128 Comments

It's such a pity to see these ideologues push a whole generation of young, dedicated researchers out of academia. I know quite a few bright and hard-working people who did their PhD and then immediately left the uni system because they couldn't stand the political climate (even though where I live it's still much less extreme than in the US and the UK).

The next generation of professors will (for the most part) be made up of extremists, opportunists, and spineless people...

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My son got his BA in history and chose not to pursue a graduate degree because the kind of history he most enjoys--military history--is so out of fashion that he knew he wouldn’t be able to pursue his own research interests. He is especially frustrated because military history is really useful for understanding conflicts that are going on now, for example in Ukraine, and historically-informed politicians would make better strategic decisions.

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I had a professor in college whose specialty was Afghanistan. And I remember he said that part of why the US was successful in WW2 was the generals studied military history and past warfare. But for Afghanistan, they studied computer models. He said they would have known it would be disaster if fucking Alexander the Great could not do it

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And the British Empire at its height. And the Soviets. Just don’t invade Afghanistan.

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And that's on top of the financial burden they would incur pursuing a grad degree in history. If it helps, your son can always research and study outside of academia. Someone like Dan Carlin can be a model for that.

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Agreed! He’s looking for a job as a researcher for foreign policy think tanks right now. Wish him luck!

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And tell Armenia that they should get over what Turkey did because they have white privilege I guess

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The Kardashians are white?!?

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Every day I thank god or whoever is up there that I didn't go the PhD route. I finished my undergrad and went a different way in 2009. I can't imagine having to navigate this insanity.

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There's a grave oversight in the research for this episode. If you click through James Sweet's official university web page to his personal site, there's a list of his former Ph.D. students, including (drum roll!) one "Jessica Krug." What a spectacular crossover! Oddly - so oddly! - she's listed without any current title or link, leaving open the mystery of "where is she now?"

We'll be awaiting an abject apology from everyone except Moose for missing that, er, nugget.

For anyone who missed the Krug story, it's in Episode 28, "Dolezal II: Even Dolezaller."

https://jameshsweet.com/teaching/

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Amazing interneting on your part. Thank you for your service.

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I really am curious where Krug is now. She was by all accounts a gifted and accomplished historian; I don't wish her ill but am just so, so fascinated by elaborate hoaxes as well as the weird position that "identities" have assumed in our society.

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founding

Oof!! I hadn't realized she was his student.

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The Google tells me I’m the first coming up with this word (which I find hard to believe because it seems so obvious), so I am putting it out into the universe:

Apgrovelgy - n. a carefully scripted apology, issued when the speaker has done nothing wrong, but wishes to signal their (or his/her/zir) complete capitulation to the dominant view and enthusiastic mental self-neutering.

As in: “James Sweet published a thoughtful article on the state of the discipline of history, the result being a lunatic Twitter shitstorm and then his inevitable self-effacing apgrovelgy.”

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When I was in grad school around a decade ago, I had a prof who would rake me over the coals for anything remotely close to "presentism" in my writing. She was both extremely progressive, like almost everyone else in my field, and completely opposed to assuming that you can read the past through the categories of the present. I learned an enormous amount from her.

Now all the values are flipped around, in history and many other fields.

I agree with Jesse and Katie that these academic fights aren't about the substance of any one issue; they're about (1) taking down a bigwig online and (2) taking the morally correct side in the latest culture war, facts be damned.

I hate this stuff. But it is cathartic to hear it discussed by sane people and know that I'm not alone in being disgusted with these inane spats.

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Yeah it's weird. I clearly remember that the left was much less likely to use presentist analysis, because they were more likely to believe in moral relativism, e.g. that past cultures wouldn't see the same things as evil or good as we do.

Now it's the left that is using today's morals to judge the morals of past groups / cultures.

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The degree of moralism in modern progressivism is strange to me, having grown up when the side always applying black and white moral logic to everything were the right-wingers. There are still traces of the old libertinism when it comes to sex work and certain forms of disordered behavior like protest-looting. But those are inconsistently applied.

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Yes, and sticklers in general have always been critical of presentism. E.g., when popular magazines were identifying every possible historical figure as gay or lesbian, anti-presentists in sexuality studies were the wet blankets asking whether you can call someone "gay" or "lesbian" in a culture that doesn't have a sense of sexual identity like ours does. And so on for questions of religion, nationhood, etc.

Count me among the wet blankets, I guess, but I'm for asking questions and doing good research, and the worst of presentism is inimical to those projects.

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I'd add (3): history academia is another field where the demand for decent and/or prestigious jobs is far less than the supply and any chance of success relies on staying in the good graces of the tribe and creating job opportunities by any means necessary.

Your old professor sounds great. Hopefully she's still teaching and imparting that lesson on her students.

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There needs to be a college course in telling people to fuck off when they’re mad at you for no reason.

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When it’s your peers and seniors in an entire field that have gone Puritanical and are doing their best to destroy your life it might be time to hoist the black flag.

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I will probably delete all of mine at some point so no worries.

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Let us please abolish/demolish Twitter.

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As a Twitter user and usual opponent of hacking, if someone could take out that site for a month, or even just a week, I would support them receiving/being named a Nobel Peace Prize; a Presidential Medal of Freedom; a member of the Order of the British Empire, the Order of Canada & the Order of Australia; and Righteous Among the Nations.

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Pff, good luck with that. The only way to take something like Twitter off the network would be to take out their data centers in a coordinated attack.

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To paraphrase the old idiom, “from your lips to Anonymous’s ear.”

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Sounds like we have a plan.

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Speaking of destroying websites, I hope they cover the keffals v. Kiwi Farms drama next week because this is the only place that I think could do it well.

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Aug 28, 2022·edited Aug 28, 2022

Oh yes! And I hope they (or Trace) does *proper* research on keffals first. There’s an enlightening series of past tweets, available on the Internet Archive, for one thing.

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author

I’ve been taking pretty thorough notes on the whole thing, but do you happen to have a link to the tweets you have in mind?

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Hi, Twitter users @QuarantinedCoof @cancelculturecb have been posting links, but no doubt you’ve seen those by now.

I thought there was a third account but I can’t find it now so I’m likely misremembering.

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Aug 28, 2022·edited Aug 28, 2022

I feel the same way often, but that won't happen. It shouldn't either, because as much as I dislike it - and I really, really dislike it - I think Twitter's wretched existence can be rightly defended.

It doesn't really have to be abolished though. For Twitter to lose its power over night, all that has to happen is for all journalists to stop using it, publicly at least. If they want to lurk away there on anon accounts, let them off, but named, blue tick accounts? Editors should strongly discourage reporters from using them.

If journos didn’t complete the information circuit - if they didn’t provide that crucial last step in giving a story or viewpoint the particular authority that only old-school legacy media can bring, even today - I don’t think Twitter would be the five-alarm shitshow that it currently is.

And even if it was - we just wouldn’t hear about it ; )

Spread the word - Journalists, on public health grounds, leave Twitter!

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Hat tip to the 5th Column - a key facet of the student loan debate being completely ignored: thousands of lower class/working class kids take out loans but never finish college. So they end up saddled with debt but still lower/working class.

Nobody talks about this group as the media caricatures student borrowers as Harvard grads lighting cigars with dollar bills.

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No one talks about the fact that many of these Harvard grads are only there because their grandfathers went to City College for free. At least in NYC, up until the 1960s I hink into the 70s, it was free. A lot of people escaped poverty that way. All gone

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I don't know much about City College but there is Excelsior in NYS now. You can go tuition free to any CUNY or SUNY you can get into, if you live at home you're basically going for free (you do still have to pay fees I guess).

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I'd be a lot happier with the program if it was limited to people who were below the US median income a few years out of school. It's definitely true that some of the benefits go to that group, however.

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yeah, this is why I think the right's attack on student loan forgiveness will fail. College isn't some elitist thing, a lot of low income people have a lot of debt and almost all of that could get wiped by biden's order.

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$10k was a good place to set it. The people with $200k degrees in basket-weaving are shrieking about it being a drop in the bucket, but it’s great for the people who did a year or three of college, or got a degree from community college or a mid-tier state college like Cal State, but are stuck with several thousand dollars in debt they can’t get rid of.

I’m not sure the whole thing was a good idea right now, given inflation, but this was the right approach.

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Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022

Forgiveness will most benefit the top 40% of the income distribution. By definition it is benefitting those that are better off than most.

Re: timing and inflation, the ironic twist is that this is unlikely to be inflationary given its inherent regressiveness. Because it is a transfer to those that least need a transfer it will not be inflationary.

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deletedAug 30, 2022·edited Aug 30, 2022
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Here is what I consider a fascinating tidbit.

Neel Kashkari spoke out recently on the inflationary implications. This is obviously a hot topic given the current inflationary environment.

Neel is a dove and has also gotten involved in local school policy (in a ridiculous and destructive manner given his position IMO)

His conclusion is that college debt forgiveness is far too regressive to be inflationary.

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Can we make policy based on potential income that may or may not accrue 5-10-15 years from now? There are college grads working white collar McJobs* that may top out nowhere near $100k per year.

*I'm thinking of call centers, insurance processors, data entry, and similar administrative jobs that require a BA but don't pay very much.

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A horrible dad joke to remember Rowling's name:

- "Did you hear Harry Potter's favorite way to go down a hill is walking?"

- "Oh, no I didn't, that's fascinating."

- "J/k, rolling!"

My apologies.

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You have officially convinced me to rescind my support for freedom of speech :P

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I feel like I have to defend the job interviews at academic conferences.

Sure it's cheaper to do an interview over Zoom, but this is only really accepted since Covid hit. What you should be comparing it to is having to travel to different universities all over the country to interview there in person if you want to get a job.

Compared to that, traveling to one conference and scheduling a bunch of interviews with different universities while you're there is much cheaper and costs less time.

Also, I know you likely have a bunch of disagreements with Charles Murray, but just asserting that he doesn't want to help people with low IQs seems to be severely misrepresenting his views. As you criticize that in others, you should also avoid doing that.

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They also misrepresent Murray’s views on welfare. For the last 15 years he’s been one of the most vocal proponents for UBI on the right. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nSNrq1UitdY

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My issue is Murray fails to understand the heritability of IQ at all. It's a tricky concept but if he's going to write books about it he really needs to understand it better than his critics and he doesn't.

I do agree he's a compassionate, and not a cruel person.

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About conference interviews -- absolutely. If Zoom interviews really work nowadays, great. But back when I was on the academic job market (around the turn of the millennium) it was great to have multiple job interviews at a conference. Plus, going to conferences has always been what academics do, and it's a crucial opportunity for a young scholar to network even if they don't have job interviews there. Why do you think all those people were in Denver at HxA?

I think that young scholars, particularly ones without means, should be financially supported in going to conferences -- I certainly was -- but that's not a reason to get rid of them or to imply that they're a scam.

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Yeah and prior to zoom it was a big headache for schools to schedule on-site interviews which likely led to fewer people being interviewed for a given position. This could have obvious implications for people who got their PhDs from non-Ivy schools who then are less likely to even get a chance.

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Aug 29, 2022·edited Aug 29, 2022

The pre-Covid academic standard was that you, the applicant, would travel on your own dime (or your school's dime, if you were lucky enough to have access to grant money) to the big annual guild conference for semifinalist interviews. Then the hiring school would invite you on its own dime to finalist interviews on campus.

I thought then that the big-conference interviews were a hardship on applicants who had no access to travel funding. But I now waffle a little, because I am not sure I'd do as well in Zoom interviews as I did in person.

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That would not fly in engineering.

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Yup. I have read his most recent book. He is alao saying that we should npt taylor social policies for how we think the world should be if that helps absolutely no one. And we need to look at the individual and not their group identity.

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The most inflammatory aspects of Charles Murray come from a couple chapters in his book which imply that differences between black and white people is in part driven by genetic factors. Given the horrors unleashed on the world by the idea of inborn racial inferiority I understand the pushback and the lack of benefit of the doubt.

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I recently read a biography of Woodrow Wilson and was struck by the irony of the question of "are you a progressive?" mentioned by Jesse in the context of the nazi dinosaurs story.

Early progressives might have replied to the question of racial determinism "yes, isn't it obvious?"

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I read his latest book and I heard his interview with Glenn Lowery. I think the fear of what he is saying makes sense. It also does not mean he is wrong. Especially since he pretty painstakingly pointed out that these are group difference and cannot be pointed at why individual and more Importantly, it does overlap. I think it was closest to the difference in male and female math performance. But of course people get very offended about that.

I need to re read his book because I might be his remembering

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Aug 30, 2022·edited Aug 30, 2022

That's great advice for normal fields without a massive oversupply of job candidates.

If you'll forgive a bit of 'splaining: In the academic humanities, the supermajority of newly minted PhDs will never get a tenure-track job. In history, only 27% of 2017 graduates had tenure-track jobs by four (!) years after completion of the PhD. This excellent thread by Megan McArdle explains both the problem and the solution (that most PhD-granting programs don't want to adopt, by the way) elegantly: https://twitter.com/asymmetricinfo/status/1564329262349524995?.

I had a friend who searched for academic jobs in the humanities for over five years and finally landed a tenure-track job. She was able to negotiate the salary UP to $44,000/year.

That's the backdrop for the complaints and desperation in humanities/arts academia. McArdle is correct to say that most students should be told not to start or finish the PhD. The reason that I, personally, am not perpetually filled with rage about this is that my undergrad professors did tell me what I was getting into. But many of my classmates in my PhD program had no clue about the stats and were fed optimistic falsehoods by the professors (who weren't really trying to be mendacious, but as humanities types couldn't imagine that there might ever be a quantitative answer to a question).

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Real story. At my PhD graduation I was obviously very excited and we were placed alphabetically. I tried to be social (first mistake) and started talking to the person next to me (second mistake). She mentioned she had a PhD in English and gender studies and I inquired about her job (third mistake). She was still post docing at our institution. Being polite she inquired about my job, which I mentioned was straight to tenure track (fourth mistake). I'm always fascinated by the fun titles of PhD dissertation so I asked hers and it was Young Adult fiction of the 1920s to which I excitedly said "YA is my guilty pleasure' (5th mistake) which she informed me was "classicist and agiesm" and what she was fighting against. End of conversation but in my head shes leading a Twitter mob against Kat Rosenfield . God speed Dr YA. God speed.

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A PhD classmate of mine declared in her first year in the program that her field was YA. The professors told her that YA isn't considered a field by literary disciplines (dumb but true, IMO), but that she could switch to rhet/comp, where YA is studied (also true). She got very upset about the benighted views of the professors, persisted in doing YA for 7 years, and eventually left academia.

I thought the profs were doing right by her in telling her how things really are in time for her to change programs, but I kept my mouth shut so as not to offend anyone. A skill I got better and better at practicing in academic settings, alas.

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How was what you said ageist? I think there is ageism in the world and I think the way things focus on DEI, ageism is getting worse.. But that is ageism against " the old." And CLASSIST? Wait. Let me guess. You don't consider that to be good literature and someone with little education might think it is great? Fucking hell

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So why do universities produce so many surplus academics?

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Aug 31, 2022·edited Aug 31, 2022

It's a weird combination of tradition, prestige, and the need to matriculate a certain number of graduate students in order to attain/retain R1 (research 1) status.

I personally know a number of professors who don't believe that they should be admitting nearly as many graduate students to their programs as they are, but they are pressured into it by colleagues and administrators. I also know one professor who accepted a prestigious appointment on the condition that he would NOT have to advise graduate students, because he believes that his field shouldn't be awarding graduate degrees. But 99+% of arts and humanities professors have to take whatever job they can get and are in no position to dictate the terms of their offer.

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I believe the three Ss of Podcasting are Safety, Shittalking and Sanctimony

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I was going to say the third was “sexytimes”, but I think Jesse’s “soyboy” is more accurate. 😅

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Shit-talking < shiitake-ing

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I definitely read that as “shit-taking” and thought to myself “wow I must really be listening to the wrong podcasts”

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I think one of the things that’s really complicated is that heritability is not a very straightforward type of factor. It doesn’t mean like if your parents have a lower IQ, so will you. It speaks to likelihood and vulnerability in ways that are complex. I did some studying about it in my doctorate program and I still find it somewhat confusing. It’s not something that people can explain easily on Twitter so it makes it hard to actually have a discussion about this. That’s the unfortunate thing about Twitter and all these very fast social media pile-ons. People don’t always understand what they’re critiquing and if you pointed out they get all pissed off because there’s an idea that everyone’s an expert or no one is.

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Hard to talk about this sensibly without a knowledge of what "the portion of variance in this variable explained by this other variable" means.

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Aug 29, 2022·edited Aug 29, 2022

Human ancestry groups aren't dog breeds though, in that they weren't "bred for" anything so specific (every human population is highly admixed and pretty much selected for things like "cooking", "language", "tool use", and "having a big enough pelvis to sometimes survive birth with giant headed babies").

Also we don't subject only some dog breeds to maltreatment based on the amount of melanin in their skin/fur or other arbitrary appearance metrics.

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I mean, there are breed-specific ownership bans in some places against some larger dogs with a reputation for aggressiveness like Pit Bulls/Bullys/AmStaffs, Rottweilers, American Akitas, etc. And it used to be the case that some breeders who were highly fastidious about "breed standard" would reject puppies that departed from that standard significantly...not sure if it happens much now...

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Well yes, we absolutely still select genetically for certain traits in dogs. My point is that differences in things like problem solving or cognition in different dog breeds isn't really comparable to humans, because we don't only provide intensive training to dogs with brown fur or whatever.

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Aug 29, 2022·edited Aug 29, 2022

Er, there are also breed preferences in training for, e.g., police work, search & rescue, herding, retrieving, etc., Dog breeds aren't just melanin; neither are human general racial categories. Its why underrepresentation of African-descended people in medical studies can be a problem - differential rates of underlying conditions, susceptibility to various disorders/diseases, etc. are real and need to be taken into account to provide comprehensive care. Same (kinda) as with general dog categories; you want to make sure large dogs get checked for hip dysplasia, short-snouted dogs for brachycephaly, short-legged dogs for chondrodysplasia, and european-heritage hounds like Pinschers, boxers, boarhounds, etc. for cardiomyopathy, because those breed-groups are more susceptible to those conditions than normal...

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It's very clear that the entire field of Paleo Art is cultural appropriation from an oppressed clade of beings that suffered literal genocide at the hands of a hegemonic asteroid. For shame.

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Ugh Heritability is such an annoying and oft misunderstood concept I sometimes wonder if we as scientists should toss it in the trash. I spend about 80% of the time teaching it addressing what it does NOT mean and only about 15% describing what it actually is for and why it's useful to study.

A trait being heritable does not mean it is genetically caused. It is a measure of what proportion of variation in a phenotype correlates with variation in genotype. This can be direct or indirect interaction, meaning that an environmental mediator can explain some or even all of the correlation. For example illness due to lactose consumption is highly heritable, but you can cure it by avoiding milk. If you do that, then it's no longer heritable because there's no longer variation in the phenotype.

The same can be said for race and IQ or any other performance measure. If you get rid of the racism based on the phenotype (skin color, ancestry) then you may very well find that "black people" perform better in IQ than "white people", that they perform worse, or that they perform the same. If I was to GUESS I would guess that those with African ancestry will have a greater variation in IQ (simply because most genetic variation present in humans exists in populations of African descent), but that the mean most likely wouldn't be different, and most of the variation in IQ/performance is based on large effects like Developmental disorders.

However, we will never know as long as race is salient in society so it's a dumb argument to have, and trying to pretend that IQ isn't heritable like confused progressives sometimes do is missing the boat and providing ammunition to actual racists. IQ can even be 100% heritable within populations (it's not of course) and yet all mean differences between populations may be due to the environment, as long as there are mean differences in the environment between groups.

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It's important to remember that both native language and zip code are highly heritable traits. Few will argue that either of those are genetic in nature.

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I’m not sure this is actually true? I thought heritability was measured mostly from twin studies, and Wikipedia describes it as “the part due to genetic variation.” You may be confusing the lay definition with the one used by genetics researchers?

FWIW confounding with environmental factors is an obvious risk for any genome study, IIRC Kathryn Harden described GWAS studies using variation _within families_ to try and avoid this.

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No, this is true. Since you are referencing the Wikipedia article, I'll highlight what heritability is; it is a statistic. The application of that statistic may or may not lead to a good estimate of the how much variation is due to genetics. A big problem is that people regularly use the statistic on non-genetic traits, like zip codes and IQ.

Keep in mind that saying that IQ, another pure statistic, is not a genetic trait should not be controversial. Intelligence is certainly a complex trait that is a function of genetics and environment. On the other hand, IQ is a purely statistical construct, without any clear link to genetics. Saying IQ is genetic is akin to saying that SAT scores are genetic. It confuses the thing that is in some part genetic - intelligence - with a test score. That test score is related to intelligence is some way, but that relationship is neither well defined, nor well understood.

In many ways, the conflation of IQ with intelligence rests at the core of the misunderstanding.

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You are right that Harden's methods and twin studies are better than more basic methods - but they still could correlate with things like past socioeconomic correlation with ancestry. E.g. "poor people" have married each other and "rich people" have married each other more often than not for many generations, so you can sometimes get covariation due to random genetic differences that happened to be found in certain families before one became "rich" and the other "poor".

And it gets even trickier when these random genetic differences happen to be visible (like skin or hair color). Even Twin studies cannot control for visible differences. Harden does talk about this sort of thing in the book but it gets lost in the weeds sometimes. Nevertheless, I think it would be silly to try to argue that the only trait in humans which does not vary genetically between individuals is performance on IQ tests. It obviously does - as Jesse pointed out, we know many people are born with specific genetic disabilities which inhibit their performance on IQ. And for most traits, these types of large genetic effects are much rarer than more subtle genetic effects.

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Nope, Drewster is right. Something can be measured as highly heritable (genetically so) if the environment tightly covaries with the genetic variation.

This is true for zip codes and native language because people tend not to move very far from where they grow up.

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Aug 28, 2022·edited Aug 28, 2022

I'm at 34:00 and I think I see where this is going: Someone painted a T-rex with dreadlocks.

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I got my ticket. I live in St. Louis and I put a password in the customer note box stating that if I can't make it and a friend goes in my place, to ask them to give the password "Jesse Sucks, Katie Forever" to prove their legitimacy.

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Re the dinosaurs wearing Nazi uniforms: I assumed the point was that Nazis are “dinosaurs”--their time has passed, they’re passé. But I could be reading more into it than it deserves?

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