Articles to 2018-01-15

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


When more people own and carry more guns, then more gun accidents tend to happen. So far the result by Levine & McKnight is trivial and obvious and I do not doubt its veracity. Neither to my knowledge has this connection ever been disputed by anyone. But does it really support the significance it’s given? No electricity would mean no electric accidents and no hospitals or doctors would eliminate malpractice. Is that alone reason enough for abolishing them? And on top of that, while the rise in accidents is definitely there, the time span chosen did not so much result in more people owning and carrying but especially more inexperienced people with inadequate training doing so. So the long term average effect is bound to be lower than this short term excursion.

Things need to be done, but cars, traffic and electricity have all become very much safer without banning them. Quite the opposite, right while their accident rate fell most, they became far more prevalent, ubiquitous, and numerous. Totalitarians love forbidding and banning things, theirs is not necessarily a nicer world to live in. North Korea probably is the country with the lowest rate of private gun ownership worldwide.


If the (partial) mechanism for homosexuality demonstrated by Balthazart and Bogaert et al. could be shown to be limited to societies having become agrarian long ago and genetically younger than the Neolithic transition – both assumptions purely speculative – then it might be adaptive. In the early times land was not limited as such, but the labour for clearing it and bringing it to production was, and most often only the eldest son inherited his father’s land and had an inheritance to pass on to his own children. For younger sons it would have been genetically more successful to remain childless and support their elder brother’s children.


Brügmann et al. actually want us to believe, that at the first tentative beginnings with tin-bronze individual metallurgists in a single settlement each had their own personal long distance trading connections and received tin from different ores and sources. From all we know distant trade relations were monopolized by the ruler at the time. Isotopic fractionation takes place in the smelting and casting process and the far more probable explanation is that it took time for processes to become standardized and yield consistent results.

On the other hand those authors have still not bothered to measure the isotopic composition of current commercial tin from sources on different continents to at least get a first picture about the size of possible variation if any. Those publications get more ridiculous by the day.


In the post-processualist backlash it has become fashionable to deny any regularity in human societies and to put it all down to idiosyncratic cultures. Against that Turchin et al. have achieved a resounding success for processualism. One aspect of their finding Turchin et al. fail to comment on, though. Besides their surprisingly convincing success the result also points out those cultural aspects and world regions, where their prediction is least successful. These are the places cultural anthropologists can fruitfully look into without wasting their resources on areas that culture has little meaningful influence on.

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