Gene Expression: Notes on Sewall Wright: the Adaptive Landscape

Apparently inspired by Razib’s epic post on faith and historical dynamics, DavidB over at gnxp writes his own epic post on fitness peaks. Again, there is too much to summarize, but this analogy to why there may be many (or none) alien civilizations should catch some interest:

Gene Expression: Notes on Sewall Wright: the Adaptive Landscape
In his original 1932 presentation Wright used a simple probabilistic argument for the existence of numerous peaks. The number of possible genotypes is vast, so even if only a tiny proportion of them are local optima, the number of local optima would still be very large: ‘With something like 10^1000 possibilities it may be taken as certain that there will be an enormous number of widely separated harmonious combinations. The chance that a random combination is as adaptive as those characteristic of the species may be as low as 10^-100 and still leave room for 10^800 separate peaks….(ESP p.163)’.

This is a dubious argument. It may be compared to a common argument for the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. There are around 10,000 billion billion stars in the universe, so even if the proportion of stars with planets supporting intelligent life is tiny – say, 1 in 10,000 billion – there would still be an enormous number of such stars. But consider the following counter-argument. It is plausible that the emergence and survival of intelligent life requires a moderately large number of conditions – say, at least 100 – to be met. It is also plausible that these conditions are largely independent, and individually quite improbable – say, with a probability of only 1 in 100. But with these assumptions, the probability that all of the necessary conditions are met in any given case is less than 1 in 1/100^100. This is vastly less than 1 in 10,000 billion billion, so rather than expecting there to be a large number of stars with planets supporting intelligent life, it would be a miracle if there are any at all. In reality, neither argument goes much further than establishing the bare possibility of the conclusion. Similarly, in the case of selective peaks, the sheer number of possible genotypes is in itself not a strong argument for the existence, rather than the bare possibility, of numerous different peaks.

Razib’s and DavidB’s posts are higher on both velocity and depth than most journal articles, though I guess one could say they may far away from the ‘fitness peak’ of blog posts!

The Clusters of the Races of Europe

Catholigauze blogged the last genetic map of Europe and numerous friends asked me for my thoughts on it, so I thought I would be ahead of the curve and post the latest version of how they can place your ancestry by your DNA (hat-tip to gnxp):

Baby boomers — and those taught by them — have long since digested the conventional wisdom that there are no “races,” that ancestral populations exist only in social construction, and that we all come with the same abilities when we are born (or at least, that different “races” all come with the same average abilities and same variation in thsoe abilities, statistically). Of course, this is not true. Not only are we able to identify this race from that, this population from that, we are zooming in farther and farther in the data: what valley did your ancestors come from? We may soon be able to tell you.

Exposing the fallacy of equal-ability–when-treated-equally-at-birth is a grave challenge, both to those Marxists who insist on a “blank slate” and to those conservatives who insist on laissez faire policies because everyone can just pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But this political debate, finally, is being impacted by the latest in scientific knowledge.

Obama’s 19th century view of Science and Technology

Courtesy gnxp, this question-and-answer with Barack Obama on science. Particularly, Obama focuses on “STEM” – the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields that fuel so much of our growth. Those who actually follow news on STEM, a set which does not include Obama, are aware of the controversial STEM extension to post-degree ‘internship’ work, which allows foreigners who graduate from American universities to work for up to three years in the United States without even having an H1-B visa.

Unlike vague hand-waiving on issues such as global warming, STEM immigrant and non-immigrant labor actually affects the United States economy right away, and causes compounding benefits of damages (depending on your view) in the years to come.

Given this, it’s obvious that Obama does not say a single word how immigration impacts Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. I know that in college Obama hung-out with marxists and hippies, but if he would have actually visited the STEM programs he would have seen how they essentially run on indentured foreign labor. Such a state of affairs has real consequences. Should it be expanded? Should it be rolled-back?

Not a word from Obama. Instead, we get vague calls for pointless great power conferences. How 19th century:

Sciencedebate 2008
I will restore U.S. leadership in strategies for combating climate change and work closely with the international community. We will re-engage with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the main international forum dedicated to addressing the climate change problem. In addition I will create a Global Energy Forum—based on the G8 5, which includes all G-8 members plus Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa—comprising the largest energy consuming nations from both the developed and developing world. This forum would focus exclusively on global energy and environmental issues. I will also create a Technology Transfer Program dedicated to exporting climate-friendly technologies, including green buildings, clean coal and advanced automobiles, to developing countries to help them combat climate change.

Barack Obama is the candidate of the past. If you liked eight years of George Bush’s style and want more of the same, vote Obama. Otherwise, vote McCain.

How Gap regimes deal with their critics

Both Duck of Minerva and Soob have analysis on the police-murder of a critic of Putin in the Caucuses. Unlike functioning but authoritarian New Core states — like Singapore and China, for example — Russia dose not even pretend it silencing critics for endangering state security, passing state secrets, or so on: Putin’s Russia just kills critics.

It’d done the same to those living in the United Kingdom and possibly United States, too.

Again, the contrast of Russia (a gap state) and China and Singapore (New Core authoritarian states) is instructive. Magomed Yevloyev was a critic of a gap state, and so is dead. Gopalan Nair and Lai Changxing are critics of authoritarian New Core states, and so are involved in tortuous legal proceedings.

Russia has previously executed the editors of Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye and Forbes – Russia.

Russia is a gap state. Don’t expect anything better from Moscow, and you won’t be disappointed.