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Nature wins, hands down

Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are (The MIT Press)

From Robert Plomin’s Blueprint: How DNA makes us who we are

 

“One of the most remarkable discoveries is that even most measures of the environment that are used in psychology—such as the quality of parenting, social support and life events—show significant genetic impact. How is this possible when environments have no DNA themselves? Genetic influence slips in because the environment is not randomly “out there” independent of us and our behavior. We select, modify and even create our environments in line with our genetic propensities. Correlations between such so-called environments and psychological traits don’t necessarily mean that the environments cause the traits. For example, parental negativity correlates with their children’s antisocial behavior, but this doesn’t mean that the parents cause their children’s antisocial behavior. Instead, this correlation is substantially caused by parents responding negatively to their children’s genetically-driven propensities.

“A second crucial discovery is that the environment works completely differently from the way environmentalists thought it worked. For most of the 20th century, environmental factors were called nurture because the family was thought to be crucial in determining environmentally who we become. Genetic research has shown that this is not the case. We would essentially be the same person if we had been adopted at birth and raised in a different family. Environmental influences are important, accounting for about half of the differences between us, but they are largely unsystematic, unstable and idiosyncratic—in a word, random.

“The DNA differences inherited from our parents at the moment of conception are the consistent, lifelong source of psychological individuality, the blueprint that makes us who we are. A blueprint is a plan. It is obviously not the same as the finished three-dimensional structure. The environment can alter this plan temporarily, but after these environmental bumps we bounce back to our genetic trajectory. DNA isn’t all that matters, but it matters more than everything else put together in terms of the stable psychological traits that make us who we are.

These findings call for a radical rethink about parenting, education and the events that shape our lives. It also provides a novel perspective on equal opportunity, social mobility and the structure of society.

“The nature-nurture war is over. Nature wins, hands down.”

Why Casper Semenya matters

Poor Casper Semenya. She is somewhat intersexed, and the levels of testosterone in her body enable her to run much faster than women less masculinized. And this brings up two issues that blow a hole in essential contentions of some Leftists.

First, it is obvious that if men (or former men, however surgically and chemically neutered) are allowed to compete in female sports, they will win. Higher, faster, stronger. The victories of former males in female sports are becoming so obvious that it can no longer be ignored that males have superior strength, speed and endurance. This leads to the realization that all of female sports is a set-aside, which is obvious when you think about it, but this issue causes people to think about it consciously.

To give an example, Canadian female hockey Olympians practice by competing against male junior B hockey players as equals.

The second hole that this fact blows in the brains of the feminist Left is that sex cannot be seen purely as a matter of self-identification. If I cannot self identify as a female to compete in sports, then I cannot identify as a female to use their washrooms.

It will be argued that athletes who have transitioned from male to female do not continue to have physical advantages, but this will be shown to be rubbish soon enough.

What matters is biology, so long denied, denigrated and derided by the political Left. If issues are by their nature biological, in whole or in part, then merely talking about them in a different way will not change facts. Since most of the Left believes that by talking about things differently we can change facts, because “facts” are a construction of white male defence mechanisms to prevent changes of power, the impressive resistance of facts to manipulation by nattering will become more and more apparent.

The ACLU issued the following Tweet:
“Caster Semenya should be able to compete without being subjected to sex stereotypes that have disproportionately harmed Black women for too long. Women with high levels of testosterone are and always will be woman enough. Stop policing women’s bodies.”

You will have observed that the ACLU switches the issue from sex to race, that the magic word “stereotypes” is used and the harm is said to be “disproportionate”. The word “stereotype” is used in debate whenever a fact proves to be inconvenient. Three magic formulae are used in just two sentences

I have observed that lesbians have been the most clear in their rejection of the arguments of the advocates of transexuals to participate in female sports, and more generally to claim the right to be women. They are saying that lesbianism is a biological condition, not merely a question of self-identification. You should watch this video of Leftists lesbians complaining about how their children are manipulated by the medical profession and others to “transition” without parental permission.

They call this a “social contagion”, and I agree with them. If you object to clitoridectomies by Muslims, why would you not object to radical mastectomies for underage girls. All in the name of pursuing your “authentic self”. “People should know that this is Planned Parenthood’s new business”, one of them says. You can transition your sex and still not be old enough to buy alcohol.

But the implications of the re-emergence of biology as a discussable factor in life goes beyond sport, quite obviously. The debate about the role of testosterone in sport is only the beginning of a necessary pushback against the attempt to repress the reality of biology, and biological difference, in the name of inclusivism and equality.

Doom: The Complete Version

 

It is all the fault of fluctuations in CO2. So says Peter Brannen in “The Ends of the World”. This is a terrific book even if you disagree with it, as I do, on no grounds I can think of except that he is a doomist.

Every few scores of millions of years, there have been massive exterminations of species. Brannen relates the best recent evidence for how these extinction events came about. There have been five of them, at least. Usually the underworld opens up and continents of lava spew forth, killing everything in their continent-sized lava flows, and what is not killed directly is then wiped out by ocean acidification (CO2 again). Or so much CO2 is belched out of the ground by volcanism that the planet gets too hot, such as 40C seas at the equator, which is hot-tub hot.

Obviously Brannen thinks that all of current human civilization is pumping massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere with such abrupt speed that nature has no chance of adapting to it.

It is not hard to find a paragraph that supports his contention.

As a result of this innovation [coal burning], human civilization is now propped up by a continuous explosion f energy, a global megametabolism, with hundreds of millions of years worth of sunlight being released all at once in combustion engines and power plants. Carbon dioxide is a by-product of this new civilizational metabolism, and we now emit 100 times more CO2 each years than volcanoes. This far outstrips the  ability of the earth’s thermostat to keep up with rock weathering and ocean circulation, operating as those processes do on 1,000- to 100,000 year timescales. (at p. 236)

Nitrogen-fixing from the air, which is the technology that gives rise to artificial fertilizers, is also to blame for runoffs that take the oxygen out of seawater.

And it goes on. We are rapidly wrecking large parts of the planet, and he gives the reasons why this is so.

I must confess that Brannen makes my skepticism about the doomist view more difficult to maintain. However, he is well worth the effort, first because his science is good, second because he points out the enormous spans of time this planet has been around –  spans so large that the earth  has in effect been several different planets in the course of time – and third, because I think that every global warming/doomist skeptic needs to know the full argument, not just the IPCC version. Brannen has been hanging around with real scientists, not with atmospheric trend projectors and data falsifiers, such as NOAA and HadCrut and the IPCC pseudo-scientific international bureaucrats.

In my view, doomism is justified if we cannot get human population to shrink. There are several ways that the human race will make less impact on the planet in the next few hundred years.

Population reduction through lifestyle changes are already well underway. Everywhere women can guarantee that their children survive, they stop producing more than two children. See Hans Rosling on this issue.

The other traditional method is war, famine, pestilence and death. That is what will happen if we fail, and maybe it will happen anyway. If the world starts to go to hell through ecological disasters, war will inevitably follow, and with it the usual population correctives.

We could reduce population peacefully by conscious choices and end up in prosperity for the remaining few billions who will be found at the end of this process. We could reduce it by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and end up in a low productivity, high birthrate world, such as we began to get out of on the 18th century.

Maybe we are like bacteria on a Petri dish, and our numbers will expand until we die off catastrophically, as we exhaust our resources. That was the view of the biologist Lynn Margulis.

This question was also ably examined, in a more balanced way, by Charles C. Mann in his The Wizard and the Prophet. But Mann’s book, while more balanced than Brannen’s, deals with two scientists with two points of view, doomist and meliorist, whereas Brannen coneys a vast amount of information about how hellish the earth has been in the Great Extinctions that have ravaged the earth over time.

The disturbing aspect of Brannen’s argument is that, in his view, humans are acting as the unconscious agents of destruction. I do not see any happy outcome, but I hope I am spectacularly wrong.

 

 

 

More on the genetic basis of everything

David Reich, a geneticist, wrote in a recent New York Times op ed the following:

I am worried that well-meaning people who deny the possibility of substantial biological differences among human populations are digging themselves into an indefensible position, one that will not survive the onslaught of science. I am also worried that whatever discoveries are made — and we truly have no idea yet what they will be — will be cited as “scientific proof” that racist prejudices and agendas have been correct all along, and that those well-meaning people will not understand the science well enough to push back against these claims.

This is why it is important, even urgent, that we develop a candid and scientifically up-to-date way of discussing any such differences, instead of sticking our heads in the sand and being caught unprepared when they are found.

Also covered at : https://medium.com/new-york-magazine/denying-genetics-isnt-shutting-down-racism-it-s-fueling-it-5e5ccaca684e

And in response to this, Andrew Sullivan wrote:

Last weekend, a rather seismic op-ed appeared in the New York Times, and it was for a while one of the most popular pieces in the newspaper. It’s by David Reich, a professor of genetics at Harvard, who carefully advanced the case that there are genetic variations between subpopulations of humans, that these are caused, as in every other species, by natural selection, and that some of these variations are not entirely superficial and do indeed overlap with our idea of race. This argument should not be so controversial — every species is subject to these variations — and yet it is. For many on the academic and journalistic left, genetics are deemed largely irrelevant when it comes to humans. Our large brains and the societies we have constructed with them, many argue, swamp almost all genetic influences….

 

(Vox editor Ezra) Klein cannot seem to hold the following two thoughts in his brain at the same time: that past racism and sexism are foul, disgusting, and have wrought enormous damage and pain and that unavoidable natural differences between races and genders can still exist.

I know this is a touchy, fraught, difficult subject. I completely understand the reluctance to discuss it, and the hideous history of similar ideas in the past. But when people seeking the truth are immediately targeted for abuse and stigma, it matters. When genetics are in a golden age, when neuroscience is maturing as a discipline, and when the truth about these things will emerge soon enough, it matters that we establish a liberalism that is immune to such genetic revelations, that can strive for equality of opportunity, and can affirm the moral and civic equality of every human being on the planet. Liberalism has never promised equality of outcomes, merely equality of rights. It’s a procedural political philosophy rooted in means, not a substantive one justified by achieving certain ends.

That liberalism is integral to our future as a free society — and it should not falsely be made contingent on something that can be empirically disproven. It must allow for the truth of genetics to be embraced, while drawing the firmest of lines against any moral or political abuse of it. When that classical liberalism is tarred as inherently racist because it cannot guarantee equality of outcomes, and when scientific research is under attack for revealing the fuller truth about our world, we are in deep trouble. Because we are robbing liberalism of the knowledge and the moderation it will soon desperately need to defend itself.

What Sullivan concludes is true. The Left is only interested in science to the extent it appears to support their preconceived notions, not because they have the slightest regard for the scientific process, which involves rational skepticism and full debate. The Left cannot abide the notion that we are not somehow infinitely plastic and only made unequal but human institutions. Science is not on their side.

 

The Wizard and the Prophet

Norman Borlaug

 

I like books that go to the root of things. Charles Mann has written one such. He is the author of 1491 and 1493, which explored, respectively, the world of the Americas immediately before the European discovery of America by Columbus, and the world after it. We continue to live with the consequences of that discovery.

Mann is not afraid to tackle large subjects. In his latest, the Wizard and the Prophet, he writes of the contest of views between the original ecologist and catastrophist, William Vogt, and the original optimist-scientist improver, Norman Borlaug. The latter man was the author of the Green Revolution. The former is the proponent of the view that we must all live within the limits imposed by Gaia, and that we are abusing the planet’s carrying capacity.

Canada cannot get a pipeline built, in part because our Liberal government inclines more to the Vogt position than the Borlaug position. Society is in turmoil because of fears of catastrophic global warming, overpopulation, and ocean acidification because of the views propounded by William Vogt and his catastrophist successors.

Charles Mann has done us a great service by laying out the debate and the values behind the debate about the good life that each man, Vogt and Borlaug, embodied.

The Wizard and the Prophet resembles another great book, Arthur Hermans’s The Cave and the Light, which treats of the continuing unresolved and unresolvable conflict between the approaches to reality expounded by Plato and Aristotle. The two books are lively, high level, and important, and to read them is to gain an education in something of supreme importance in the struggle of ideas.

Unfortunately we live in an era when people seek to win arguments by preventing argument from happening. “We shouldn’t even be discussing this” is the motif of the mindless hordes of the PC brainwashed. “It is settled science”.

With respect, no, it is not settled and cannot ever be settled, because the issue is not the science, it is a choice between experiment, innovation, risk and growth, on the one hand, and conservatism, control, stagnation, and the management of greater poverty, on the other.

Yes I am a rational optimist. I chose to get out of the Club of Rome catastrophism in 1976, while a huge swath of the intelligentsia seem to be still stuck there.

And hence we cannot get pipelines built. Ideas have consequences.

 

 

 

Heredity: It is more important than environment

By far the largest factor in who you are is your heredity, not your environment. And this drives the Left to paroxysms of denial.

Here are some extracts from an article on twin studies from Quillette, which is an excellent source of information.

 

In 2000, the psychologist Eric Turkheimer concluded that the evidence from behavioral genetic data was consistent enough to summarize in three laws. The first law holds that all human traits are heritable (i.e., genetic differences account for phenotypic differences) to some degree. This assertion may not seem all that surprising today, although the word ‘all’ is still considered provocative by some. However, twin studies have produced copious data demonstrating that almost every trait is heritable to some degree or another.

The remaining two laws concern environmental influence. The second of these holds that the effect of being raised in the same family is smaller than the effect of genes….

The third law holds that a substantial portion of the variation in complex human behavioral traits is not accounted for by either the effects of the genes or families. In other words, while about 50 percent of the variation is due to the environment, this environmental effect does not come from the family. Instead, it may be produced by the wider culture, society, the neighborhood, school, peer-groups and friends, but also simply chance: random encounters or openings in the social hierarchy, cosmic rays that damage a piece of DNA, neurons that go zig instead of zag, and so on.

Twin studies have uncovered the enormous importance of genetics. They have laid to rest the notion that parents are omnipotent sculptors, and a child is a piece of clay. They have hammered another nail into the coffin of the Freudian guilt complex, where everything that goes wrong in an individual’s life may be attributable to poor parenting.

 

Exterminate carbon units!

If you like mass doom you will like this article . Borrowing a theme from the television show Dr. Who, occasionally nature tries to exterminate life on earth, as the Daleks try to do to humans in science fiction.

Bianca Bosker, writing in this month’s Atlantic about a lady paleontologist who does not accept the Chicxulub asteroid extinction theory, has this to say,

Over the course of its 4.5-billion-year existence, the Earth has occasionally lashed out against its inhabitants. At five different times, mass extinctions ensued.

Seven hundred million years ago, the oceans’ single-cell organisms started linking together to form multicellular creatures. Four hundred and forty-four million years ago, nearly all of those animals were wiped out by the planet’s first global annihilation. The Earth recovered—fish appeared in the seas, four-legged amphibians crawled onto land—and then, 372 million years ago, another catastrophe destroyed three-quarters of all life. For more than 100 million years after that, creatures thrived. The planet hosted the first reptiles, the first shelled eggs, the first plants with seeds. Forests swarmed with giant dragonflies whose wings stretched two feet across, and crawled with millipedes nearly the length of a car. Then, 252 million years ago, the “Great Dying” began. When it finished, 96 percent of all species had vanished. The survivors went forth and multiplied—until, 201 million years ago, another mass extinction knocked out half of them.

The age of the dinosaurs opened with continents on the move. Landmasses that had spent millions of years knotted together into the supercontinent of Pangaea began to drift apart, and oceans—teeming with sponges, sharks, snails, corals, and crocodiles—flooded into the space between them. It was swimsuit weather most places on land: Even as far north as the 45th parallel, which today roughly marks the U.S.–Canada border, the climate had a humid, subtropical feel. The North Pole, too warm for ice, grew lush with pines, ferns, and palm-type plants. The stegosaurs roamed, then died, and tyrannosaurs took their place. (More time separates stegosaurs from tyrannosaurs—about 67 million years—than tyrannosaurs from humans, which have about 66 million years between them.) It was an era of evolutionary innovation that yielded the first flowering plants, the earliest placental mammals, and the largest land animals that ever lived. Life was good—right up until it wasn’t.

 

Later, writing about the explosion of an Icelandic volcano called Laki,  which wiped out a fifth of Iceland’s population, more gloom ensues:

 

On June 8, 1783, Iceland’s Laki volcano began to smoke. The ground wrenched open “like an animal tearing apart its prey” and out spilled a “flood of fire,” according to an eyewitness’s diary. Laki let loose clouds of sulfur, fluorine, and hydrofluoric acid, blanketing Europe with the stench of rotten eggs. The sun disappeared behind a haze so thick that at noon it was too dark to read. (Unlike the cone-shaped stratovolcanoes from third-grade science class, both Deccan and Laki were fissure eruptions, which fracture the Earth’s crust, spewing lava as the ground pulls apart.)

Destruction was immediate. Acid rain burned through leaves, blistered unprotected skin, and poisoned plants. People and animals developed deformed joints, softened bones, cracked gums, and strange growths on their bodies—all symptoms of fluorine poisoning. Mass death began eight days after the eruption. More than 60 percent of Iceland’s livestock died within a year, along with more than 20 percent of its human population. And the misery spread. Benjamin Franklin reported a “constant fog” over “a great part of North America.” Severe droughts plagued India, China, and Egypt. Cold temperatures in Japan ushered in what is remembered as the “year without a summer,” and the nation suffered the worst famine in its history. Throughout Europe, crops turned white and withered, and in June, desiccated leaves covered the ground as though it were October. Europe’s famine lasted three years; historians have blamed Laki for the start of the French Revolution.

 

The article is relevant for a number of reasons. First, it details planetary catastrophes have already occurred, which should sober anyone. Second, it narrates an unresolved  battle of words between those who believe that dinosaurs were wiped out by the Chicxulub asteroid and those who think they were wiped out by massive (fantastically massive) volcanic outpourings that produced the basaltic plateau that covers most of India, the Deccan Traps. Third, it lends credence to my idea that a great many scientific disputes operate at any given time. When you hear some idiot say that “the science is settled”, you know you are hearing a political statement. The science is never settled. It is only provisionally accepted in some quarters for some people, for some time.

 

Toxic femininity

 

Image result for heather heying

 

From Quillette, by Heather Heying

 

Creating hunger in men by actively inviting the male gaze, then demanding that men have no such hunger—that is toxic femininity. Subjugating men, emasculating them when they display strength—physical, intellectual, or other—that is toxic femininity. Insisting that men, simply by virtue of being men, are toxic, and then acting surprised as relationships between men and women become more strained—that is toxic femininity. It is a game, the benefits of which go to a few while the costs are shared by all of us…..

The movement that has popularized the term ‘toxic masculinity’ shares tools and conclusions with those who see signs of ‘white supremacy’ everywhere they look. Intersectionalists have in common with one another a particular rhetorical trick: Any claim made by a member of an historically oppressed group is unquestionably true. Questioning claims is, itself, an act of oppression.

This opens the door for anyone who is willing to lie to obtain power. If you cannot question claims, any claim can be made.

Thus: Racism is ubiquitous. And all men are toxic. I object—but objection is not allowed. Everyone who understands game theory knows how this game ends: Innocent people being vilified with false claims, and exposed to witch hunts. Sexual assault is real, but that does not mean that all claims of sexual assault are honest.

It is shocking that this bears saying, but there is a world of men who are smart and compassionate and eager to have vibrant, surprising conversations with other people, both men and women. The sex-specific toxicity that I have seen, when it has been obvious, has mostly been in the other court. All men are toxic and all women victims? No. Not in my name.

College degrees by sex

I do not use the word “gender”  and I counsel everyone to use the real word for it, sex.

“Gender” implies a political or grammatical construct. It is the same issue that Jordan Peterson has raised about pronouns for the inter-sexed and confused.

Now, on to the main course.

So which sex is finding that university is less appealing? Or which sex  cannot make the grades necessary in today’s pro-female education system? And which sex is falling behind in earning power as a consequence? And is either sex  allowed to observe this and remark upon it?