Articles to 2017-10-02

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First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.


Criminality and other antisocial behaviour tends to be detrimental to the well-being of children of such parents. That bit is unsurprising. And often it’s not the deeds themselves doing the damage but the fear of detection and evasive behaviour. Should we stop pursuing criminals then or simply make all immigration unlimited and legal? Before considering those questions let’s look if the claimed effect in Hainmueller et al. is present in the first place. Being given real data for once it’s easy to check. Yes, the change in figure 1a is there and large. It amounts to one standard deviation or a factor of two. But looking more closely, the slope in the right panel is definitely present as well and seems not to be an outlier artifact. The time shown comprises a few months only and what the picture strongly suggests is an initial jump with a strong regression to the mean. Does this make a strong case for action? I think not.


Equality is an ambiguous term and can be taken to mean equality of outcome or equality of opportunity. The surveys Kraus et al. quote are probably skewed towards the latter while the measure they use to disprove them pertains strictly to the former. Do Americans overestimate advances in racial equality? Possibly, but from its very setup this study is unfit to prove it.


There is variety in the world and if you go looking for cases of difference pointing a certain way, you’re bound to find them. As Wadman reports a study has just come out, showing that at the Salk Institute’s male lab heads run much larger teams than female ones do. Are women discriminated against? Possibly, but the numbers can be read more than one way. Yes undoubtedly male heads tend to run larger labs and take on less prestigious research and members. But what’s in it for them? Essentially they supply employment and managerial services to others doing sound and essential science. Women on the other hand seem to pursue their own interests and take on managerial tasks for others only if they contribute to glamorous fields producing headline-grabbing results.

Or you can look at it this way: There are just a few female lab heads at Salk, but the grants they are given tend to more than twice as large as the men’s ones on average. Is this favouritism?

Jobs tend to go to those who apply and fight for them and not those who have to be wooed and cajoled into accepting them when offered. Long hours with not that much reward do not appeal to all people in exactly the same way and many are quite willing to step aside and let others pass. (In my own parents’ case it was my mother who was career minded, and she had a notable one while my father was content to have his research from a humdrum lab highly valued by his professional peers.)


Scott is every bit as good as Shablovsky’s review (list of 2017-08-27) claimed. He is somewhat vague on the distinction archaeologists make between states and chiefdoms and tends to lump the latter with whatever side of the divide he pleases. That said his main point is strongly established: States began as Mafia-like protection rackets and fought with outside raiders over extracting peasant farmers’ surplus. They certainly did not commence as some kind of Rousseauan social contract. (I keep wondering, why a totally discredited charlatan like Rousseau is still being cited instead of summarily dismissed. No current medical study sees the need to consider Galen’s bodily fluids, but anthropologists still seem to take Rousseau’s crackpot theories seriously.)


Harris et al. add another very strong case for the unreliability of witnesses. It’s all the more important in family courts where independent and objective evidence is rare and the key witnesses tend to be young and impressionable. This is of paramount importance in countries like the US and Germany, where contrary to most custody is augmented by lots of money. Lawyers and judges here seem to view children as a burden only, the taking on of which has to be strongly balanced.

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