Wednesday assorted links

by on July 5, 2017 at 12:04 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. A new theory of language evolution: “A critical feature of our model is the core principle of reversal, whereby deceptive signals aimed originally by a coalition against an external target are subsequently redeployed for honest communicative purposes within the group.”

2, How similar is sex over the centuries? (not at all obscene, but very frank language at the link.  Btw, I am not convinced by the argument but interesting nonetheless).

3. A short history of for-profit scientific publishing.

4. Is Just-in-Time inventory one reason for growing corporate cash hoards?

5. “Our results demonstrate that substituting one food for another, beans for beef, could achieve approximately 46 to 74% of the reductions needed to meet the 2020 GHG target for the US. In turn, this shift would free up 42% of US cropland (692,918 km2).” Link here, via Kevin Lewis.

6. The syllabus of Junot Diaz at MIT.  Weirder than you might think, in a good way.

7. “Further, we find no relation between menstrual cycle phase and economic preferences in the placebo group.

1 Ray Lopez July 5, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Good stuff, especially the sex link.


2 Ray Lopez July 5, 2017 at 12:12 pm

#2 – Well, I wish there was more data given on the Greek sex except a ‘big picture’ overview. The author could have mentioned there’s a famous vase showing a Greek orgy, with various positions and partners, mostly men, but perhaps this would have violated the ‘anti-prurient’ tone of her post.

I don’t like “big picture” narratives without facts, it’s like those middle-school and increasingly common history textbooks that deal in generalities, especially bogus “world history” textbooks that fill in blanks in data by talking generalities.


3 FYI July 5, 2017 at 12:14 pm

#2 – Doesn’t that imply that sexual preference is (at least in large part) a choice (influenced by society) rather than a genetic trait? I actually think that people in general know this, but prefer to deny it because it advances their cause for acceptance…


4 Ray Lopez July 5, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Of course back in the ancient Greece days sexual preference was social, not genetic, as it was with ‘right of passage’ male-male rituals in the Pacific islands. I deduced this years ago when I learned Aristotle pointed out some Greek city-states widely practiced homosexuality (always an older man with a younger man, since same age homosexuality was considered ridiculous) while neighboring city-states did not. If it was genetic, you’d not have such variation between neighboring city-states. That said, in Macedonia and in Rome, later, homosexuality was a standard charge for depravity and looked down upon. When in Rome? Hat-tip: Peter Gay (sic), the excellent Columbia U historian in his one-volume edited Columbia History of the World.


5 Gabriel Rossman July 5, 2017 at 1:00 pm

In section II-C-1, Dover discusses that ancient Athenians had an understanding of sexual orientation, it just wasn’t nearly as salient or as associated with behavior as it is in our culture.

The Romans drew a distinction between active and passive partner. It was a scandal for a citizen to be penetrated, but not to penetrate. The upshot being that whereas a 4th c Athenian man could legitimately be penetrated if he was young and uncompensated, in Rome only lower status men could be legitimately penetrated.


6 FYI July 5, 2017 at 1:12 pm

In my view sex continues to be a mix of “preferences”, both social and genetic. You can see it by comparing older societies to ours but also by comparing current societies across the world. My point is that for gays to claim that “it is not a choice” is just silly. It’s like me telling my wife that I had no option in having an affair or not. So yes, there is likely a genetic component in sexual preference but that is not an imperative. It would be easier (from a political view point for acceptance of gays) but that is not how we work. So why the left, the so called “pro science” political group, accept such clearly false premise to promote a social goal? Why not call out things as they are here?


7 Thiago Ribeiro July 5, 2017 at 1:58 pm

So do you have a choice about liking men in a sexual way? I confess I lack it – homossexuality is alien to my psyche. I admit I think most gays has a s much choice on it as I have. If you mean gays have the option of avoiding sex or being really, really discreet about it … As I said, Catholic priests and other groups are expected to do the former and lots of gays do/did the latter. I am not sure most heterossexuals would fare so well under the same circumstances as Catholic priests (a tiny group of society witht he eventual cheater) do.
Apparently, the real issue here is you not believing some men are really attracted to women in a fundamental way and failing to apply (mutatis mutandis) such an insight to gays.
Evidently, you have a choice about not cheating (for most people, not cheating is not even a dramatic challenge specially if they are satisfied with the primary relationship), you probably has little choice about being a heterossexual. You have little choice about being hungry (yes, there is some space for habit-formation, ascetism, etc.) after some time without food, but you are to starve to death (for moral reasons, to make a point, etc.) instead of stealing food or breaking a hunger strike. Does it mean hunger has no biological basis? Quite the opposite, indeed.


8 msgkings July 5, 2017 at 2:19 pm

A rare insightful post from our Brazilian wannabe in Ohio. Well said.

9 Thiago Ribeiro July 5, 2017 at 2:42 pm

I am not from or in Ohio an I have never been to the place.

10 msgkings July 5, 2017 at 2:48 pm

It is a lie. You are from Ohio. Yes you are. Yes.

11 Thiago Ribeiro July 5, 2017 at 3:05 pm

No, I am not. I have never been to Ohio, I know no one from Ohio and I despise Ohio.

12 msgkings July 5, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Yes you are, you’ve lived there your entire life. I agree you despise it, that’s why you pretend to be Brazilian.

13 Thiago Ribeiro July 5, 2017 at 3:54 pm

I despise it because it is widely known no interesting ever lived there. Brazil is different, most interesting peole are from Brazil. The guy who invented the typewriter, the guy who invented the radio, the guy who discovered the pion, the guy who invented the airplane, the guy who invented modern airplane hijacking, the guy who discovered Chagas disease, the guy who invented a betetr kind of X-Ray .

14 FYI July 5, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Under my current environment, and my current social and personal situation, I can tell you that I have no interest in men. However, I do not think this is defined by some immutable genetic reason that would make me behave in the exact same way regardless of the situation. Can anyone honestly say so? I think that sex is in no way similar to hunger or thirst, that is a fallacy. Sex (in its various shapes and forms) is a social construct that lines up with a animal characteristic. We need sex the same way we need status, power or respect. There are people who successfully spend all their lives celibate. No one dies because of lack of sex. On the other hand, there are people who choose to spend their lives having sex with everyone they want to, for reasons that you and me would find repugnant. They are not more or less healthy, and there is no study showing that DNA characteristics about sexual behavior are passed from parents to children. Biologically speaking, gay people are able to have sex with partners of the opposite sex, and straight people are able to perform with people with the same sex. I mentioned in the message below some examples. So in my opinion, when gay people say “it is not a choice”, they are basically trying to justify a preference with an inaccurate statement.

15 Thiago Ribeiro July 5, 2017 at 4:55 pm

“However, I do not think this is defined by some immutable genetic reason that would make me behave in the exact same way regardless of the situation.”
Maybe it is not, but exactly how much it would have taken to make you a homossexual – and exactly what kind of society, experiences, etc. would it take? Under current circunstances, gay propaganda and all, most men are fine sleeping with women and vice versa. What would it take to change it for most men or women? Depending on the answer, how radical it would be (even if I think it would not work anyway), I would say it is not worth talking about it. We have a pretty real world right here where people reveal their preferences (and some people actually “revealed” them by hiding them, leading double lives because they happened to like people from their own gender). You can as well say there are no genetic drive for sex, after all some guys are assexual and some resist the urgings and keep celibare.

16 GoneWithTheWind July 5, 2017 at 8:52 pm

Wilbur and Orville Wright were from Ohio. If you ever fly you might just think that they were interesting.

17 Thiago Ribeiro July 5, 2017 at 9:09 pm

It does not matter where they are from. They invented nothing. Those scoundrels stole Brazil’s airplane project and, instead of donating it to mankind, as Santos Dumont did, tried to make a death machine out of it for money. First, they tried to sold the machinethey hadn’t. Then after Santos Dumont i vented the airplane, they stole it. To sellit for war, for death!! Santos Dumont invented it for peace, the Wrights wanted make money from innocent people’s suffering and deaths! While Brazil wants world peace (as Brazilian senator Ruy Barbosa told Literature Nobel Prize winner Anatole France), Amsricans worship the Almighty Dollar!!

18 JonFraz July 5, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Even among the ancients there were exclusive homosexuals, at least among men (we know a lot less about women). Generally they were not well thought of since they did not take wives and have children to continue their family lines.


19 Thiago Ribeiro July 5, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Obviously, there is choice (some at least) as how sexuality is treated (some people even make celibacy) vows, but you have two big groups in the same society. One of them not only is pretty satisfied with sex with the opposite gender, its members may even obsess about it and may even consider sex with people of their own gender as something that would only happen under coercion (hence all “funny” jokes about prison rape – not to mention actual prison rape as opposed to, I don’t know, prison daring). On the other hand, you have people who have, along the years, led double lives or faced societal disapproval because they prefer sex with people of their own gender (yep, there is some overlap between the two groups). It is obvious there is something fundamentally diferent between those two groups. Maybe it is genetics, maybe it has something to do with how much they liked their moms or disliked their dads or whatever, but it is clear they are pretty different. If you have a better explanation than genetics to explain why Guy Burgess was gay and Klaus Fuchs was straight..


20 FYI July 5, 2017 at 1:19 pm

Why some heterosexual men cheat on their wives and others don’t? Is that explained only by genetics? I doubt it. All human characteristics and choices are a mix of social norms, genetics and personal history. So yes, I do believe some people have genetics that somehow lead to homosexual preferences, but to say that these people have an stoppable urge and therefore have no choice is silly. So much so that you have many cases where those preferences change over time… and we end up using the term “bisexual”, which is really another proof that homosexuality is a choice, just like heterosexuality is.


21 msgkings July 5, 2017 at 1:45 pm

@FYI: you are mistaken in this metaphor. Your sexual preference is what is innate, and not chosen. You can choose to have sex with someone of the same gender or not, but you can’t choose whether you WANT to, whether you are even attracted to that gender. The best studies seem to indicate that like most things, homosexuality is not purely genetic. You can have a genetic predisposition which may or may not be expressed through epigenetic phenomena.

But no one chooses whether they want to have sex with boys or girls. The heart (and naughty bits) wants what it wants.


22 FYI July 5, 2017 at 3:47 pm

Are men who are heterosexual all their lives and then go to jail and have sex with men automatically homosexuals? Or are they bisexuals? Or maybe, they are still heterosexual but decided (consciously but also highly influenced their environment) that this option was better than no sex at all? Is that a preference or not?
My other example still applies in my opinion. Heterosexual men change their minds on wether they want to be monogamous or not. Their DNA remains the same, all that changes is social norms and their own analysis of their world and how to interact with it. The idea that sex is this highly special trait that is intrinsicaly genetic and ignores all sorts of other factors seem fabricated. We have examples all around us that show this is just a political construct. For instance, I do think that there is a large amount of people who have a weak preference, and given that gays are more accepted today they will choose to try that preference. A lot of these same people would choose not to 50 years ago. So their “preference” changes, as far as what they actually do with it (which is what really matters to society, right?)

23 msgkings July 5, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Again, what one does with their innate urges and desires is a matter of choice, but what one WANTS to do is not a choice. Those straight guys who go to prison and have (non coerced) sex with other men would much rather have sex with women. They are hard wired to like women, they did not choose to like women. Their behavior reflects their limited choice. I stand by my point, whether it’s genetic, epigenetic, or environmental, or most likely some combination like most traits, who you WANT to have sex with isn’t a matter of choice.

24 FYI July 5, 2017 at 4:27 pm

So do we have other “innate urges” that define us that way? Do you think that people who kill other people do so because of an innate urge? How about people who rape other people?
We can use this argument for almost anything. Fat people are “innate wired to eat”. Fit people are “innate wired to exercise”. This, in my opinion, would describe a world that is not what we see. We all have many, many animal urges and what we do or not is not directly related to them. At the end of the day, we are what we do.

25 msgkings July 5, 2017 at 4:39 pm

FYI, I guess I’m just speaking from my own experience (as are you, ultimately). I didn’t choose to like girls. I just do. If there were none around I would probably not have sex. And yes we “are what we do”. But we are discussing what determines what we WANT to do. By the way some people are indeed more hard-wired to be violent to address your examples.

I don’t even think we are disagreeing about that much. A person whose natural urges are hetero might mess around with homo acts (women apparently do this more often than men). And some people genuinely are attracted to both genders. My point is simply that the animal urge at the base of sexual behavior is really not chosen. What you DO with those urges is a choice, sure.

26 Thiago Ribeiro July 5, 2017 at 4:40 pm

“The idea that sex is this highly special trait that is intrinsicaly genetic and ignores all sorts of other factors seem fabricated. We have examples all around us that show this is just a political construct.”
Apparently, you think sexual orientation itself is a political construct. Maybe this helps you to understand it is not:

Again, men who need to be raped by their aggressors because otherwise they would choose not having sex with other men (even when sex with other men is the only kind of sex around and will be for years) probably are way firmer in the heterossexual group than a “it has nothing to do with biology” justifies. I would say it describes a good chunk of the male gender. I am sure it describes me. I am heterossexual so it is not hard to me u derstand the idea of sexual orientation.

“A lot of these same people would choose not to 50 years ago.”
Well, gay now is (somewhat) cool or at least well safer and yet most men (and women), no matter how promiscuous or “adventurous”, keep doing only heterossexual sex or settle at it after some experiences. And some other people (who for some reason still fear reputation damage) live double lives when they could easilyget a suitable woman.
Now, again, a homossexual can contain his/her impulses (so can a heterossexual, although many, many people in either group would fail), but it is hard to not see a biological basis to it all. Yeah, evidently culture matters, for some people at least, and can trump biological instincts (have I told you yet about how those weird Catholic priests are expected to be celibate, have no sex, never marry, and have no children? – It is a thougher choice than just not cheating you wife, though) and it has an influence on what people allow themselves to do, but seriously we have an almost perfect experiment here. When given freedom to choose, some people unmistakably choose people from their gender (and basically what we are diacussing is which rights those guys should have and which ones they should not), some unmistakably choose people from the opposite gender and a few can alternate both options. There have been closeted gays since homossexuality started being repressed.

27 FYI July 5, 2017 at 5:11 pm

I think it is quite funny that both msgkings and Tiago reacted to my message as a sign that I am gay! I think it is easier for heterosexual men as well to imagine that sex orientation is something immutable so that way they don’t need to think about and consider their options? Not sure!

In any case, I guess we might be saying the same thing but phrasing it differently. But phrasing here is important. I am not arguing that people have no preferences or that DNA has nothing to do with it. All I am saying is that, ultimately, sex expression is something we do control at a very high degree. So when gay people say “it is not a choice” that is inaccurate, and implies that we need to accept their sexual orientation because they have no other option. I believe we always have an option, regardless of how pleasant or not that option is. We should be able to accept (or not) gay people as something they chose to be, not because of some idealized fantasy that they are built that way and that’s it. Just like we condemn people who commit any kind of violence regardless of their DNA. I think this distinction makes a difference in this whole debate.

28 msgkings July 5, 2017 at 5:19 pm

FYI, I have in no way indicated I think you are gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (Seinfeld).

Your comments make some good points, but I think you have to at least meet us half way. Choosing who you wish to have sex with is not the same as choosing what you wear or what car you drive or your favorite color. The urges are not chosen, the behavior is. We condemn violent behavior because it is unequivocally condemnable, not because of the urges behind it. Those who condemn gay behavior might be more accepting if they understood the urges as not the choice of the person acting on them. An increasing majority of people no longer condemn gay behavior. Let’s hope that continues. It’s a distraction to say “you gays are choosing to be gay”. No, they are gay, they are choosing to express it (or not).

And to reiterate, it’s not a strictly genetic matter like eye color or hair color. Epigenetics are a big part of it (as they are with traits like height). Just because how tall you are isn’t just based on your parents’ DNA, doesn’t mean you have a choice there.

29 Thiago Ribeiro July 5, 2017 at 5:32 pm

Seriously, except for saying “gays can refrain from gay sex if they really, really make an effort and they probably deserve the bad things people may do to them” (same goes for heterossexual people if someone decides to restric their rights), I am not sure which insight you think we can gain by downplaying the biological basis of sexual orientation or the fact most people pretty know where they stand at the gay-hetero continuum.

30 The Engineer July 5, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Have you noticed that all millennial males are gay? How can this be explained by genetics? It’s social norms, of course.


31 JonFraz July 5, 2017 at 1:55 pm

I most definitely have not noticed the trend you mention.

32 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ July 5, 2017 at 3:57 pm

I think you bought the wrong gym membership.

33 Oderus Urungus July 5, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Most millennial males are indeed 100% queer-bait, no doubt.

34 rayward July 5, 2017 at 12:33 pm

2. Senator Sasse: “Turned out sex was really similar in most centuries.” Turned out the Senator was correct but likely for the wrong reason.


35 rayward July 5, 2017 at 12:42 pm

2. In ancient Greece what we might call bathhouses were called “gymnasiums”. The term comes from “gymnos, which means the naked place. They were more than bathhouses (although they included a bathhouse): originally used for athletic activities, over time they came to be used also as a place of study and philosophical discussion, not to mention a place for having sex. The thought of Senator Sasse and his Senate colleagues sitting around naked having philosophical discussions while occasionally engaging in sex acts with one another is more than I can take.


36 shrikanthk July 5, 2017 at 12:42 pm

5. Strengthens the utilitarian case for Hindu evangelism.


37 thfmr July 5, 2017 at 12:46 pm

2. What is the argument that Tyler feels compelled to dismiss? The post reads as an uncontroversial point of clarification.


38 Donald Pretari July 5, 2017 at 12:48 pm

#1…Which validates Frank Gorshin’s theory that impressionists were the first entertainers. ( Source needed )


39 mulp July 5, 2017 at 1:17 pm

4. The cash hordes are the result of not paying customers to work.

Thus customers need to be the source of ever increasing debt by government action to increase aggregate debt, ie, allowing consumer debt that will never be repaid and government borrowing debt it will never repay to fund consumer spending.

JIT reduces the cash on hand of customers limiting what they can buy without debt as most customers have little cash to use as inventory capital.

Business income taxes are the “punishment”, if you think taxes are punishment, for not paying workers. Conservatives think taxes have not been cut enough on not paying workers, that the cost-reward to managers of paying too much too workers is not high enough so the cost of paying workers must be increased by cutting taxes.

Ideally business taxes are eliminated so not paying workers is maximally rewarded, and paying workers cuts profits dollar for dollar.

Maybe the stage beyond JIT is businesses pay no workers but charge customers to bring the raw materials and do the work making the good they want, thus never holding inventory and generate 100% profit.


40 Zach July 5, 2017 at 2:20 pm

For-profit scientific publishing has many problems. But the two strengths you can’t overlook are the brand names and the associated audience. Even if Nature is objectively ripping you off by demanding the copyright to your article, the benefits of publishing in Nature are high enough that you’re going to do it, regardless.

Open access journals are much cheaper, and the arxiv is free. But nobody reads fly-by-night journals, and people overlook them on your CV when you apply for a job. So there’s a powerful incentive to stay with the tried-and-true, unless you have compelling reasons to do otherwise.


41 Anonymous July 5, 2017 at 4:24 pm

The government requires that government-funded research be placed in the public domain. Boom! Done.


42 Zach July 5, 2017 at 7:25 pm

… after which the for-profit journals adopt new economic models, such as extremely high page charges. Boom! Undone.

Pricing power is a market power. The publisher is the middle man between the author and the audience. As long as he’s the intermediary, he has pricing power in one form or another.


43 Anonymous July 5, 2017 at 8:11 pm

I don’t follow. Public work would go into the public domain. A variety of external ratings systems would pop up (some for profit). Private sector scientists would have to decide if for-profit journals (or ratings) still have utility. It would not be as man in the middle though, it would be as certification or guide.


44 Oreg July 6, 2017 at 9:50 am

Nobel laureates: “The research counts, not the journal!”
Good research will be found, no matter where it’s been published, thanks to, e.g., Google.
Journals’ power is only their gatekeeper function in appointing professors. Everybody knows this metric is flawed but changing process is glacial.


45 Viking July 5, 2017 at 2:31 pm

#5: How much extra support for the now unemployed corn growers and beef raisers? This is the real reason to avoid beef, unfortunately, as those flank steaks, tri-tips and rib-eyes are so delicious!!!

Chicken is not that great either, due to high Omega-6 fats. Go for Pork, Lamb and Fish.


46 sort_of_knowledgable July 5, 2017 at 10:11 pm

Pork and Lamb are also red meat. “They found that red meats (beef, pork and lamb) are rich in Neu5Gc”. You are down to fish.


47 Tony July 5, 2017 at 2:35 pm

#2 – A lot of the variation in the appearance of homosexuality could be explained if permanent homosexual orientation were caused by the repression of homosexual activity in youth. Rather like how going hungry in childhood affects attitudes towards food for the rest of your life. These days, I’m absolutely 110% gay – you need Duck Dynasty level manliness to get my attention – but my intuitive sense is that if I could have “scratched that itch” at a much earlier age, my sexuality might have gone in another direction. Having had it denied, condemned, and persecuted might have been what turned it from a “phase I was going through” into a life-long obsession. Wouldn’t THAT be ironic.


48 msgkings July 5, 2017 at 2:42 pm

Not really. You had that itch without any real choice in the matter. You’d still be gay even if society was more welcoming back then, it wouldn’t have been a “phase”.


49 Hazel Meade July 5, 2017 at 3:18 pm

you need Duck Dynasty level manliness to get my attention

I have a libertarian friend who fits this description. And he’s gay, and lonely.
I mean, if you’re into bearded bears who smoke a lot, drink heavily, and are into comic books, like seriously into comics to the point of being a comics snob. Friend of a friend. Just saying.


50 Matthew Young July 5, 2017 at 3:23 pm

1: Birds, dolphins and dogs have the same vocalization, but their languages still seem primitive. The difference with humans is that we practice consciously. How did we learn to practice and drill?


51 TR5749 July 5, 2017 at 4:26 pm

Let them eat beans!


52 athEIst July 5, 2017 at 4:51 pm

this shift would free up 42% of US cropland !!
And the owners of this 42% “freed up” would be no doubt thrilled. Not gonna happen.


53 JWatts July 5, 2017 at 5:23 pm

“4. Is Just-in-Time inventory one reason for growing corporate cash hoards?”

My first thought upon reading this, was there was no way that the amounts were driving the current huge cash surpluses.

“As firms switch from the traditional system to JIT, they shift resources from inventory to cash to facilitate transactions with suppliers. On average, this switchover accounts for a 4.1-percentage-point increase in the cash-to-assets ratio”

Yes, that seems more likely.

“which is approximately 28% of the change observed in the data.”

And this part seems like someone basing their data off of the average. While the 28% bump might be the average, that’s not what people think about when they think “cash hoard”. They think about Apple and it’s $200+ billion in cash reserves.


54 Rex Clevinger July 6, 2017 at 1:31 am

what does it say about me that i clicked on the MIT syllabus link before the sex link? I’m getting long in the tooth


55 Brian Donohue July 6, 2017 at 8:52 am

#6. Those sound like pretty good classes.


56 proteinshake July 6, 2017 at 9:24 am

#5 – don’t fret for those protein obsessed, a very important sentence was left out just prior to the excerpt.

“We calculate the difference in GHGs resulting from the replacement of beef with beans in terms of both calories and protein.”


57 Rafael R July 6, 2017 at 10:58 am

#2 Funny how he calls wealthy Athenians “aristocrats” as if such a thing existed (Athens was more democratic than the US today). And no, I don’t think the vast majority of Athenian citizens engaged in boy-men love thinguie. Some people did since their culture was not sexually repressed unlike modern American culture but there is no evidence it was typical.


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