Articles to 2019-08-09

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


I must admit I'm surprised by Lin et al.'s results. I had always learnt being fat came from eating too much. The inclination, not to stop when one's had enough, may be influenced by some genetic propensity, but I'd never expected that influence to be very strong. Of course we're again not shown any data, not even variation spans, but the dependency of all outcomes on genetics is very strong and completely progressive, even deterministic. Compared to that even the strongest sports effect, the one from jogging, is completely lost in the noise and could only be teased out by statistics and large numbers. An interesting outcome is that from Yoga. Unfortunately we're not shown its distribution across quartiles. I can't see this as sports per se but would rather assume that it has to do with self control.

All that said the whole population in that data set is in the normal weight range and skewed to its lower end. All kinds of sports tend to raise the BMI, obviously through added muscle mass, and lower the body fat fraction. In other populations the same distribution of genes leads to a far more obese outcome and it is for these that the effect of intervention would be relevant.


For generations any lectures held by professors emeriti have been circulated as inside advice among students. They no longer held ambitions for promotion, had nothing to lose, and could be as controversial as they liked. That did not of course mean they were necessarily right in their claims – that claim has been the exclusive province of the catholic church and communist governments – but they are always compelling and thought provoking. Academic freedom used to be held high and it was nearly impossible to remove a professor once appointed from his place. Revoking the status of an emeritus in his pension years was unthinkable, except of course under Stalin and others of his ilk. Next to North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Iran now the United Kingdom – not Germany, of whom I would have been unsurprised – has joined that exclusive club of totalitarian control and revoked an emeritus professorship.

Their pretext was a published article clearly marked as an opinion piece. Even more surprising two of the main points of the accusation are

There was no discussion of the correlation and causation, most notably between IQ and GDP. This has been an area of substantial discussion in the field, but this point is not sufficiently mentioned. Given the paper's overall content, we believe this topic should have been given more prominence.

It’s an opinion piece, a commentary, not a research article.

The mainstream acceptance of the body of research presented has been over-stated. While there are a significant number of scholars who support the research, the topic remains controversial and not accepted by a large proportion of the research community.

What does that mean? All relevant contributions worth reading are “controversial”. That's what makes them relevant. Take the newly dated 210-ka-old modern human found in Greece. Should that have been left unpublished because it goes against the mainstream? (I do not incidentally and as I said then (2019-07-26) believe the claim to be true, but that is totally beside the point here.)

The journal's editors further state

Given that the author has a high profile in the field, we believe that [his article] has value in providing an insight into the author's own opinion of his research and the field as a whole. However, we recommend against using it as established fact, and that statements made in the article should be treated with skepticism.

When I first became a student and while the scientific ideal still predominated in the university, I learnt that all (primary) articles by all authors ought to be treated that way. And as Feynman only learnt late in life, when it was nearly too late, the secondary, accepted, text-book literature ought always to be viewed in just the same way. We, who profit by learning from him, should have imbibed that critical skepticism from early on. The seventeenth and early twentieth centuries were marked by an open, forward looking optimism for human mental and spiritual development, but alas, as we now see again, human culture tends to be far more cyclical then that. Who are today's Arabs, who will preserve the Newtons and Feynmans of our age for a future when the dark ages shall recur again? As in the Middle Ages, thinking is becoming closely proscribed once more, “betreutes Denken” as we say in German.

Of course Prof. Richard Lynn may be a racist and may have been for decades as Oransky claims, I wouldn't know. But if so, why then was he not challenged in his active term? Why did they wait to strip him of his pension? Academic freedom was not invented and defended for the right only to reiterate the mainstream. When the Catholic church tried that game there was an outcry, but Hans Küng's professorship was never challenged nor were his right to teach and his pension.

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