The Sciences

Open Thread, September 25th, 2010

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanSep 25, 2010 4:11 AM

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Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error is in my "stack," though I don't know when I'll get to it. A few things I've been wrong about in the last 10 years: - I was more optimistic about reproducible I.Q. QTLs in 2000 than I should have been. Here's a 1998 article on Robert Plomin's "discovery" of an I.Q. gene, and now his recent finds. - I was too credulous about lots of things before the Iraq War. This was egregious, but unfortunately the moronic company here are legion. Here's Joshua Micah Marshall in June of 2002: "In other words, to give the go-ahead to war with Iraq, you'd have to decide that the experienced hands are all wrong, and throw in your lot with a bunch of hot-headed ideologues. Oh, and one other thing: The last few times, the ideologues have turned out to be right." - I thought minarchist libertarianism was a viable model of governance. I do not believe this to be so now, in large part because of my current understanding of how the modal mind works. - I accepted the inevitability of secularization cross-culturally. I think the story is more complex now, for coarse sociological and historical reasons, as well as fine-grained psychological ones. I think atheism is definitely a minority disposition rooted in peculiarities of neurology. - I thought Muslims behaved in a crazy manner because they accepted the validity of a crazy book (Koran) and traditions (Hadith). I think the reality is much more complex now. - I totally accepted G. C. Williams line on the overwhelming dominance of individual level selection. I am more of an agnostic now, though I still believe individual level selection is the best null. - I accepted the historical consensus that in recent times change in culture occurred overwhelmingly through the flow of memes, not genes, excluding obvious exceptional cases such as the New World. I think the reality is more complex now. - I used to think that the Right was more intellectually vibrant than the Left. I now am generally skeptical that intellectual life within ideological movements can ever be "vibrant." - I thought George W. Bush would pursue a "humble" foreign policy, and feared Al Gore's association with the "hawkish" wing of the Democratic party. Wrong-headed. - I accepted the argument of economists about the Great Moderation. I think they were wrong, and I was wrong to accept their authority. - I thought open source relational databases would cannibalize Oracle's core product lines. I was wrong, Oracle swallowed the open source flavors whole and their firm is still robust. - I thought Facebook would peak in 2008. I was wrong. - I thought twitter would be a fad which came and went. Wrong. I'm on twitter, and see its utility. - I thought I'd be fatter in 2010 than I was in 2000. I was wrong. - I thought talk therapy was ridiculous and that prescription antidepressants were far superior in efficacy. I believe I was wrong. - I thought the Netherlands or Sweden would become Muslim names in the near future. I was wrong. More precisely, I had a lot of dumb ideas in my head and combined them in a dumber fashion. - I thought Thomas Malthus was a fool. I think I was wrong. He was wrong, but he was a sophisticated thinker. - I thought we broke out of the Malthusian trap because of innovation. Wrong, only half of the puzzle. The demographic transition occurred, and productivity gains were not swallowed up by population increase. Were you wrong within the last 10 years? About what?

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