August 13, 2003

One Hundred Interesting Mathematical Calculations, Puzzles, and Amusements: Number 18: Sunscreen

The Freak Mutant Near-Albino Problem

"OK. What do we do now?"

"We put on sunscreen!"

"Why do we put on sunscreen?"

"So we don't die of melanoma when we are fifty!"

"How much sunscreen do we put on?"

"Lots!"

"What kind of sunscreen?"

"Powerful hypoalergenic sunscreen!"

"Why do we have to worry about this?"

"Because we are mutants!"

"Freaks!"

"Near albinos!"

"Strange mutant freak near-albinos who would drive our remote ancestors away, gibbering in terror!"

"Why are we these strange near-albinos?"

"Because, 1000 generations ago, our ancestors moved out of Africa up onto the ice sheets and into the cold boreal forests of northern Europe!"

"Where it was cold!"

"And there was little sunlight to make vitamin D in our ancestors' skin!"

"So those with more melanin in their skin found that the melanin blocked the sunlight, and they didn't make vitamin D, and they got tickers!"

"Rickets!"

"Whatever, that disease where your bones don't grow straight and you can't hunt or gather and you die before you mate and your genes are excluded from the future of the river of evolution!"

"Suppose that 1/100 of the genes controlling our ancestors' skin color 1000 generations ago had been a gene for low melanin, and suppose that--for those of us of northern European descent--today 99/100 of our genes are genes for low melanin. What does that tell us about the strength of selection pressure and the differential survival rates of low- and high-melanin genes in the icy boreal forests of northern Europe over the past 1000 generations?"

[Silence]

[More silence]

"Well, 1000 generations ago there was only 1/100 of a low-melanin gene for each high melanin gene. Today there are (roughly, in this population) 100 low-melanin genes for each high melanin gene. 100 x 100 is 10,000. So the number of low-melanin genes has grown 10,000 times as fast."

[Silence]

"And it has grown that much in 1000 generations. So if grows by a factor X in one generation, and by a factor X x X = X^2 in two generations, and by a factor X x X x X = X^3 in three generations, in a thousand generations..."

"It will grow by X^1000, X times itself 1000 times!"

"Yes. So our equation is X^1000 = 10,000."

"And how do you solve that?"

"Well, if X^1000 = 10,000, then X is equal to the thousandth root of ten thousand."

"And what is the thousandth root of ten thousand?"

"It is the number X such that X^1000 = 10,000."

"A lot of math is simply restating what you know in a slightly different form isn't it?"

"You're getting the idea."

"But what is this number X such that X^1000 = 10,000?"

"That's what the y-th root of x button on your calculator is for: it's for calculating the number that, when multiplied by itself 1000 times, equals 10,000."

"And that number is?"

"1.00925, 1 plus 0.925%. Someone with one low-melanin gene had an extra 0.925% chance of surviving to mate in the boreal forests and icy tundras of northern Europe. Someone with two low-melanin genes had an extra 1.85% chance of surviving to mate in the boreal forests and icy tundras of northern Europe."

"Is that so?"

"That is so if the hypotheses--1000 generations, 1% of the genes genes for low-melanin then, 99% of the genes genes for low-melanin now--are correct."

"Are they?"

"I have no idea."

"Is a 1.85% extra chance of surviving to reproduce a big number or a small number?"

"It is a number big enough, acting across 25,000 years and 1000 generations, to turn us into strange mutant freak near-albinos who need to wear sunscreen."

"Dad?"

"Yes."

"The bottle is empty."

"Why didn't you tell me earlier?"

"I didn't want to interrupt. You seemed to be having fun"

One Hundred Interesting Math Calculations, Puzzles, and Amusements

Posted by DeLong at August 13, 2003 05:02 PM | TrackBack

Comments

BD,

When's the release party ?

This is clearly the basis of a book, appealing to wonks of all stripes, from code geeks to numerology freaks.

Sign me up for one . . .

Posted by: Barry Ritholtz on August 13, 2003 05:52 PM

Are there in fact "low-melanin genes" and "high melanin genes," or just melanin genes that code for melanin levels?

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on August 13, 2003 05:56 PM

BD,

When's the release party ?

This is clearly the basis of a book, appealing to wonks of all stripes, from code geeks to numerology freaks.

(Can I swap "The Art Of Off-Road Driving" for one?)

Posted by: Barry Ritholtz on August 13, 2003 05:56 PM

>>Are there in fact "low-melanin genes" and "high melanin genes," or just melanin genes that code for melanin levels?<<

I have no idea.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on August 13, 2003 06:45 PM

Not exactly. See:

http://www.biology-online.org/3/1_genetic_control.htm

Skin colour is an excellent example of genetic control at work. Skin colour depends on the degree of melanin found in skin cells. The amount of melanin is pre-determined by the genetic blueprint of some genes in each cell. To be exact, there are two genes that control the production of melanin, each of which has a dominant and recessive expression. This leads to a possible 16 combinations of genotype when coding for skin colour.

# Genotype Phenotype
1 M1M1M2M2 Black Skin
2 M1M1M2m2 Dark Brown Skin
3 M1M1m2m2 Brown Skin
4 M1m1m2m2 Light Brown Skin
5 m1m1m2m2 White Skin

Although there are 16 possible combinations in expressing the skin phenotype, there are 5 different possible genotypes that the genes of melanin can express. Each expression of melanin has an accumulating effect on skin tone, until maximum expression of melanin through 4 dominant alleles leads to a black skin phenotype.

Therefore, when any person is born, they will be one of five colours. After this, external factors such as UV sunlight from the sun will change the skin colour away from the genetic expression of its initial colour.

The whole story is probably a little more complicated, but going from black to white takes fewer steps than one might imagine. Because of the practice of Masters siring babies by their female slaves, significant numbers of the "black" slaves became "white" after emancipation. Compare the complexion of most American blacks to most native sub Saharan Africans. More "white" Americans have some African heritage than care to admit it.

Posted by: bakho on August 13, 2003 07:36 PM

But every "white" American has 100% African ancestry--it's just that they were turned into mutant freak near-albinos by their sojourn in the boreal forests and icy tundras of northern Europe...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on August 13, 2003 08:00 PM

Why do people become gradually less freakish as you travel south? Is it because of different adaptation or racial mixing?

Posted by: David on August 13, 2003 10:16 PM

I meant to say, is it because of different adaptation or because of interbreeding between freaks and normal people?

Posted by: David on August 13, 2003 10:19 PM

Me again. It occurs to me that about 10 years ago I read something in Scientific American about Ashkenazi Jews like me being white rather than brown because of adaptation rather than intermarriage or conversion. Something to do with Ashkenazim and Sephardim sharing a rare kind of fingerprint.

Posted by: David on August 13, 2003 10:28 PM

Just a note (and a request for clarification/correction/amplification as necessary) about "genes". This is something I only learned recently. It seems that, in general, molecular biologists and ecologists/evolutionaists use the term "gene" differently. For molecular biologists, "gene" is an actual chemical structure. For ecologists, "gene" is a *logical* structure representing the "unit" of the expression of a trait. I was rather shocked at this and had supposed that the two views were now fully congruent. Obviously they will be congruent someday, but it makes sense, I guess, that it's worked out this way as the ecologists/evolutionists are moving from the top down while the molecular biologists are moving from the bottom up.

Given this context, you can see how the question, "Are there in fact 'low-melanin genes' and 'high melanin genes,' or just melanin genes that code for melanin levels?" can mean different things to different people and, more to the point, may be seen validly as either important or irrelevant.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on August 13, 2003 11:44 PM

Wow, brilliant post from Brad there! This is why I constatly check in here! Reminds me of an attempt to save the original native albino-freak that actually got all the way to Nature in 2001 or 2001:

1. Mitocodrie DNA show that we (in Europe)have no anscestorship among individuals of European extinct human-like species like Homo Neandertalis, we are 100% descendants of people that migrated out of Africa.

2. This one is hidden: ARGHH, full blooded Africans! We beutilful white guys only being some albino-freak Africans, we must do something to save at least some European anscestorship.

3. Solution (sorry, forgot the reference, but think it was Nature):

3a. Let's say the European human-likes were not really a separeat species, but could breed with the Africans.

3b. Let's say nativity was constatly below replacement in Europe, so we had a constant influx of Africans.

3c. Tada! Math would then show that with plausible influx of Africans, and with a plausible time spans, Africans would completely wash out all traces of "Neandertal" blood. But we would still be descendants of (although to an a degree very close to zero) original Europeans!

Posted by: Mats on August 14, 2003 01:04 AM

Now, let's take the albino-freak problem a bit closer to the timescale of indiviual's lives.

1. Let's say the population in a fully industrial society has a nativity (kids/adult women) slightly above 1.5, which means it multiplies by 3/4 in each generaton shift. (comparable with figures or Japan, or OECD ex USA)

2. Let's say the population size (in younger cohorts) is kept constant by influx of people with distinct racial characteristics, and these people don't marry the original population. You can hence separate native "white guy's descendants" from other people.

4. Starting with 100% albino freaks, after a generation (25-30) yrs, the fraction of albinos is 75% in young segments of the population. After five generations (125-150yrs), white guys find themselves beeing a less than 25% minority. In ten generations (250-300yrs), the albino freak share of the population is only slightly above 5%.


Posted by: Mats on August 14, 2003 01:36 AM

I don't want to be a pedant, but it seems that Brad's calculations are a little bit off. For one thing, given a selection differential of 0.925%, and solving for
(1-0.00925)^x = 0.0099,
we get
x ~= 496.6
for the number of generations actually required, instead of 1,000.

Not that it matters all that much anyway. Given a more realistic generation time of 25 years, we have 1400 generations between the original dispersal and the present time. A selection differential of 1% would give a decline in the allele frequency to 4% (which isn't all that unrealistic when you factor in the darker skinned inhabitants of southern Europe) or so within 300 generations.

"Why do people become gradually less freakish as you travel south? Is it because of different adaptation or racial mixing?"

Both, but not in the straightforward manner you might imagine. Swarthy Italians and fair-skinned Englishmen are about the same genetic distance from, say, the Hausa of Northern Nigeria (actually, they are roughly intermediate in most allele frequencies between the Hausa and, for instance, the Koreans.) The gradation in skin-tone with latitude can be explained by selection pressure, but as selection requires something to act on, and an allele that is lost is seldom regained, gene flow from Africa helps to keep those functioning melanin alleles within the European gene-pool.

Of course, the "race-mixing" has also gone on in the other direction. Anyone who thinks all Africans belong to a single "race" ought to try taking a trip from the Gold Coast straight up through the Sahel sometime; skin gets gradually lighter, noses get thinner, hair gets straighter, and the smooth variation doesn't stop until we're all the way up in the Arctic circle. The only reason that this continuity isn't more apparent is because the Sahara is so sparsely populated - but this is a relatively recent development, dating back only 5,000 years or so. The "races" have never been as sharply demarcated as they are popularly made out to be.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on August 14, 2003 03:46 AM

"2. Let's say the population size (in younger cohorts) is kept constant by influx of people with distinct racial characteristics, and these people don't marry the original population. You can hence separate native "white guy's descendants" from other people."

This has to be one of the most unrealistic assumptions I have ever come across anywhere. Human sexual appetite simply cannot be bound by such notions. If even the pre-Civil War American South couldn't prevent large-scale interbreeding despite the severity of the penalties against it, no modern industrial society is going to have much luck stopping people from satisfying their sexual curiosity.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on August 14, 2003 03:55 AM

Abiola, you call it unrealistic assumption, I call it relevant approximation.

In the US for instance (which is good compared to Europe in integrating immigrants into the economy [Germany's number 2 paper is in Turkish]), doesn't people still after many generations identify them selves as African-Americans, Irish, Italian, Hispanics etc?

Posted by: Mats on August 14, 2003 04:54 AM

>>In the US for instance (which is good compared to Europe in integrating immigrants into the economy [Germany's number 2 paper is in Turkish]), don't people still after many generations identify themselves as African-Americans, Irish, Italian, Hispanics etc?<<

Hard to do. My children are French-English-Welsh-Scottish-Irish-German-Portuguese (Azorean)-Neopolitan-Lithuanian-Belorussian-Americans. Plus there is that great^n-grandmother "servant girl" whom the sea captain brought back to Maine as a wife in the mid-nineteenth century from Barbados--and the odds are overwhelming that any servant girl from Barbados had some recent ancestors who had involuntarily made the middle passage...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on August 14, 2003 06:13 AM

Mats,

Don't confuse identification with genetics. For instance, I know of three young ladies surnamed Casey - sweet Irish lasses, eh?

In fact, they are Northern European mutts: 3/8 English, 1/4 Irish, 1/4 Swedish, 1/8 Scot. And those attributions are only as good as the assumption of ethnic purity of their great-grandparents.

And who knows what mixing will occur in this generation: Growing up, their best friends were Chinese, Italo-Polish and Italian. The oldest's first date was Filipino.

It's true that most kids marry within their self-identified ethnic group, but there are enough exceptions that any such group becomes a genetic mish-mosh in short order.

JC

Posted by: John Casey on August 14, 2003 06:28 AM

Mats, its a form a false advertisement. They aren't identified as Irish, Italian, Nigerian, whatever when they return to their "home" lands. Like most Americans, I can claim victory or defeat in most major historical battles. My children will be able to add quite a few.

Posted by: Stan on August 14, 2003 06:36 AM

David, you said, "It occurs to me that about 10 years
ago I read something in Scientific American about
Ashkenazi Jews like me being white rather than brown
because of adaptation rather than intermarriage or
conversion."

And I really, really, doubt that. I really doubt that
Ashkenzai Jews managed to live in europe for over a thousand
years without significant intercourse with their
neighbors.

Posted by: Mark Amerman on August 14, 2003 09:59 AM

Human skin color represents a trade-off between two forces: enabling vitamin D production and preventing folate destruction. Thus the color has to be just right to match the sun exposure. The most interesting case is that of people in areas (e.g. SE Asia) where there is too much sun for only parts of the year - hence the evolution of tanning that darkens their skin color quickly in the sunny season and lightens it again in the winters.

For more details, see the following article from Scientific American Oct 2002 issue:

Skin Deep
By Nina G. Jablonski and George Chaplin
Human skin color has evolved to be dark enough to prevent sunlight from destroying the nutrient folate but light enough to foster vitamin D production

Posted by: Arun Garg on August 14, 2003 10:25 AM

Mats: Is a desire to have a non-African ancestor really the source for the impulse to find a Neanderthal ancestor? I had always assumed it was more an attempt to avoid the obvious (but sad) alternative explanation: our ancestors exterminated our nearest genetic relative.

Posted by: Walt Pohl on August 14, 2003 10:30 AM

Mats: Is a desire to have a non-African ancestor really the source for the impulse to find a Neanderthal ancestor? I had always assumed it was more an attempt to avoid the obvious (but sad) alternative explanation: our ancestors exterminated our nearest genetic relative.

Posted by: Walt Pohl on August 14, 2003 10:36 AM

Mats: Is a desire to have a non-African ancestor really the source for the impulse to find a Neanderthal ancestor? I had always assumed it was more an attempt to avoid the obvious (but sad) alternative explanation: our ancestors exterminated our nearest genetic relative.

Posted by: Walt Pohl on August 14, 2003 10:41 AM

Mats: Is a desire to have a non-African ancestor really the source for the impulse to find a Neanderthal ancestor? I had always assumed it was more an attempt to avoid the obvious (but sad) alternative explanation: our ancestors exterminated our nearest genetic relative.

Posted by: Walt Pohl on August 14, 2003 10:46 AM

I just want to go on record as saying that the quadruple post is _not_ my fault. I didn't click on "Post" twice or nothin'.

Posted by: Walt Pohl on August 14, 2003 10:58 AM

Brad, John and Stan,

Don't try to make me think there is not sharply defined stable ethnic groups in the US. Brad made posts earlier about the relative incomes of Afro-americans. Sometimes newspapers (NYTimes) reports about of Afro-americans, Hispanics and Whites as if they were demographically well-defined grops.

And I still think I'm right to say that skin darkens in the 1'st world because of immigration (of darker skinned) and lower reproduction rates among old white populations that have created an industrial cultural tradition (according to which work is more important than kids).

Posted by: Mats on August 14, 2003 11:33 AM

Back to the otiginal post -- it seems to assume that Northern Europeans only became really "white" recently, i.e. that there was a continuous change from the out-of-Africa migration until the present. My guess is that Northern Europe has been fairly stably low-melanin for quite some time, and that the changeover was quicker. I wonder if archaeology will ever be able to answer that question. (The Ice-man?).

Granted that this is really meant as a math puzzle, nontheless....

Posted by: zizka on August 14, 2003 11:51 AM

Today if you ask people what "races" there are in America, you will probably hear that there are five: whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, Amerindians, and Asians.

A century ago, you would have been told that there were eight: whites, Negroes, Mexicans, Asians, Slavs, Southern Europeans, Amerindians, and Jews.

A century and a half ago, you would have been told... five, I think: Americans, Negroes, Irishmen, Germans, and Amerindians.

There are demographically well-defined groups, but they change over time--except for African-Americans, who remain separate and subject to the "one drop" rule.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on August 14, 2003 11:56 AM

OK, so basically white guys and those with darker skin have stayed in two separate groups (although divideded in varying subgroups) for more than a century. And white guys started the developmen(by killing off most Amerindians).

Now I would only have to get the fertility rates by ethnic group to transform my originally fact-free mathematical "white-guy and immigrants" example to an accurate description of the US demography.

First I'll jump to the "Human Progress" discussion to take care of Stan's and Canadian Readers comments about transitional birthrates.

Posted by: Mats on August 14, 2003 12:39 PM

Mats, you can believe that men don't notice beautiful women of different shades all you want.

Posted by: Stan on August 14, 2003 12:44 PM

Brad, you do remember the latest racial addition to the U.S. Census right? I'm pretty sure it goes right to the heart of this discussion.

Posted by: Stan on August 14, 2003 12:56 PM

"Mitocodrie DNA show that we (in Europe)have no anscestorship among individuals of European extinct human-like species like Homo Neandertalis, we are 100% descendants of people that migrated out of Africa."

Presumably you know what you're talking about, unlike me, but wouldn't this require getting ahold of a Neanderthal DNA sample somehow?

Posted by: David on August 14, 2003 01:11 PM

Mats, since so many Americans objected to being categorized in only one ethnic group, the 2000 U.S. Census allowed individuals to pick multiple ethnicities.

Posted by: Stan on August 14, 2003 01:23 PM

Walt: "Is a desire to have a non-African ancestor really the source for the impulse to find a Neanderthal ancestor?" This mathematician (the lost reference)was probably trying to make mitocodrie findings compatible with having (in a weird mathematical way) some links to a European ancestor.

I think that the idea that the other human-like species went extinct from competition was the old, ideologically desirable one(we're the strong that will live forever and beat the hell out of the rest). The idea that extinction happened without regard to (intra-family) competition is newer, vaguer, and less antropocentric, I read.

But I lost the reference and might have got it all wrong. You are perhaps more updated?

Posted by: Mats on August 14, 2003 01:27 PM

David wrote - "Mitocodrie DNA show that we (in Europe)have no anscestorship among individuals of European extinct human-like species like Homo Neandertalis, we are 100% descendants of people that migrated out of Africa."

Presumably you know what you're talking about, ...

No David, I read this article two yrs ago or so and can't find it, so I'm guessing here. But I think the've taken something out of the core of very old bones and run some analysis they call Mitocondrie from which they can conclude ancestorship on the female side.

The idea that we're Africans is now so often repeated in media so I just take it to be true. But I'm not studying this myself, so I probably don't know more than you about it.

Posted by: Mats on August 14, 2003 01:39 PM

I was going to say "I just googled it. Nevermind," before you responded. Thanks.

Posted by: David on August 14, 2003 02:11 PM

I googled too. To check the numbers. You guys are right, fertility among "non-hispanic whites" in the US are ususally not significantly below replacement rates. US cencus, according to
http://www.census.gov/population/projections/nation/summary/np-t4-a.txt
predicts the non-hispanic white population to grow by approx 7.5% from 2000 to 2035.
The rest of the population will double, and the total population will grow by about 1/3, according to the census. I was right too, you are getting less "non-hispanic white".

But why is the US population so much better at reproducing than the Japanese and the West Europeans. Faith? Have american women not yet fully realised that diamonds are a girls best friend?

Posted by: Mats on August 14, 2003 02:37 PM

"But why is the US population so much better at reproducing than the Japanese and the West Europeans."

You're asking that the wrong way round. The question should be, why do the Japanese and West Europeans succeed so much better at reining in their reproduction? Or -- I haven't checked the other thread yet -- are you still maintaining that a high birthrate is somehow an unalloyed good?

But that "faith" guess of yours may be near the mark -- if by "faith" you mean a male subordination of women's control of their own reproduction, employing fundamentalist religious language as an excuse. The emphasis on "abstinence only" sex education, and deliberate attempts to label birth control as sinful, surely must have exerted some upward pressure on birth rates in the US.

Posted by: F&B Canadian Reader on August 14, 2003 05:12 PM

Instinctively, I think that the advantage of having two low melanin genes is less than twice the advantage of having one low melanin genes. If my guess is correct, you would have more selective pressure at the beginning of the period than at the end.

Also, you formulate the problem in terms of added probability of survival with low melanin genes: the real issue is the added probability of reproduction: you should introduce in your equation an other parameter: the relative sexual attraction of white skin compared to dark skin (or maybe itís not genetically but only culturally determined).

PS: So you have some French ancestors. Is Delong originally a French name?

Posted by: fberthol on August 14, 2003 08:07 PM

Yes Canadian Reader, I guess you pretty much fill out the picture of what we in Europe think of gender equality in the US. I would like to think of a more general model, a bit more economistic:

1. Men and Women live in life-long marriages.
2. Industrialism make them specialize, women increasingly work at home as care-givers, men in increasingly industry.
3. Men discover that society works flexible enough to give them the option to divorse and re-marry.
4. Women discover that even as they get half the wealth of the household at divorse, they won't share the expected future high cashflows generated by the x-husband, i.e they discover that "diamonds are a girls best friend"
5. Women thus correctly infer that caregiving in the hosehold generate smaller and more volatile returns than (post-)industrialized careers.
6. Low productivity caregiving in houshold shrinks as women leave for the labour-market. Fertility rates decrease.

In this model, Europe would be at step 6, US somewhere between 3 and 4.

Posted by: Mats on August 15, 2003 12:36 AM

"But that "faith" guess of yours may be near the mark -- if by "faith" you mean a male subordination of women's control of their own reproduction, employing fundamentalist religious language as an excuse. The emphasis on "abstinence only" sex education, and deliberate attempts to label birth control as sinful, surely must have exerted some upward pressure on birth rates in the US."

This is nothing more than crude stereotyping, with a generous helping of smug superiority added in. The reason America's population is still growing is because immigrants, particularly Latin immigrants, have above-replacement rate fertility. Why this should be a "bad" thing is unclear to me - unless you subscribe to the Lothrop Stoddard school of demography.

"Yes Canadian Reader, I guess you pretty much fill out the picture of what we in Europe think of gender equality in the US."

Which only goes to show how smug Europeans can be about how much more "advanced" they are than those ignorant "cowboy" Americans; but that doesn't make it true. Nothing is quite so pleasing to the average European (pseudo) "intellectual" as the notion that America is a cultural desert and a place without history, populated by superstitous and bigoted yokels.

"you should introduce in your equation an other parameter: the relative sexual attraction of white skin compared to dark skin (or maybe itís not genetically but only culturally determined)."

There is no reason to take into account any such hypothetical selection pressure, as it has no effect on the equation to use. As an empirical matter, there is absolutely no support for the notion that sexual selection was at work in creating the color gradient - the fact that skin tone correlates so strongly with latitude across all continents argues strongly against this thesis.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on August 15, 2003 01:21 AM

Abiola wrote a propos comments on faith and gender equality in the US:

>>... Which only goes to show how smug Europeans can be about how much more "advanced" they are than those ignorant "cowboy" Americans<<

But its not only the smug Europeans! Kristof's op-ed in today's New York Times is all about how christian mystisism is hardening its grip on the US.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/15/opinion/15KRIS.html

Besides, they say that your president actually believe that the universe was creatded in 6 days!

Ha!

Posted by: Mats on August 15, 2003 03:50 AM

Mats, Kristoff assumes that his take is not mysticism as do you. Evolution is a theory nothing more. While I appreciate Kristoff's take and agree that current evidence strongly supports evolutionary theory, no theory can be proven right. Future evidence can always surface to prove it wrong. Think about it.

Posted by: Stans on August 15, 2003 05:27 AM

Stans,
Evolution is not just a theory, it is a theory with quite some support in observational data.

Posted by: Mats on August 15, 2003 07:43 AM

Mats, your belief that there is no mysticism in your beliefs is very disheartening. Exactly how does evolutionary theory address the drive of subatomic atoms to arrange themselves as living beings? In other words, does arrangement as animate or inanimate objects effect sub-atomic particles in any known way?

Posted by: Stan on August 15, 2003 08:27 AM

In other words, does arrangement as father, son and holy spirit affect virgin birth in any known way?

Posted by: Mats on August 15, 2003 08:49 AM

Mats-
I hereby apologize for previous comments aimed in your direction. Your belief that falling birthrates are bad is a controverial one I disagree with, connecting it to "gadgets" seems HIGHLY questionable, to put it mildly. But it was never fair to refer to you as a "nut."

STAN is a "nut".

I am actually proud of my country and believe we are more advanced than Europe in many ways, that our lack of "history" (and useless sentimental monarchs) is an advantage, and that the U.S. is actually responsible for most of the few ways that Europe is more advanced than us.

But these "evolution is just a theory" people we have electing our President...

Posted by: Decnavda on August 15, 2003 12:23 PM

"Besides, they say that your president actually believe that the universe was creatded in 6 days!"

Which just goes to show that you should be more careful with your assumptions - I am a European, not an American, and Bush is not "my" president. Where I differ from you is in having lived long enough on both continents to recognize the self-satisfied stereotypes many Europeans hold of Americans for the caricatures that they are. Why don't you try to see the world more before you go off spouting about the supposed "backwardness" of a culture you obviously aren't familiar with?

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on August 15, 2003 12:44 PM

No Mats, like what is the variation in sub-atomic particles in living versus unliving matter? If you don't know the answer, find it! When you find it try grinding the answer into the theory of evolution. Share your findings with Decnavda. He too thinks we know much more than we do.

Posted by: Stan on August 15, 2003 12:48 PM

No Mats, like what is the variation in sub-atomic particles in living versus unliving matter? If you don't know the answer, find it! When you find it try grinding the answer into the theory of evolution. Share your findings with Decnavda. He too thinks we know much more than we do.

Posted by: Stan on August 15, 2003 12:53 PM

Decnevada thinks that >>the U.S. is actually responsible for most of the few ways that Europe is more advanced than us<<

In what way could USA be responsible for W. Europe having longer expected lifetimes, lower children mortality, lower frequency of criminal violence and a smaller share of population in prison?

I can think of three:

*USA received lots of members of many different protestantic sects as immigrants, which made it possible for Europe to secularize later on.

*USA helped us through WWII (by massive air-raiding of civilian residential areas, thank you very much) and the cold war.

*USA leads economical development possibly giving Europe a free ride through "productivity catch up".

You could perhaps be proud of your country for that. But in what way is the U.S. responsible for Europe giving possibilities for some of its native populatian (Lapponians in the north of Scandinavia) to continue its traditional economic activities on its traditional territory as opposed to being the survivors of those whome was killed off in a close to genocidal conflict?

Proud of your country for that?

Posted by: Mats on August 15, 2003 01:16 PM

"Scientists still do not appear to understand sufficiently that all earth sciences must contribute evidence toward unveiling the state of our planet in earlier times, and that the truth of the matter can only be reached by combing all this evidence. . . It is only by combing the information furnished by all the earth sciences that we can hope to determine 'truth' here, that is to say, to find the picture that sets out all the known facts in the best arrangement and that therefore has the highest degree of probability. Further, we have to be prepared always for the possibility that each new discovery, no matter what science furnishes it, may modify the conclusions we draw."

Alfred Wegener. The Origins of Continents and Oceans (4th edition)

http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/wegener.html


Posted by: Stan on August 15, 2003 01:25 PM

Abiola, please read my post "Abiola wrote..." above. I'am not directing it to you, but to the lot in here, which by language, timezone and issues discussed indeed seems very American. Your posts tend to come in earlier, so I guess the latitude of your position is significantly east of Staten Island.

Yet I fully agree that "you should be more careful with your assumptions".

Posted by: Mats on August 15, 2003 01:36 PM

2 points
1. Melannoma is not a very strong evloutionary influence since it does not tend till kill people till they are over 30 - 0.95% therefore grossly overstates the possible selection disadvantage.

2. If having a dark skin is primarily protection against skin cancer, then why are west africans much darker than north and south africans (as in the origional san inhabitents)when West africa recives much less and much less strong sunlight as it normaly heavily overcast.

Posted by: Giles on August 15, 2003 03:03 PM

Mats-
If we started counting the bodies resulting from American genocides vs. European genocides I suspect we would end up with fewer only because we killed off people with agricultural level populations, while Europe hit its stride in the mid 20th century.

But rather than compare each other's genocides, we could just go watch Freddy vs. Jason, which would be an appropriate visual metaphor, albiet with a significantly lower body count.

No, I am not proud of that.

Posted by: Decnavda on August 15, 2003 04:27 PM

"1. Melannoma is not a very strong evloutionary influence since it does not tend till kill people till they are over 30 - 0.95% therefore grossly overstates the possible selection disadvantage.

2. If having a dark skin is primarily protection against skin cancer, then why are west africans much darker than north and south africans (as in the origional san inhabitents)when West africa recives much less and much less strong sunlight as it normaly heavily overcast."

1. Nobody believes that melanoma has anything to do with the variation in skin tone, as the onset of melanoma is usually far too late in the sufferer's life to have any effect on reproductive success. The REAL effect is precisely the one Brad DeLong mentioned in his post - rickets. The prevalence of rickets amongst the children of dark-skinned immigrants in the U.K. is significant, especially amongst those who don't have any Vitamin D rich foods in their diet, while the disease is essentially non-existent amongst fair-skinned children. In a hunter-gatherer setting with lots of demanding physical activity, a 1% selection differential against rickets certainly would have been realistic.

2. Again, nobody believes it has anything to do with skin cancer. The link is actually believed to be with folate levels. Folate deficiency in mothers can cause birth defects such as spina bifida in their children, and a shortage of folate in men interferes with sperm production. A single hour's exposure to the tropical sun can drop folate levels in the fair-skinned by 50%.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on August 15, 2003 07:48 PM

to everyone debating here:
this was a math problem designed for Brad's son and daughter. i can say this with authority because i am a friend of Brad's daughter, Brad himself is standing behind me, drinking diet pepsi and chortling to himself as he reads this. My point is that this doesn't have racial undertones. IT'S A MATH PROBLEM!!!!!!

Posted by: 4my real name, c cubebuster.com on August 15, 2003 09:02 PM

>>"this doesn't have racial undertones. IT'S A MATH PROBLEM!!!!!!<<

Math (and philosophy)Ūs free of undertones huh? And sports and politics have nothing to do to each other, right?

Sounds like faux-logique to me, like saying that FOX-channel is Fair and Balanced^(tm).

Posted by: Mats on August 16, 2003 10:29 AM
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