Science

"Estimates of the Heritability of Human Longevity Are Substantially Inflated due to Assortative Mating"

Your mileage may vary, but I think this is good news for me. (Article is free.)

Human life span is a phenotype that integrates many aspects of health and environment into a single ultimate quantity: the elapsed time between birth and death. Though it is widely believed that long life runs in families for genetic reasons, estimates of life span “heritability” are consistently low (∼15–30%). Here, we used pedigree data from Ancestry public trees, including hundreds of millions of historical persons, to estimate the heritability of human longevity. Although “nominal heritability” estimates based on correlations among genetic relatives agreed with prior literature, the majority of that correlation was also captured by correlations among nongenetic (in-law) relatives, suggestive of highly assortative mating around life span-influencing factors (genetic and/or environmental). We used structural equation modeling to account for assortative mating, and concluded that the true heritability of human longevity for birth cohorts across the 1800s and early 1900s was well below 10%, and that it has been generally overestimated due to the effect of assortative mating.


"Giving Up Darwin"

The author this piece, David Gelernter, is a distinguished scholar, a bit of whose work I've read, and I'm inclined to trust him. But I found the piece very surprising.

Darwinian evolution is a brilliant and beautiful scientific theory. Once it was a daring guess. Today it is basic to the credo that defines the modern worldview. Accepting the theory as settled truth—no more subject to debate than the earth being round or the sky blue or force being mass times acceleration—certifies that you are devoutly orthodox in your scientific views; which in turn is an essential first step towards being taken seriously in any part of modern intellectual life. But what if Darwin was wrong?

A quick look 0n the Web turned up this piece, which argues that the Cambrian Explosion does not, in fact, "challenge the fundamental correctness of the central thesis of evolution."

UPDATE: link to second article now included.


"Make Physics Real Again Why have so many physicists shrugged off the paradoxes of quantum mechanics?"

Review of a book that explains and describes the history of Bohr's view of quantum mechanics--famously glossed as "Shut up and calculate!" versus Einstein's--who stated that Bohr's view meant "Spooky action at a distance".

I can see some merit in both views. But in the end, I have to go with a long-standing inclination: give the points and bet on Big Al.