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They came by the Pacific

August 24, 2016

Jennifer Raff discusses her recent paper arguing against the Solutrean hypothesis, on the basis of the distribution of mitochondrial haplogroup X2a. The paper is available here.

But they still came by sea.


August 23, 2016

Four years back, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback set out to make sure his state followed a different economic path from his bête noire, California. He succeeded, in a sense:

Over the last year, Kansas has actually shed 4,500 jobs… minus 0.3 percent — 5th worst in the nation. Only Wyoming, North Dakota, Louisiana and Oklahoma were behind Kansas…. The governor has stated for more than four years that the income tax cuts he signed in 2012 would lead to an explosion of jobs. That has not happened.

That dismal record earned Brownback an appointment as adviser to Trump.

Thanks to our “pro-life” state government, the infant mortality rate in Texas has doubled since 2010, and is now the highest in the developed world. The authors of the research (cite, pdf) are stunned by that number, and promise further study:

There were some changes in the provision of women’s health services in Texas from 2011 to 2015, including the closing of several women’s health clinics. Still, in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a 2-year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely. A future study will examine Texas data by race–ethnicity and detailed causes of death to better understand this unusual finding.

Let’s hope it gets revised at least some for the better.


August 22, 2016

Smart community involvement is the common thread to how US aide is helping reduce violence in Honduras, and to how Aarhus, Denmark, is helping prevent the radicalization of young Muslims. Forward progress often is local, incremental, and not much noticed.

Uruguay and abortion

August 19, 2016

Abortion is very safe where it is legal. It is far riskier when women attempt it on their own. The New York Times has an interesting article on how that led to political change in Uruguay.


August 18, 2016

Every science department should feature this course. Especially biology.

They came by sea

August 17, 2016

There is growing evidence that humans populated the Americas by sailing down its western coastline.

Of course. What better way to travel, given stone age technology?

The wheat from the chaff

August 15, 2016

This year, some on the American right are making the argument that gays and lesbians and other queer folk should ally with the GOP, because where the GOP merely wants to reverse Obergefell and Lawrence v. Texas and wind the clock back to the 1950s, at least it doesn’t want to hang people for sodomy, as is done in Iran. To give credit where it is due, that argument would have some validity — if Trump were running for president of Iran or some other Islamic state whose regime is more authoritarian than the GOP.

As part of American politics, it is so dumb that it is astounding that it is rolled out, even as part of Trump’s campaign.

Other than positioning the GOP to look good by contrasting it with theocratic regimes abroad, the argument is intended to smear Muslims as the bad guy. “Look what they do to gays.” It ignores the fact that Muslims have a broad range of views on gay rights and gay marriage, and that the spectrum of those views varies by nation. Here in the US, Muslims think homosexuality should be socially accepted at the same rate(38%) as evangelical protestants, and are more likely to approve gay marriage, 42% to 28% respectively. (Stats from this Pew poll.) Mormon views are more conservative. Catholic views are more liberal. Muslims in the west engage in the same kind of discussions about what their religion “really” says about homosexuality as do Christians.

Now, it is true that many Muslims oppose American values on such matters. About 60% of American Muslims, according to the poll above. So do many Christians. Instead of dividing people by religion, the good thing for an American politicians to do is stand up for the political principle involved: secular democracy that secures equal liberty for people regardless of their religious belief, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Muslims and Christians who support that principle live comfortably in a free nation such as ours. Muslims and Christians who much oppose that find America corrupt and ungodly. Trump can’t support that, because he wants the votes of conservative Christians who fall in the latter camp. His running mate is one of those. So the silly argument above suits him to a tee.


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