Sonntag, 27. Mai 2007

The Sogdians in China II

The comments on "Gene Expression" give some more information. My own:

And the very informed comment by John J. Emerson, a specialist in Chinese history:

Samstag, 26. Mai 2007

The Sogdians in China

National Geographic has a new article about the genetical studies concerning the Sogdian leader Yu Hong in a Tang-chinese grave. (Studium generale)

Yu Hong was a "Sogdian". Dienekes had some links to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, which had more information about this people and about this grave.

I have made some studies about the Sogdians in the last weeks. (Studium generale) The Sogdians came mostly from Samarkand and the rich and economically whealthy "Sogdiana". Roxana, the first wife of Alexander the Great was a sogdian princess. The Sogdians were mostly rich traders (caravaniers) between Korea and Byzanz. And they made a lot of politics in this area. They had communities in the Tarim-area and far beyond.

In the chinese art of the Tang area often you can find pieces that shows "Foreigners", "Westerners". Mostly they were Sogdians. Often they are shown as comedians, dancers, musicians. They made several religions spread in East Asia (Buddhism, Manichaeism and others).

In China they have now found several graves of Sogdian leaders. Often they were mandarin's and had high positions in the chinese administration.

Over on my german blog I have more information (and some pictures and english links) about them. (Studium generale) And "Gene Expression" has something.

Donnerstag, 24. Mai 2007

"Evolutionary biology's version of e = mc2"

Here is a little piece of Lee Alan Dugatkin about his newest book concerning the evolution of altruism. (Huffingtonpost)

As long as there have been scientists, they have been interested in goodness. Why are some people good, and others not? In fact, we can cast the net more generally, and ask about goodness in nonhumans, as well as humans, and examine whether the process of evolution by natural selection can explain such actions.

I talk about this at length in my new book, The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness (Princeton University Press, 2006), but here is a condensed version of the story. Evolutionary biology's interest in goodness can be traced back at least as far as Charles Darwin. (...)

It would take almost a hundred years before a shy, reserved, and brilliant British biologist named William D. Hamilton would settle all the arguments about blood kinship and altruism with a nifty little mathematical equation.

Hamilton, an evolutionary biologist by training, came at the question of altruism and blood kinship the way that an economist would; indeed his Ph.D. in biology was done in part at The London School of Economics. He began by defining three terms─the genetic relatedness between individuals (labeled r), the cost of an act of goodness (c), and the benefit that a recipient obtained when someone was nice to him or her. Then, using some eloquent--in fact, beautiful-- mathematics, in 1963, Hamilton found that altruism and blood kinship are not linked by an all-or-nothing relationship. Instead, what is now known as "Hamilton's Rule" states that altruism evolves whenever r times b is greater than c. In other words, if the cost of altruism is made up by enough genetic relatives receiving benefits, then altruism spreads; otherwise it does not. Phrased in the cold language of natural selection, relatives are worth helping in direct proportion to their genetic relatedness.

Literally thousands of experiments in both nonhumans and humans show the power of Hamilton's Rule. This little equation is evolutionary biology's version of e = mc2. Over and over, we see that an analysis of the costs and benefits of altruism, along with genetic relatedness, allows us to predict the presence or absence of altruism. This is a truly remarkable finding.

Hamilton's Rule, of course, does not explain all altruism, nor did Bill Hamilton think it did. Another large chunk of goodness falls under the category of reciprocity--you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours. Individuals are sometimes willing to be altruistic to someone now in the expectation that they will, in turn, be helped when they need it. Evolutionary biologists have been almost as interested in this type of altruism as in kinship-based altruism. And, amazingly enough, it was Bill Hamilton, along with political scientist Robert Axelrod, who formalized the models behind the evolution of reciprocity. Following up on some work done by Robert Trivers in the early 1970s, in 1981 Axelrod and Hamilton used a mathematical technique called game theory to predict when "reciprocal altruism" should evolve. Again, scores of empirical studies followed up the model. Reciprocity can be complex, but an evolutionary perspective has cleared the haze here the same way it did when it came to blood kinship and altruism.

If goodness is a problem, then the answer─or at the very least, part of the answer─can be found in evolutionary biology.

Samstag, 12. Mai 2007

Darwinian conservatism - bad and good

Larry Arnhart has some very important things to say about Harvey Mansfield, his book "Manliness" and his nihilistic interpretation of the philosophical thinking of F. Nietzsche. (Arnhart Blog) I read about some thoughts of this book of Mansfield with a lot of sympathy, but it is only now that I recognize, that Mansfield uses his thoughts to make support of the policy of G.W. Bush. This is nearly too silly to belief it. From Nietzsche to Leo Strauss to G.W. Bush! Awfull. I'm very happy, that Arnhart is most critically about this. What sort of a bad philosophy and of a bad political doctrine.

Arnhart says: "Darwinian science affirms thumos as expressing the natural desires for status and political rule, desires that belong to our evolved human nature. But Darwinian science would also affirm the natural desire to be free from the exploitative dominance of thumotic men, which supports the need for limited government under the rule of law." - In Germany we have Peter Sloterdijk who has good thoughts about "thumotic emotions" and the need of a psychological theory about them. He says, people like Sigmund Freud had missed to think about them enough. (In his book "Zorn und Zeit", 2006) I hope, he will not also go in the steps of Mansfield.

Donnerstag, 10. Mai 2007

"PZ Myers doesn't know anything ..."

Gene expression has a very good article about eugenics and IQ-(population-)genetics - a theme treated by "famous" PZ Myers.

Some things become trivial scientifically if you repeat them too often. And so Utah's geneticist Gregory Cochran is right in his short commentary: "- But these are themes that not only have to be discussed by scientists, they have to be discussed by the whole society. And this in no way trivial any longer.

Montag, 7. Mai 2007

Ravens and Intelligence

This is a very, very nice article about ravens. It has a lot of new implications. Konrad Lorenz would be very, very happy to learn about his successors in science. It was a very great surprise for me to learn so much new things about this birds and - for expample - about their ability for deception. It is good, that "Spiegel" has translated it into English.

American Conservatism and - - - Evolution

The conservatives in the US begin to think more seriously about evolutionary theory and evolutionary psychology. (New York Times, [whole page]), one of the proponents is Larry Arnhart (photo on the left). The titel of his book is "Darwinian Conservatism". (Amazon)

... Some of these thinkers have gone one step further, arguing that Darwin’s scientific theories about the evolution of species can be applied to today’s patterns of human behavior, and that natural selection can provide support for many bedrock conservative ideas, like traditional social roles for men and women, free-market capitalism and governmental checks and balances.

“I do indeed believe conservatives need Charles Darwin,” said Larry Arnhart, a professor of political science at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, who has spearheaded the cause. “The intellectual vitality of conservatism in the 21st century will depend on the success of conservatives in appealing to advances in the biology of human nature as confirming conservative thought.”


The fledgling field of evolutionary psychology also spurred some conservatives to invoke Darwinism in the 1990s. In “The Moral Sense” (1993), followed by “The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families” (2002), James Q. Wilson used evolution to explain the genesis of morality and to support traditional family and sex roles. Conservative thinkers from Francis Fukuyama to Richard Pipes have drawn on evolutionary psychology to support ideas like a natural human desire for private property and a biological basis for morality.


Mr. Arnhart, in his 2005 book, “Darwinian Conservatism,” tackled the issue of conservatism’s compatibility with evolutionary theory head on, saying Darwinists and conservatives share a similar view of human beings: they are imperfect; they have organized in male-dominated hierarchies; they have a natural instinct for accumulation and power; and their moral thought has evolved over time.

The institutions that successfully evolved to deal with this natural order were conservative ones, founded in sentiment, tradition and judgment, like limited government and a system of balances to curb unchecked power, he explains. Unlike leftists, who assume “a utopian vision of human nature” liberated from the constraints of biology, Mr. Arnhart says, conservatives assume that evolved social traditions have more wisdom than rationally planned reforms.

While Darwinism does not resolve specific policy debates, Mr. Arnhart said in an interview on Thursday, it can provide overarching guidelines. Policies that are in tune with human nature, for example, like a male military or traditional social and sex roles, he said, are more likely to succeed. He added that “moral sympathy for the suffering of fellow human beings” allows for aid to the poor, weak and ill.


As for Mr. Derbyshire, he would not say whether he thought evolutionary theory was good or bad for conservatism; the only thing that mattered was whether it was true. And, he said, if that turns out to be “bad for conservatives, then so much the worse for conservatism.”

Dienstag, 1. Mai 2007

"Dembski left before the Q&A session was over ..."

Here is a nice, a very nice account about a speak, Conway Morris has given - and about the reaction of William Dembski: "I was hoping for more fun from Dembski, but he left before the Q&A session was over."

Here are two other articles (Baylor University, The Gospel Herald).

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