissertation, publish a book maybe, after two or three years of thinking about it, then return to the tribe ten years later and do the expected thing about,  “Woe is me, what has the world and technology done to my people?” But the minute I walked into my first Yanomamö village I realized that I was witnessing a really precious thing, and I knew I would have to come back again and again, and I did.

There is too much great information in this interview to excerpt. You’ll just have to RTWT.

Some interesting graphs:

cvg9n_bwyaa6_20 cve3bzuuaaav2j0 cva27guweaa8wun cva1ft4weaa3_hl

cvz3gn9wcaq682uSince this is the first week I’m trying this, I’ll stop here with the links/graphs and open the floor to discussion:

I don’t think it mere coincidence that all of the men in the picture above are, well, men. Aside from Jane Goodall and HBDChick, are there any significant [living] women doing ground-breaking work in anthropology/human evolution/genetics/related fields?

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27 thoughts on “Community round-up, Comment of the Week, Open Thread, and Similar Matters

  1. The tribesmen body count to baby count thing is intresting at a deeply personal level. Is it due to higher testosterone? More mating opertunity due to higher social status? Does the life and death experience of combat drive you to reproduce ie duplicate yourself more?

    As I look at my peer group, I see us as having slightly more kids then average which in the usa means 3-5 kids vs 2. 5 is a pretty common number for my friends, I know a few mem with 7 plus and ome with 10 but on top of our professional lives most of us tend to be very traditional and religious of sorts. Not in a church everyday sort of way but grew up in times and places where religion had a major impact on our world view and still does. Like married rather young, had kids right away etc, and most of us are divorced with a kid or two with each wife.

    High testosterone career, not deeply religious personally but raised by those who were, multiple wives, cheap as in next to know cost baby delivering service, a lot of life and death experiences…. or hell it could be simply a product of being more fit then average and having a more active sex life due to higher levels of fitness

    Any rate. Not expecting any sort of answer, just thinking out loud

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    • I think it’s all of the above, and then some. I get the impression that in most tribal societies, you’re likely to get a gender imbalance (due to males dying in warfare/hunting,) which leaves more wives for the survivors. Additionally, people like the Yanomamo depend on female labor for much of the food production (via gardening,) and thus a man can add wives (and children) without having to worry about how he’ll feed them because they are self-feeding. Only in agricultural systems and really cold environments do we see children and wives really dependent on their fathers.

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      • Yes, and it’s an environment where children and mothers are not self-feeding which selects for cooperation between the sexes. And, ultimately, for individuals who are inclined toward such cooperation and who are inclined to take “cooperation-related” qualities into account in mate selection–gene-culture coevolution.

        (Some MRA/PUA types don’t believe that such individuals exist, but why wouldn’t they? Humans already have a mechanism for selecting people to favor or “feel affection for” based on their cooperation-related qualities: friendship. Shouldn’t be difficult to appropriate that mechanism for mate selection as well.)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Re: Number of scientific publications. A number of my collegues left for the west and they write papers there; sometimes those are not that different from what others are doing at my uni. But they got published and their papers are counted as part of output for western Europe.

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  3. Hey evolutionist.

    What do you think of PumpkinPerson’s “more evolved” canard? You should read our whole exchange on the October 11th open thread on his blog.

    Do you believe evolution is “progressive” or that one organism is “superior” to another or that one organism is “more evolved” than another?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you could put a widget on your sidebar for recent comments that’d be cool.

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    • Okay. :)

      I think PP is wrong–basically, evolution can go up or down. The Flores “Hobbits” likely evolved from a previous hominin that was smarter than they were. Koalas likely evolved from a marsupial that was smarter than they are. So “Asians evolved later” doesn’t mean Asians are therefore smarter than whites any more than it means koalas are smarter than other marsupials.

      Besides, Asians aren’t “Descended from” whites, who aren’t “descended from” blacks. This is like the “humans are descended from chimpanzees” fallacy–modern humans and modern chimps are descended from a common ancestor; modern whites, Asians, and blacks are descended from a common ancestor. So Asians and whites split off from a common ancestral group at the exact same time. That ancestral group and the ancestors of today’s Sub-Saharan Africans both split off from a common ancestral group of their own at the exact same time.

      That said, hominins have, overall, been evolving to be progressively smarter–Homo erectus was smarter than Australopithecus; Homo habilis was smarter than HE; H.Sapiens is smarter than HH; etc. So there is some mechanism by which humans are getting progressively smarter, and moving into new territories that require high IQs to cope with could be one of those mechanisms. But Homo erectus had, like modern man, lived in Europe and Asia long before he was wiped out by smarter newcomers from Africa–in that case, the guys who stayed behind in Africa were the ones who got smarter, not the guys who moved to Asia.

      Given identical selective pressures over enough generations, I think all of the races would be equally smart, regardless of how long ago they split.

      That said, I don’t get the impression that PP believes it maliciously.

      Like

  4. Wellll I actually have a specific reason for always commenting from behind a proxy, but sharing it would invalidate it so I guess I’ll just have to suffer the indignity of looking paranoid on the internet–woe is me. ;) But that means I can no longer comment on SSC (can’t get an e-mail from behind a proxy) so.

    Remember Scott’s stump post for Hillary? Ross Douthat of all people has put it into words far better than I managed to:

    The dangers of a Hillary Clinton presidency are more familiar than Trump’s authoritarian unknowns, because we live with them in our politics already. They’re the dangers of elite groupthink, of Beltway power worship, of a cult of presidential action in the service of dubious ideals. They’re the dangers of a recklessness and radicalism that doesn’t recognize itself as either, because it’s convinced that if an idea is mainstream and commonplace among the great and good then it cannot possibly be folly.

    Scott thinks he’s being cautious.

    He’s actually just succumbing to groupthink.

    (That’s what I meant by “out of touch with reality.”)

    Now personally, I am a weird one; if I compare my political opinions to those of all past presidents, the one I share the most policy positions with is…

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    • Oh, that’s a bummer about the proxy. I haven’t actually commented over there/read much lately just because I’ve been busy, so I hadn’t noticed the commenting policy change.

      I often wonder what it must have been like for someone who lived in Germany in 1939 and feel like you’re the only one thinking, “You know, invading Poland sounds like a really bad idea, and Jews seem like perfectly nice people.” Would you feel like everyone else had gone completely crazy? Would you think you were the crazy one? Years later, would you be like, “I TOLD YOU that was a bad idea!”?

      Or someone who thought communism was a bad idea in the early days of the Soviet Union, or an atheist in the Middle Ages (or a theist in many communities today.) Collectivization was obviously a disaster in Ukraine, yet it proceeded anyway. Cambodia managed to kill off 1/3 of its people!

      We can usually trust others to help us make sense of the world, but there have been many cases when popular opinion was disastrously wrong. And even if we do find others who agree with us, well, there are groups of schizophrenics who meet online and share their delusions, and they all agree the CIA is following them everywhere.

      I’m not saying Hillary supporters or Trump supporters are the crazy ones. I’m saying “the mainstream believes X,” doesn’t always mean much. It can be, as you say, folly.

      Johnson killed too many Americans for my taste. :(

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      • I often wonder what it must have been like for someone who lived in Germany in 1939 and feel like you’re the only one thinking, “You know, invading Poland sounds like a really bad idea, and Jews seem like perfectly nice people.” Would you feel like everyone else had gone completely crazy? Would you think you were the crazy one? Years later, would you be like, “I TOLD YOU that was a bad idea!”?

        Jeder stirbt für sich allein (Every Man Dies Alone or Alone in Berlin) is a 1946 novel about 1940-1942 Berlin by someone who’d lived through it.

        [Eva Kluge] thinks of old Frau Rosenthal, up on the fourth floor, whose husband the Gestapo took away two weeks ago. You had to feel sorry for someone like that. The Rosenthals used to have a little haberdashery shop on Prenzlauer Allee that was Aryanized, and now the man has disappeared, and he can’t be far short of seventy. Those two old people can’t have done any harm to anyone, they always allowed credit–they did it for Eva Kluge when she couldn’t afford new clothes for the kids–and the goods were certainly no dearer or worse in quality than elsewhere. No, Eva Kluge can’t get it into her head that a man like Rosenthal is any worse than the Persickes [her Nazi neighbors], just by virtue of him being a Jew. And now the old woman is sitting in her flat all alone and doesn’t dare go outside.

        She thinks this, but doesn’t do anything…because…she thinks she’s the crazy one.

        As for LBJ…I am more isolationist than he was. (I’m also too young to subscribe to the tradition that “isolationism is, like, evil y’know? No argument necessary, it just is!!!”) So I don’t agree with him on Vietnam. Where I do agree with him is that I hate to see children damaged by things like poor nutrition and lack of medical care before they even have a chance to start making their own way in the world.

        Like

      • Well, that’s depressing, though I suppose “depressing” is about as good as it gets for Nazi Germany.

        I agree that poor nutrition is bad (though I suspect that Carter was also pretty anti-poor nutrition, he just happened to come after LBJ.) I am glad we live in a time and place where we don’t have to fear starvation and malnutrition anymore.

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      • Here’s your guy.

        I notice while poor “old Frau Rosenthal” is named and we’re told we should feel ashamed for his internment rarely do we hear a name or do we give a thought for the 10 million starved to death in the Ukraine and the other millions of deaths in the camps in Russia. The Germans knew what was going on in these camps and knew who was responsible.

        Many of these same Russian Jews families are in the US now. Why are they not treated the same as the relations of slave owners?

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  5. (Hey evolutionistx, I have a comment here and on the previous post that went to spam, could you fish them out?)

    Let’s talk about apologies.

    In my subculture, an apology goes:

    1. I am sorry.
    2. It happened because [explanation].
    3. I will make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    You need the explanation because if you don’t thoroughly understand exactly why it happened, you can’t credibly guarantee it won’t happen again.

    However, SJWs often find an explanation offensive. Often they even give signs that they would prefer to hear “I don’t know why it happened”! That’s a very large cultural difference.

    In my subculture, no apology which includes “I don’t know why I did it” can be taken as sincere. Members of my subculture would think: “If you don’t know why you did it, then you didn’t put in the effort necessary to figure that out; and if you didn’t put in the effort, then you must not actually care about making sure you don’t do it again–so you must not actually be sorry.”

    (Similarly, in my subculture, Watson’s “I cannot understand how I could have said what I am reported to have said” was politely, but crystal clearly, saying, “I *did not* say what I am reported to have said. Some reporters are choosing to take my words out of context in order to defame me.” So it was unexpected…but interesting…when some SJWs took those words instead as an apology (New York Times headline: “Nobel Winner Issues Apology”) and admission of culpability.)

    Anyway. When SJWs demand an apology from members of my subculture, they then tend to react badly to the most sincere of the apologies they receive. So…

    * What (sub)cultures do prefer “I don’t know why I did it”? Why?

    * Everyone, what is “the proper apology format” in your subculture, and why?

    Like

    • I think I caught your comments–let me know if I missed any.

      SJWs treat apologies like sharks treat blood in the water. Anything you say can and will be used against you.

      The ultimate endpoint of an apology is reconciliation. SJWs don’t want reconciliation, especially not with people from your subculture. They want to use the other person’s apology to gain status points and show why they’re better than the other person. This is the problem with run-away holiness spirals.

      This is not to say that all SJWs are incapable of gracefully accepting an apology, but in groups, they don’t.

      Any explanation for a behavior is a way of saying, “there was a legit-seeming reason for what I did,” and SJWs insist that you cannot legitimize bad behavior. If you say, “I did X because I was afraid,” the response is, “You were a bad person to be afraid!” If you say, “well, my parents told me to be afraid,” they will say, “You need to take responsibility for your own actions and not try to fob off responsibility.”

      I have no idea what my (sub)culture thinks an apology should be like. I think you say, “Gee, I’m sorry,” and try to fix things if you can. Like, if you whacked your little sibling with a toy, you should hug them and help them feel better. An explanation for why you whacked your sibling isn’t necessary, but I’ll usually listen if there’s a good one (eg, sibling hit you first.)

      I have… kind of a bad history with apologies. Often I think there is a very messed up dynamic around them where people demand apologies for things that weren’t actually the other person’s fault. Sometimes people use something I call “weaponized feelings” to harm others. “I am so offended!” “You hurt my feelings!” etc.

      SJWs aren’t the only people who do this, but the primacy of other people’s feelings and perceptions over your intentions is a big part of the SJW dynamic.

      [i]“I cannot understand how I could have said what I am reported to have said”[/i]
      Ah, sounds like they read it as, “I don’t understand how I could have said such an insensitive thing!”
      Your interpretation sounds better, though a third option, “I don’t remember whether I said that or not, but that doesn’t sound like the sort of thing I would have said,” is also technically possible. Intonation would make a difference here. Baffled? Serious? Remorseful?

      Like

      • Thanks! OK, have again learned that two or more links send a comment to spam.

        Any explanation for a behavior is a way of saying, “there was a legit-seeming reason for what I did,” and SJWs insist that you cannot legitimize bad behavior.

        It is, but my point was, it’s other things as well. It’s also proof–the *only* proof–that you understand what happened well enough to make sure it won’t happen again. I’m not willing to give that up just because other people dislike seeing bad behavior “legitimized.”

        People need to get past the idea that understanding something automatically means you condone it.

        I think you say, “Gee, I’m sorry,” and try to fix things if you can.

        Aha, you’ve brought up something that appears in some “apology cultures” and not others: “Making restitution.”

        In my subculture, restitution is not necessary, but it is something the apology recipient is allowed to demand as a condition of accepting the apology.

        Apparently, in some cultures, restitution is the most important, even definitional, part of an apology: Chapman and Thomas on apology forms.

        Like, if you whacked your little sibling with a toy, you should hug them and help them feel better. An explanation for why you whacked your sibling isn’t necessary, but I’ll usually listen if there’s a good one (eg, sibling hit you first.)

        Once upon a time in my family ;) a 4- and 2-year-old were caught poking and bothering their newborn sibling.

        How would you respond?

        In my family, they were told to stop and asked why they were doing this. They said: “We wanted to see if we could make the baby cry.” They were informed that you should not do that experiment on a fellow human because it hurts them. Background assumption was that now that you know for sure that it hurts them you *of course* won’t do it. (They didn’t.)

        The adults did attribute this to sibling rivalry, but also felt that by not giving that as their explanation, the kids had signaled that they didn’t wish to discuss those feelings. Meanwhile the kids had learned that they weren’t to do this again, so (thought the adults) the problem was solved and their emotional privacy could be respected.

        Ah, sounds like they read it as, “I don’t understand how I could have said such an insensitive thing!”

        Yes–and I think there may be a subculture in which *that* is a/the standard apology form. A subculture that predates SJWism, I mean. But which one? (Or maybe it’s several?)

        My subculture would react really badly to an attempted apology of the form, “I don’t understand how I could have done such a bad thing.” It…would be heard as, basically, “I have no self-control, cannot be trusted to behave, and hence, am a ‘menace to society’ AKA vermin to be exterminated.” (That line from “America the Beautiful,” “confirm thy soul in self-control,” expresses an important part of my subculture. BTW the author was a professor at Wellesley, Massachusetts born and raised.)

        Sometimes people use something I call “weaponized feelings” to harm others. “I am so offended!” “You hurt my feelings!” etc.

        SJWs aren’t the only people who do this, but the primacy of other people’s feelings and perceptions over your intentions is a big part of the SJW dynamic.

        Ah yes, “intent isn’t magic” and so on.

        I agree with Nancy Lebovitz that a lot of the SJW tactics were originally developed to deal with one kind of bullying–the “I didn’t mean to hurt you, so I didn’t hurt you, so you can’t ask me to stop hurting you because I never did hurt you” kind, AKA “stop hitting yourself.” (In contrast to the non-bullying possible response, “I didn’t mean to hurt you, so now that I know $thing hurts you I won’t do it again.”)

        I also agree with her that when these tactics are used on people who have not actually been bullying anyone, they turn into another kind of bullying. The “weaponized feelings” kind. (All debates are bravery debates…)

        So now, people hear “I didn’t mean to hurt you” and don’t wait to hear the rest. Some actually are traumatized and actually are “triggered” in the sense of mistakenly jumping to the conclusion that the rest will be “So I didn’t hurt you” etc. Others are exploiting the existence of the first group in order to get away with hurting others just out of sadism. Still others are exploiting the situation “just” for status points.

        I also think that pop culture has fallen into not having any way to object to something *other* than by taking offense. People who object to something in any way are often assumed to be offended by it, and people who want to object often assume they need to say they’re offended…

        Like

      • Anyway, sorry about the late response(s). It sometimes takes me a good hour or two to write what I think are adequate responses, especially to longer comments, and so I had put off responding, but I certainly did not intend to just ignore you or make you feel like your effort wasn’t appreciated.

        Technically, your other comments had gone to the “needs unscreening” folder, though I don’t know exactly how the blog determines what goes where. Sometimes perfectly reasonable comments end up in the spam folder.

        I’m not willing to give that up just because other people dislike seeing bad behavior “legitimized.”
        Then don’t. :) Honestly, I don’t think SJWs are working toward a functional social system.

        To be honest, I have no idea if I come from a restitution culture or what; my parents don’t even agree on what constitutes or requires an apology, and neither does my husband. I just try to be flexible, keeping in mind both that different folks have different ideas on the subject, and that sometimes when people feel guilty or embarrassed, this makes them feel less likely to apologize. Sometimes people act in ways that indicate that they’re sorry or that they don’t want to repeat the behavior, and I’ll usually accept that, too, even without an explicit apology. I tend to care more about a person’s overall pattern of behavior–are they usually nice? Do they habitually do things I dislike?–rather than focus on the performance of any particular ritual.

        But that said, it does just feel normal to me that if you break something or hurt someone, you try in some way to repair matters. If not the person who did it, then who? This is obviously conditional on ability–a small child who breaks a lamp obviously can’t fix or pay for the lamp. They can–if it is safe–help clean up the lamp. But obviously if you’ve done something like miss an appointment, there isn’t anything you can do to “fix” it. Then you just apologize.

        Once upon a time in my family ;) a 4- and 2-year-old were caught poking and bothering their newborn sibling.

        How would you respond?

        Depends on how much sleep I’ve had recently. If this is a first offense, probably something like, “Hey, stop that. Shoo. Don’t poke the baby–you could hurt her. What if you made her cry? She’d be sad.” (I assume that small children don’t entirely realize yet that their actions can make other people hurt, and so would just provide that information upfront for why they’re not allowed to do this thing.) If they repeated it, they’d get time-outs.

        Once small child A picked up a stick and whacked baby B on the head with it. That resulted in a stronger reprimand.

        I don’t think SJWs are actually interested in apologies so much as weakness and acquiescence.

        Like

      • I agree, restitution does make sense…but my subculture doesn’t require it. I think that’s because my subculture is focused on what kind of a person you are–similar to your “habitual behavior” focus. The focus is on whether the offender is the kind of person who would *habitually* hurt others, either deliberately or recklessly.

        My subculture ought to pay a little more attention to your “who else?” point. My friend’s child suffered a freak accident at school, and my friend had to pay for the resulting surgery, because even though another child had caused the injury, the other child “wasn’t in control of himself” so it “wasn’t his fault.” Maybe it wasn’t, but it wasn’t the injured child’s fault either. Yet *someone* had to pay for the surgery. Who else indeed.

        I thought Chapman and Thomas made an interesting point too that some cultures equate “apology” with “admission of wrongdoing” and others do not. I’m so steeped in the former culture that it’s hard for me to even imagine the latter. I’d never make an apology just to *reconcile* if I didn’t think I’d actually done anything wrong–it just wouldn’t even occur to me. (I might do something *else* to reconcile, but it wouldn’t occur to me to think of it as an apology.) C&T would say I’m typically American in that. Yet apparently in many cultures that’s the dominant form of an apology.

        Like

      • I suspect I apologize to reconcile all the time, but that’s because I have a relation who takes offense at EVERYTHING and so if life is going to be peaceful, I bite my tongue and do what it takes to just get along.

        Aw, jeez, that’s awful about your friend’s kid. I hope they’ve recovered.

        Like

      • Relation sounds like one of those “feelings weaponizers” you mentioned, sorry you have to deal with that.

        I’m sorry to say the accident caused a brain injury. The brain surgery did go as well as could be hoped for, but the child was left with some specific learning disabilities and attentional problems. One thing to be grateful for: specific LDs can be worked around.

        Like

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