Re: Dance and Games

1

On the veldt, people hit tires with sledgehammers, apparently.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:09 AM
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You are definitely staking out some novel ev-psych territory here. Good luck!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:13 AM
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I can't tell if you're teasing me.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:14 AM
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Time to mention my father's self-evolved exercise programme, which, at the extreme, consists of what he calls the Edinburgh Triathlon: get up early, cycle about ten or fifteen miles, spend the day walking on the hills and watching birds, cycle home, have a bath, then go to a ceilidh until about 2 a.m. This is basically stuff that he would do anyway, even if it was provably bad for his health; as it is, it probably means that he's going to live to about 120 unless the birds turn on him, enraged by their loss of privacy.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:15 AM
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So this is well-established? I assumed it must be.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:15 AM
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No, Heebie, they're meant to replicated the workout of vigorous sex. I guess it's a little awkward that that didn't occur to you, but it doesn't seem as bad as the time LB unwittingly told us that Buck's penis is banana-shaped.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:16 AM
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With which part? This is definitely not an argument I've heard made before, and I definitely wish you the best of luck in making it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:16 AM
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Thanks! But I think I already made my argument, and it's airtight, so, done.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:17 AM
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7 to 3.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:17 AM
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Dancing and music are AFAIK two of the few true cultural universals (along with burial rituals, ornamentation and I think belief in a supernatural world) so they may very well go back a long, long way. There's archaeological evidence of dancing from the Upper Palaeolithic.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:18 AM
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Vigorous sex is its own reward.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:19 AM
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There's archaeological evidence of dancing from the Upper Palaeolithic.

A stone disco ball?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:21 AM
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There's archaeological evidence of dancing from the Upper Palaeolithic.

How do you know somebody didn't just hum a few bars?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:23 AM
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They've got little cave-doormats with numbered feet-outlines so that you can reproduce the steps.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:23 AM
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I have a friend whose workout routine consists entirely of dancing around naked to some Xbox dance game or other. I think this proves Heebie's theory.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:26 AM
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The adaptiveness of appreciation for music is quite controversial even among pretty hardcore ev-psych types, and arguments for the adaptiveness of athletic ability as applies to sports tends to focus on their role as status markers. I think most ev-psych people would probably argue that physical fitness among hunter-gatherer societies was probably maintained through, you know, hunting and gathering all the time. I suppose you could make an argument that recreational athletic pursuits and dancing became adaptive after the dawn of agriculture but, yeah, you might well be treading novel ground with that one.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:26 AM
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Caveman dental remains show signs of gurning.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:26 AM
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I assume the evidence is cave drawings. But maybe it was, "Like this! Howcome nobody does this?" Archeology really gets off easy compared to ev psych.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:28 AM
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One of the interesting results is the power law distribution of physical activities, which has real science like http://arxiv.org/abs/cond-mat/0210028 behind it. This basically says that there are short periods of high activity and long periods of low activity, just like when you're busting moves on the dance floor, or playing a team sport. It also adds evidence that adherents of long distance running and other "steady-state" endurance sports are freaks and should be avoided.

Hopefully Cosima will show up now to tell us all why this is a load of shite.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:29 AM
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It's blowing my mind that Moby opened with CrossFit jokes rather than more on cob houses.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:30 AM
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Cob wasn't invented in the paleolithic.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:32 AM
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19: I think the science behind long distance running (that is, behind saying that long distance running is somehow inherently human) is based on the idea that we're better at it than nearly any other species.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:34 AM
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They've got little cave-doormats with numbered feet-outlines so that you can reproduce the steps.

IIRC, pictures on cave walls, and preserved footprints in petrified mud that have been identified by !Kung San trackers brought in by the archaeologists as the footprints of people dancing.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:35 AM
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Hopefully Cosima will show up now to tell us all why this is a load of shite.

Aieee! It's Mrs. Wagner's ghost, and she's swearing at me!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:36 AM
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Why were they dancing in the mud?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:37 AM
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16 could have been more clear: arguments for the adaptiveness of music and sports, such as they are, focus as far as I know on the social role of those things.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:38 AM
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23, 25: and did the !Kung San trackers enjoy Glastonbury generally?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:38 AM
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Neolithic humans had a life expectancy below 40. Exercise and dance were culturally-specified recreation, thinking about them as health care only makes sense very recently.

Our society's health interests (overeating and lifespan extension) are bizarre from the perspective of the preagricultural past, I'm pretty sure. No lessons from evolution, I think.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:39 AM
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19: What I have read suggests that endurance hunting was not like marathon running but closer to fast walking. The idea being you hit an animal with a pointy stick and just walk after it, denying it rest, till it's just too tired to go on.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:44 AM
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"Neolithic humans had a life expectancy below 40. "

Skewed by deaths in childhood and childbed.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:45 AM
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What I have read suggests that endurance hunting was not like marathon running but closer to fast walking.

Great, because I'm slow and my jogging speed is closer to my walking speed than my sprinting speed. But, the fact remains that I'm a forty-ish guy with a desk job and in the heat I can outrun almost any animal at distance and almost none of them at a sprint.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:48 AM
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31: can anybody enter the intra-zoo 10k or do you have to take a safety class or something first?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:49 AM
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I mean I might just go and informally challenge a lemur but I don't want to run afoul of sanctioning bodies.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:50 AM
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34

Even monkeys dance to music. So do birds. ("Dinosaurs", if you prefer.) It seems to run pretty deep, evolutionarily.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:53 AM
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35

4: has your father read Baker's The Peregrine? Trippy book. I think the author was a librarian, at least I hope he was, allows me to imagine every librarian I meet is carrying out a mad secret life.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:54 AM
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35: not as far as I know, but good call. Birthday present I think. Possibly along with TH White's "The Goshawk".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:55 AM
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30. Don't think so. There are life expectancy tables here:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15252860

and less systematically, the fraction of buried remains over 30 every time I read about early humans burials is really low.

We don't know a lot about burial practices, in particular it's not known how many low status people, which would include infants, got buried rather than abandoned.

Again, my larger point is that our culture is very strange from the perspective of a pretechnological past. From our nearsightedness to our contraception, we are unrecognizable from the veldt. My contempt for evolutionary psychology is due to bad science, not bad ideology.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:02 AM
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38

||

Wow, this is a depressing ad. We moil at the expense of family and enjoyment because we're Americans, dammit! I get a deep sense of accomplishment from drumming up clients for my law firm / hedge fund!

My only solace is that the copywriter is hoping to make people think just by raising the issue of its being different elsewhere.

|>


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:05 AM
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39

38: Wow.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:10 AM
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40

37.last: I do not understand how the second sentence follows from the first two sentences, which I see written nearly verbatim by evolutionary psychologists discussing the mismatch between the environment of evolutionary adaptedness and the present day.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:13 AM
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41

The first second should be third in 40.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:13 AM
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42

30/37: The other factor is lack of antibiotics, which along with vaccines are largely responsible for the huge increases in life expectancy in the 20th century. I don't think life expectancy changed very much until then. Not arguing your bigger point, though.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:15 AM
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43

38: puke puke pukity puke.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:15 AM
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44

I'd like to say that commercial disgusts me, but it really isn't that far off from how I think about things. I don't really take vacations, and certain European countries would garner a lot more sympathy from me for their financial problems if I didn't have to hear about how they are constantly "all shut down" for a week or a month for some holiday or other. Shit, I've only taken Christmas Eve off about 3 times in my entire life. Now, admittedly, I'm completely incompetent at managing my career, and I screw around on the internet too much when I'm at work, but so does everyone else.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:15 AM
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45

44. If you can't think of anything better to do with your time than sit in an office, that's your problem, not everybody else's.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:20 AM
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46

Exercise and dance were culturally-specified recreation, thinking about them as health care only makes sense very recently.

Yes, but why did proto-humans find those things to be fun? I'm not saying they were fending off Type II diabetes; I'm saying that those activities keep you in shape during times of surplus.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:20 AM
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47

God, 38 is the worst.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:22 AM
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48

45: Well, yeah, that's what I'm saying.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:22 AM
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49

They didn't have a propensity to Type 2 diabetes until they started fucking Neanderthals as far as I can see. Maybe they picked up the habit of dancing from them too. To keep warm in the ice age.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:24 AM
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50

If I were smart, I'd be getting other people to do my work for me. Like Neanderthals.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:28 AM
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44: That ad is actually peddling the propaganda that is keeping you down! If you only have two weeks holiday a year it means you're working for someone else, and working for someone else is very unlikely to make you wealthy enough to buy all that "stuff".


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:32 AM
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52

Yes, but why did proto-humans find those things to be fun?

Did they?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:38 AM
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53

Agree about 42.

40. Maybe I have been reading the wrong people. I read Gary Marcus when I can, otherwise for brain development I read about mice and fish. I like Pinker's books for the details, his sweeping conclusions leave me cold, disparity between good detail and New Yorker-ass conclusion seems to be getting worse with time.

There was the interesting (that is, possibly testable) idea that intelligence might be linked to disease in Ashkenazim, prediction of heterozygote advantage.
But not enough power to distinguish a possible effect from drift.

Basically, I don't want to read uncertain genetics, too confusing. That means that for multilocus human traits, I will happily read molecular biology, but not genetics. If that seems like a mistake, maybe suggest someone who does good work?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:40 AM
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46. Great idea, I'll go to burning man to get in touch with those ancient rituals, smileyface.

The amount of projection to imagine the spectrum of activity, let alone the motivation of early humans is kind of a stretch.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:48 AM
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Bankers only take two weeks off because the SEC mandates it to have any shenanigans they might be pulling at the office become apparent when they're out. Free them from the yoke of government oppression so they can work nonstop!
To the OP, let me voice my support for hockey again, which is basically high intensity interval training but more fun. I had a checkup yesterday and the doctor was impressed with my BP (100/70) despite my weight being above where I want.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:51 AM
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53.last: doesn't seem like a mistake to me. I was just pointing out that mismatch theory is something like a minor obsession among people working on ev psych.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:54 AM
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The amount of projection to imagine the spectrum of activity, let alone the motivation of early humans is kind of a stretch.

Yes, given how every form of young mammal is playful, and play seems to be one of the most universal things around, it is implausible for us to wrap our SaranWrapped MSWord and XBox Brain-products around the idea that "sports" and "dance" probably weren't "fun".


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:57 AM
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38, ugh. (Also, who else was thinking, "Oh no, the Chinese are going to go joyriding in your moon car!")


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:01 AM
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Most mammals cannibalize some of their young, but otherwise do not kill members of the same species. How do you know which common traits to pay attention to?

Subjective experience is easier to think about than the immune system, but that doesn't mean it's a worthwhile place to focus attention. Your suggestion is one a huge behavioral cloud that can neither be supported nor refuted by looking at non-cadillac evidence.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:03 AM
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Most mammals cannibalize some of their young, but otherwise do not kill members of the same species.

Not every thread has to be a Woody Allen thread.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:05 AM
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What I'm noting is that everything that scientists doing fancy non-subjective science turn up to optimize your exercise performance is exactly what occurs during sports and dance. But sure, probably on the veldt it was all fartleks and tabata. SCIENCE!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:06 AM
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Less snarkily, Darwin's last book about the expression of emotion was I think an attempt at finding shared traits worth studying. I haven't read it, it's been on my list for a while now.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:08 AM
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I don't believe that the people optimizing exercise performance are scientists, not here and not East Germany. Maybe that's the source of our disagreement.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:09 AM
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64

58: Me me me!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:10 AM
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65

You don't believe there are exercise physiologists doing real science on what exercises make people best fit? I don't know what to tell you then.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:13 AM
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Most mammals cannibalize some of their young, but otherwise do not kill members of the same species. How do you know which common traits to pay attention to?

Infanticide is also present in pretty much every human culture.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:14 AM
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67

That the infanticide doesn't lead to cannibalism is just one more example of how wasteful we are.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:15 AM
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68

38: oh no! a Chinese rabbit is going to steal our moon car!


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:18 AM
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69

Should I know who the actor in that ad is?


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:19 AM
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Oh, hai, 58.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:21 AM
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65. Not really. I also don't have much confidence in nutritionists. Why are most champion distance runners from a tiny part of the word? I do not think that exercise wizards know the answer.

However, if they have anything that sounds plausible and is not obviously harmful, a line of willing customers will appear.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscular_Christianity
hula hoops, isometrics, biorhythms, why are the gurus of previous generations any different than our own?



Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:23 AM
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58, 64: one advantage of having the kid in a French school is the radically different perspective. Basically, the French invented everything first and it was better. Sometimes leads to amusing set-tos with his English father. Turns out, the English invented everything as well. They are mum on whether it was better. Not seemly to brag. But, of course ...


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:25 AM
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Why are most champion distance runners from a tiny part of the word? I do not think that exercise wizards know the answer.

Actually, there was an entire chapter on this in Gretchen Reynold's book. I don't remember the exact answer, but it was a combination of being born at high altitudes, running long distances as part of their regular childhood routines, great genes, etc. It's certainly heavily studied and seemed pretty well understood.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:25 AM
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69: Probably not, but he was in Desperate Housewives, Justified, and various other TV shows. I looked him up earlier because from his face I wondered if he was a Brit; he's not, but his parents were Irish immigrants.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:34 AM
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I laughed out loud at "and then we went to the moon. Know what we got? BORED!" The only possible way to understand this ad is to envision the scrapped original starring Abe Simpson.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:34 AM
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People live at high altitudes all over the world, why that spot and not others? Which genes? It has definitely been well studied, I think because the prospect of improved performance is a bottomless well of money.

I do not beleive that it is well understood, because there is no demonstrable outcome; maybe there is one I don't know about, I'll bookmark the recommendation. Look, performance enhacements that people understood are pretty crude-- steroids, hormones, hemoglobin boosts. Compare these with antibiotics or immune therapies.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:36 AM
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73: Also cultural practices allowing them to withstand great pain.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:37 AM
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78

69,74.

Thanks. From those credits he'd be just under my radar.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:38 AM
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Basically, the French invented everything first and it was better.

To this end I have been practicing the horn. Or "French Horn" as they call it. "German Horn" as the French call it. Not to be confused with the cor anglais . . .

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:39 AM
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It has definitely been well studied, I think because the prospect of improved performance is a bottomless well of money.

Yes, this is exactly why it's well-studied. Yet you don't think the well-funded scientists are...competent? Obviously there are hacks out there, but so?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:39 AM
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I claim that both sherpas and Yupik are mentally tougher than Kenyan runners.

If only we could return to the ways of Sparta!


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:39 AM
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I believe that they are competent, but the standards of evidence that they are using are pretty low. So the best efforts of the field are not going to be especially reproducible. There is a huge demand for any kind of prediction, which will be acted on and then applied to the most talented performers.

Lots of 19th century physicians were also competent. Lots of educators are competent also, but that doesn't make teaching set theory to 4th graders a good idea.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:49 AM
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Lots of educators are competent also, but that doesn't make teaching set theory to 4th graders a good idea.

It's pretty well-understood what works well and what doesn't work well when it comes to teaching math to fourth graders. Good example.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:52 AM
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78: oh that is so truly wonderful! The cadenza! Going to be played for the guys tonight for certain.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:55 AM
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Unless "Jason" has become a common name in Kenya, we're looking at 1 min and 50 seconds difference between the fastest Kenyan runner and the fastest other runner at the last Boston Marathon. That's less than five seconds a mile. While that is a tremendous difference for international competition, it hardly seems out of the ordinary for the difference between the performance of the upper tail of people in one part of the world vs. another.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 10:59 AM
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but that doesn't make teaching set theory to 4th graders a good idea

Hm. I remember the subject being introduced about that time, albeit rudimentarily. My son had an afterschool that went much farther/faster than that in 4th.

I remember reading The Number Devil to my daughter, with the character of "Dr. Happy Little," representing Felix Klein.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 11:00 AM
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83. Now I can't tell whether this a joke.

How recently has this understanding appeared, and is it widespread among all countries? Will the widespread understanding lead to a stable curriculum? At what age is it reasonable to expect 75% of students to be able to correctly add fractions?

In my mind, when people understand something well, that's lasting knowledge that doesn't get revised later, but only added to. I don't see exercise regimens or nutrition advice at anything like this level of certainty, but again, maybe I've missed the good stuff.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 11:02 AM
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Lots of 19th century physicians were also competent.

That ignores how cumulative science is and how dependent it is on what can be observed given the technology of the time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 11:02 AM
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How recently has this understanding appeared, and is it widespread among all countries? Will the widespread understanding lead to a stable curriculum? At what age is it reasonable to expect 75% of students to be able to correctly add fractions?

Oh jesus.
1. No, it varies tremendously by country, because culture plays a gigantic role.
2. No, because the people determining the curriculum are only sorta the math ed people. But apparently CC does represent the NCTM's goals and outcomes fairly well.
3. It is well-understood that that is a nonsensical question...


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 11:58 AM
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So, Heebert, here is what I think you need in order to sell your theory:

1. You need to establish that pre-human hominids (after the last common ancestor) had a need for fitness-producing activities that differed from the needs of our closest primate ancestors (who lack music and sports), and also that those human-specific fitness needs were not historically met by other activities.
2. you need to establish that those fitness needs remained relatively constant during the time (six million years ago to twenty thousand years ago, roughly) that appreciation of sports and music would have been selected for.
3. You need to establish that sports and dancing are both universal and cross-culturally similar in the relevant physiological ways in the present day (if they aren't, then it is extremely unlikely that they are evolved behavior per se).
4. You need to establish that there's not some other kind of common cause that leads to similarity between dancing, sports-type activities, and optimal exercise programs as sussed out by exercise physiologists. (So, for instance, it could be the case that sports and dancing both mimic the kinds of activity patterns that would be found during other activities like hunting or fighting or exploring the environment, or it could be that left to our druthers we gravitate towards patterns of physiscal activity that are congenial to our physiology.)
5. It would be good to find some evidence of either dancing or sports among pre-human hominids.
6. It would also probably be good to establish that sports and music/dancing didn't primarily serve some other adaptive role, because that would provide much stronger evidence that the fitness benefits contributed to their adaptiveness.

Some of these seem very doable. Some of them seem tougher.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 12:03 PM
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I'm sort of charmed by the idea of veldt Zumba.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 12:26 PM
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90: Well, I do have a sabbatical coming up.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 12:41 PM
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Let me be the first to suggest monkey knife fights.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 12:42 PM
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Forgetting the evolutionary/veldt aspects of this, heebie, are you claiming that playing sports and dancing to music are "the best possible exercise"?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 12:46 PM
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Because I'm not sure that's been demonstrated. And it seems to be a prerequisite to some of the analysis in 90.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 12:47 PM
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optimal exercise programs as sussed out by exercise physiologists

Just like heebie's phrase "the best possible exercise", I am skeptical that exercise physiologists have in fact sussed out the optimal exercise programs. For one thing, what's optimal depends quite a bit on what exactly you're trying to optimize. Looking past that, for any fitness goal you're trying to optimize, my strong impression is that there are quite a few exercise physiologists with different and often conflicting ideas about what exercise programs would be optimal.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:11 PM
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Ironically enough, I just came across this study. From the conclusion: "Therefore, sport participation cannot guarantee physiological body mass and body composition, and it is necessary to prescribe exercise targeting body mass and fat control."


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:15 PM
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For one thing, what's optimal depends quite a bit on what exactly you're trying to optimize.

IIRC from the Gretchen Reynolds book, usually they're trying to optimize people's VO2 max, because it's easy to measure. Obviously this runs into all kinds of problems as well - some people just don't improve their VO2 max, no matter how much they train, and other people improve theirs really easily.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:20 PM
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96: Well, clearly in this case, we are aiming to optimize reproductive fitness.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:21 PM
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(I know the OP says we're trying to optimize "health and well-being and fitness", but that's not very precisely defined, to say the least.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:21 PM
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So clearly, the role of music and dance is to seduce a member of the opposite sex.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:22 PM
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(student came in my office, so I truncated.)

Sometimes they're measuring stuff that's more correlated with improvements in poor health, of course, but a lot of the time if they're studying athletes, it's VO2 max.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:23 PM
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101; Any exercise benefit of the is gravy.

Clearly, this argument is wrong, because I'm disagreeing with heebie.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:23 PM
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103.1 should have read "Any exercise benefit of this is gravy".

But it's all wrong anyway, so pay no attention.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:25 PM
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96: fair enough. I was spotting Heebie that because it seemed like she had enough to do already.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:25 PM
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99/101: No, that's not the claim in the OP. I'm maybe willing to believe that playing sports and dancing to music are the types of exercise most likely to lead to successful reproduction (other than vigorous sex, I guess, which probably has even better odds); heebie's claim was that those activities also optimized "health and well-being and fitness."


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:27 PM
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Okay, so heebie, to rephrase 94, are you claiming that playing sports and dancing to music are the best way to to increase VO2 max?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:30 PM
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What style of dancing are we talking about? Does it matter?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:31 PM
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Does it matter which sport you play? Does golf count?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:32 PM
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Total Vo2 max or per kilogram?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:32 PM
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All I'm saying is that this is a completely ridiculous theory even before you get to any of the completely ridiculous evolutionary claims.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:34 PM
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108: Yes, and what if you are so dorky and unrhythmic that dancing lowers your reproductive fitness?

Sorry! I got confused again!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:35 PM
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111: And since when are you opposed to completely ridiculous theories?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:36 PM
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109: I don't understand any of this, but I'm quite certain that golf does not count.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:37 PM
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The claim is this: scientists pick various measures of fitness, and try to figure out how to optimize them, and then journalists try to cobble together summaries of what best to do, to hit several different moving targets. And the things that journalists end up proscribing inevitably occur naturally in sports and dance, which are highly likely to transcend culture and have existed since time immemorial. Therefore Jews have more grit and insecurity and success than Asians.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:38 PM
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"What regular exercise regiment most increases a person's chance of reproducing?" is actually a more interesting question. Although probably unanswerable.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:39 PM
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I thought it was pretty uncontroversial that sports are the result of childhood play, a nearly universal mammalian trait beneficial for athletic ability and skills, and our neoteny. And that dance was the result of morphogenetic resonance with dinosaurs, nature's dancers.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:41 PM
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The claim is this: scientists pick various measures of fitness, and try to figure out how to optimize them, and then journalists try to cobble together summaries of what best to do, to hit several different moving targets. And the things that journalists end up proscribing inevitably occur naturally in sports and dance, which are highly likely to transcend culture and have existed since time immemorial.

Well, okay, but my point again is that if you "measure of fitness" is, say, your score on the NFL combine, then I don't believe that "sports and dance" are the best ways to optimize that. And I also still have no idea what exactly you mean by "sports and dance".


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:41 PM
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Eggplant understands me.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:41 PM
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I thought it was pretty uncontroversial that sports are the result of childhood play

Really?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:42 PM
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Am I being trolled?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:43 PM
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I'm not sure what the relevance of questions like "What excercise will yield the best VO2 max" is. People on the veldt facing large and uncertain physical challenges daily may not be able to afford the calories or resultant performance drop to go all out on leg day.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:44 PM
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118: Quite often the scientists are measuring percent improvement in V02 max capacity. Sometimes they're measuring how much you improved your time in running a mile or how much stronger you got. When they're studying NFL players, maybe they do use a combine. I'm not sure what else I should say.

Many of the studies are well-designed and give robust results under narrow circumstances. Then well-intentioned journalists over-apply the results to ridiculous circumstances. But that's neither here nor there - there really was a real result buried in a journal somewhere.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:45 PM
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I'm not sure what the relevance of questions like "What excercise will yield the best VO2 max" is. People on the veldt facing large and uncertain physical challenges daily may not be able to afford the calories or resultant performance drop to go all out on leg day.

Sure, but surely it's better to be in better shape when the challenge arises, so that you have the choice to outrun the T. Rex or be eaten, right? Choice is always better.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:46 PM
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It seems like the answer to 121 is "yes". You have wasted my time.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:48 PM
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But what if you could've gotten away from that T. Rex except your quads were entirely blasted?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:49 PM
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People did not live alongside T. Rex. Neither did any of our close relatives. This is hogwash.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:51 PM
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125: I'm genuinely not kidding. I think everything in 90 is absolutely necessary to make a real case, which obviously I'm not capable of doing. But I'm not trolling one iota.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:52 PM
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124 was a joke, though. Oh, Urpie.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:53 PM
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I am currently copied on a massive email chain as my better half and his 4 rugby playing brothers organize a 3 generation family gathering. It is reminding me vividly that they are extraordinarily energetic, numerous and sporty - pretty much the polar opposite of my family. I am preemptively exhausted.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:54 PM
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127: When we say T. Rex, we're just talking about any large bird.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:55 PM
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We're obviously wasting each others time. I don't see how that's a problem.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:55 PM
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130: Is better half's family larger? That would support the theory!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 1:57 PM
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Oh lord yes. In the same generation as our mutual kid (ie better half & dairy queen kid) there is 1 human in my family and more than a dozen in his. Come to think of it, they've already got 4 in the next generation, so this will be a 4 generation gathering.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 2:04 PM
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134: Hurray! Proof!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 2:13 PM
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Ok, but how many non-humans?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 2:21 PM
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Excellent question being thoroughly debated on email chain! Along with all current rugby, foot, cricket, and croquet standings. Also discussed: alleged and confirmed run ins with constables when they were young(er) and strapping(er), relative preferences if their mum as correlated with intelligence, general attractiveness and current number of own teeth and straightness thereof (they are English), and alleged bad taste in pop music.

That reminds me that one of the sisters-in-law is astoundingly good at croquet must remember to always finagle self onto her side.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 2:30 PM
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Preference *of* mum.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 2:30 PM
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FWIW, I think the ad in 38 is just trying to be an upscale/articulate version of ads that say things like "Because Americans are awesome, we invented Doritos" or whatever: over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek claims that Absurdity X is the natural consequence of American Greatness.

Contrast it with the truly shitty Dylan ad for Chrysler, which actually does argue that Americans are uniquely equipped to... make cars? Unlike all those other countries where they make cars, but aren't happy about it? They're both silly arguments, but one of them comes with a (literal) wink.

I'd add that the cinematography is vaguely indebted to the Old Spice ads, most obviously in the way that the guy transitions instantly from casual to suit. The whole vibe is supposed to be lighthearted as much as it is jingoistic.

Not saying it's a great ad, but I feel as if all the "yuck" comments were treating it as an utterly sincere AMERICA FUCK YEAH pitch, and I don't think it's supposed to be.

On a side note, I think this is a new kind of pitch for an EV/plug-in hybrid:

A. EVs are green! (Leaf, Prius, Volt kind of)
B. Our EVs are just as awesome as our regular cars. (BMW, Tesla kind of*)

And this is C. This desirable luxury item/status symbol happens to be an EV.

I don't watch that much TV, so I may be wrong about the last bit, but the throwaway nature of the EV part of the ad was notable to me.

*AFAIK, Tesla doesn't run TV ads, but the performance component is certainly a part of their branding, as evidenced by their first model offering


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 3:05 PM
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You didn't detect anything ritualized and winky about the yucks?


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 3:19 PM
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139: Maybe so, but I still found myself dearly wishing that the ad would end with the car blowing up like Michael Corleone's in The Godfather.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 3:29 PM
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Thanks for the spoiler warning.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 3:33 PM
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I don't think it is winky at all, this is Cadillac for one thing, the stodgy grandpa car. It's also of a piece with all the rest of the "do what you love" bullshit with an added ladling of jingoism.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 3:38 PM
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It happens early in the film, Moby, and I won't say who was in it. The car, not the film. But I won't say who was in the film either, in case you want it to be a surprise.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 3:38 PM
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As I said in 38, there could be a bit of submerged disagreement by the writer, but in overall presentation and intent the wryness comes off to me like the joking-but-not-really kind that people use while being sincerely reactionary. "Hey, nuke 'em till they glow, right, guys? I'm serious!" [evil grin]


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 7:20 PM
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God, the ad in 38. 139 is so wrong.

Completely OT, it turns out that at some point over the last few years I've lost the ability to hold my tongue with people who are opposed to gay marriage. I found this out tonight, in a situation in which it would have been very professionally beneficial to just shut the fuck up and let the bigot express his bigotry in peace. But I couldn't stop myself from saying something anyway. And I hadn't even been drinking! I suppose maybe someday I could feel good about this, but right now I'm feeling pretty bleak.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 7:51 PM
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Urple, what did you say?


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:01 PM
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And now I've eaten an entire package of licorice. (11 servings! 130 calories and 20 grams of sugar per serving!)

147: Nothing especially interesting. It started with an offhand "The places that have legalized gay marriage don't really seem to be falling apart" and went downhill from there. I mean, I was entirely civil, but I very clearly pissed off my client.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:16 PM
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Just curious because, as you can guess, people tend not to be as honest with me about their beliefs as they might to, well, someone like you. So I don't have to have that discussion very often. I would gladly have an entire package of licorice, though!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:18 PM
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Man. I guess we can consider the institution of licorice restraint utterly destroyed. Thanks, Obama!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:21 PM
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I'm only fantasizing about gorging myself on licorice. It's a free country!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:24 PM
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What sort of maniac puts 11 servings in a single package?

Anyway, so now I'll have a severe scolding tomorrow at work to look forward to. Off to bed.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:27 PM
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149 : Obviously I see politicians in the news and plenty of garbage on Facebook and the like, but it's actually been quite a while since I last heard anyone say anything like that in conversation in the flesh. At least that I recall. I think that may be why I responded without really thinking about why that would probably be a bad idea. I don't know.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:38 PM
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My response is usually a very chipper "Oh, I totally agree! I think it would be great if we could completely separate civil and religious marriage to make things easier for everyone!" and then it doesn't go much farther.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:40 PM
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154 to 152.1.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:49 PM
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I'm pretty surprised at how much pushback heebie got on this one. Her theory probably isn't provable in any meaningful sense, but it doesn't seem worse than the ev-psych alternatives in that respect, and it does in fact fit with what is known about human cultural universals.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:54 PM
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154: no, this guy blamed cultural acceptance of same-sex unions for the proliferation of internet porn. He pointed to civil unions in Hawaii in 1993 and thinks that has driven the online porn explosion since then. Clearly, reasoning with him was hopeless. So why did I say anything at all?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 8:59 PM
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we're pretty close to a tipping point where an asshole like that is going to have very few places to go where someone won't pick a fight with him. I say bravo and your probably only 40% as fucked as you fell.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:29 PM
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you're, goddammit


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 02-11-14 9:29 PM
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"What regular exercise regiment most increases a person's chance of reproducing?" is actually a more interesting question. Although probably unanswerable.

"Circuit training", judging by the record of my former flatmate the circuit training instructor, who went through pretty much all his female pupils until he found one he liked, and then married her.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 2:39 AM
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Dancing seems most analogous to various mating rituals. So does a lot of sports activity. I'm going to go with the more direct line, then, that these are about reproductive fitness, not physical fitness (other than as a component to reproductive fitness). Am I saying there's a huge homoerotic element to NFL fandom?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 6:51 AM
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I am amused by the image of cavemen earnestly waltzing by the light of the fire.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 8:34 AM
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156: I dunno, I think there are ev-psych theories extant that do their best to meet something like the conditions in 90, and there are ev-psych types who believe that the conditions in 90 constitute something like a necessary precondition for a valid ev-psych theory. That seems stronger than what heebie offered (although I should note that while I do not personally find her theory terribly plausible I wasn't actually trying to argue against it per se; I was just suggesting what she'd need to do for it to be a serious scientific theory by the standards of the field).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 8:39 AM
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I also find it weird that heebie is getting push back. I mean birds/dinosaurs dance to show off to the ladies and the best dancer gets all the ladies (science!).

I can see an argument to highlight the difference between reproductive fitness and physical fitness, but evo-psych (of all fields) should be concerned about reproductive fitness not physical.

Therefore, physical fitness should be judged by how well you can dance, especially for men. With costumes (how well can you gather resources and display them).

I mean aren't the tribes currently closest to 'on the vedlt' holding dance competitions for their young men and women or has National Geographic been lying to me.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 9:19 AM
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164: something like that (that dancing and sports are status displays) is essentially what ev-psych people (who think that these are adaptive traits) tend to argue. It's the idea that dancing and sports were selected for because they improve physical fitness (or that they were necessary for fitness) that is I think novel to heebie.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 9:24 AM
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I guess my argument is that physical fitness is necessary only as far as it gets you children (i.e. fitness in an evolutionary sense). So there is no benefit to being able to lift heavy weights if it makes you look so ugly no women want to have sex with you, or to be so fast you outrun the tiger if your whole tribe gets eaten.

Physical fitness is good because it gets you into shape to do the status activities. If the status activities on the veldt were dancing and sports, then that's how you measure ideal physical fitness.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 9:34 AM
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Physical fitness is good because it gets you into shape to do the status activities.

Well, that and it allows you to, you know, acquire food, avoid predators, win fights, survive harsh conditions, compete for scarce (non-reproductive) resources and etcetera. And, of course, there's plenty of evidence that physical fitness measured as brute strength -- or as strength and agility, for that matter -- is a hell of a lot less important for humans than our closest primate relatives, since they are far, far stronger and faster than we are.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 9:38 AM
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physical fitness is necessary only as far as it gets you children

Edit, 167 covered it. The interesting cases of sexual selection are when the traits selected for impair your ability to escape predation and the other parts of the survival business (though I understand it's increasingly controversial how many such traits there actually are).


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 9:47 AM
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is a hell of a lot less important for humans than our closest primate relatives, since they are far, far stronger and faster than we are.

What is that? It just seems annoying that a healthy person is that much weaker than a healthy chimp.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 9:51 AM
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We have endurance on the chimps, so there's that. Plus we can swim well relative to our cousins. And our cocks are bigger by a substantial margin.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 9:53 AM
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169: we diverted too many of our resources to our big ol' brains. Try a headbutt, maybe.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 9:54 AM
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Yes, conceded, you do need some basic level of strength and agility to survive. But I don't get why those are valued as 'physically fit' over being able to dance or play a team sport. Once you've survived and fed your tribe, you still need to impress people.

One assumption that's probably not been stated is I think these early humans lived in groups. That requires a whole set of socialization skills that I think evo-psych people downplay. Like if half your tribe starves to death because you hunt really well but you don't share, you're not actually great. If you hunted less well and fed more people, you'd probably have greater (evolutionary) fitness, lower physical fitness though.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 9:54 AM
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I guess I'm one of those pushing back-- I was objecting to the claim that dancing optimizes the same thing that is optimized by current exercise regimens, also to the claim that this optimized quantity is correlated with longevity in our current couch-potato times. That's the way I read hg's original claim.

For the other stuff, that is dancing as display, who knows, maybe. In thinking about this, I don't know how to balance between reproductively attractive display and social dominance, which includes violence. I can't get to reading much primatology, but socially, chimps (also murderers, along with baboons), gorillas, and bonobos are all socially extremely different. I can't see how to identify which ancient traits existed, let alone which are worth thinking about for pretechnological history. Others may differ in their assessment, obviously, but all I see are just-so stories. I'd welcome cites to good work.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:01 AM
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That requires a whole set of socialization skills that I think evo-psych people downplay.

You think? The ones I've read are completely focused on the social demands as leading to the unique aspects of human cognitive ability (for instance).

If you hunted less well and fed more people, you'd probably have greater (evolutionary) fitness

Again, I think very much a subject of intense interest among people studying these things.

Anyhow, the point is not that physical fitness s/t you can dance well or play a good game of bocce is not relevant to successfully performing those activities, nor that those activities might not be behaviors that have been subject to selection pressure. The point is that physical fitness as a positive selection pressure for those behaviors is a much tougher row to hoe, in part because there are many other unaviodable behaviors (hunting, gathering) that would serve to maintain sufficient physical fitness among veldt-dwelling protohumans and because, as you say, it seems like a lot of uniquely human selection happened around social communication and social behaviors. If anything, it seems more likely that sports and dancing (if they were selected for at all, which as I said earlier is super controversial even among people who are pretty gung-ho about this stuff) emerged because we had a really intense need for social communicative mechanisms and physical fitness to spare.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:02 AM
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a whole set of socialization skills that I think evo-psych people downplay

On the contrary, complex sociality is considered one of the primary drivers of what led to the big modern human brains described in 171:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_human_intelligence#Social_brain_hypothesis


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:03 AM
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Continually Sifu-poned


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:04 AM
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One more remark-- IMO, the standout difference between humans and other primates is language.

Understanding that as well as possible in evolutionary terms is what I look at occassionally, more specifically, looking at new papers about the gene FOXP2 a couple of times a year, referring back to Gary Marcus' really nice review article of 2007 for larger context.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:11 AM
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FOXP2 is fine and all but, one, it is not unique to humans and, two, it doesn't tell you what selection pressures led to language which, three, is not itself likely sufficient to explain the massive, incredibly rapid increase in brain size.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:15 AM
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Not claiming either of those in 178. It is a useful search term that leads to good papers pretty often. Other helpful terms or good authors?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:19 AM
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language which, three, is not itself likely sufficient to explain the massive, incredibly rapid increase in brain size.

This is surprising to me, the definite negative claim. Why not?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:20 AM
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Tomasello is generally quite good, I think. His newer books are probably a better bet than the one I linked to. This is a recent review article by him which seems on brief skim like it covers relevant ground.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:22 AM
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Thanks!


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:23 AM
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180: well, for one thing, a lot of the regions that increased in size don't seem to be necessary for language production or comprehension. You can have really severe parietal lesions (or frontal lesions, for that matter) and still be able to speak comprehensibly and understand speech.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:23 AM
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Not dispositive. Speech makes possible very many things that were previously impossible, arguably including abstraction. This new capacity creates selective pressure that was previously absent.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:26 AM
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184: well, so, right, the people who argue along those lines (including, centrally, P/inker) tend to argue that a speech-like mentalese is what allows for the kinds of abstract cognition that we seem to be uniquely good at. But there is not (to my mind) a tremendous amount of evidence for "mentalese" as usually conceived, and there's a lot of evidence that a lot of higher-level cognition happens without any involvement of speech or language functions at all. You could argue that speech was the evolutionary "pivot" which led to increased brain size which led to those newly beefy brain regions getting recruited in all kinds of ways that are non-linguistic, but first of all you would have to explain why -- if language was initially central to our new abilities -- it doesn't get recruited for all the types of cognitive tasks that other animals can't perform, and second of all you still have to justify language being selected for in the first place.

N.B. I am probablypretty far off in one of the tails in the distribution of how much people think speech matters for cognition; you would likely get plenty of support in the halls of brain-and-cognition-studying academia for the proposition that language is fundamental and central to human thought. (Less among neuroscientists and comparative animal cognition researchers than among linguists and philosophers, I suspect, but anyhow.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:37 AM
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in part because there are many other unaviodable behaviors (hunting, gathering) that would serve to maintain sufficient physical fitness among veldt-dwelling protohumans

I thought the hunting didn't actually happen that often, compared to the gathering. And, as mentioned above, both hunting and gathering are endurance sports. So would you really maintain sprinting-fitness, if you only have to fear for your life now and then?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:47 AM
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I was objecting to the claim that dancing optimizes the same thing that is optimized by current exercise regimens, also to the claim that this optimized quantity is correlated with longevity in our current couch-potato times. That's the way I read hg's original claim.

Ok, then please stop reading my original claim as having anything to do with couch-potato times and warding off Type II diabetes.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:49 AM
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Anyway, I have a revised hypothesis:

Keeping this part: to optimize one's fitness*, scientists keep coming up with rules that essentially mimic what happens automatically in dance and sports.

*yeah, yeah, whatever that means

Updating this part: perhaps dance and sports are fun because we are artificially triggering some adrenaline. Since adrenaline is naturally triggered in those situations which demand your best-fit self, sports and dance naturally replicate those situations.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:52 AM
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And, as mentioned above, both hunting and gathering are endurance sports

You think? I thought the big argument of the paleo, crossfit-type people was that hunting was actually not an endurance race, but more a lot of walking around punctuated by intense bursts of activity. And gathering, well, hell if I know. I never really had a good grasp of the gathering part. Are the berries up high?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:52 AM
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174/175: I'm not up on recent academic evo-psych so maybe this is a topic with a greater focus than I think, but at least as evo-psych is represented in the pop science field, there's a lot more interest in diet and exercise than on reading interpersonal cues. I don't think that interpersonal skills are ignored, just that (and maybe because they're hard to study) the focus is elsewhere.

I did think of another point while at lunch - I'm arguing that physical fitness isn't about being the best at something, it's about you and your group meeting a minimum skill level.

Anyway, I'm getting over my head here. I do think that if your physical fitness reduced your ability to dance or play team sports (even if it just took too much time), you're not going to be successfully fit. Is it possible that you can use all your energy and time surviving and have none left for finding or choosing a mate? Not over the long term.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:55 AM
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The distinction between "a lot of walking around" and endurance doesn't seem very firm to me. I get that not everybody was running after prey all the time, but after a certain amount of distance, walking is an endurance sport.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:56 AM
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Is it possible that you can use all your energy and time surviving and have none left for finding or choosing a mate?

Now or on the veldt?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:57 AM
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Okay, you can replace some of the walking with sitting quietly and waiting.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:58 AM
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Only after the invention of the tree stand.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 10:59 AM
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Early hominids had asses that could flatten out into a sort of organic tree stand.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:00 AM
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192 see 194 for a possible solution


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:01 AM
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Don't stand on your mate.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:03 AM
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I thought the big argument of the paleo, crossfit-type people was that hunting was actually not an endurance race, but more a lot of walking around punctuated by intense bursts of activity.

I do hope that this is not what everyone thinks I mean when I say "scientists".


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:03 AM
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But someone above mentioned that to hunt, we just walked until our prey was too exhausted to continue, maybe with a flesh wound, too. That was what I'd heard, too - less Hunger Games and more The Long Walk.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:05 AM
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I hunt with guilt.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:06 AM
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If I can get my distance running time down to 9:00 miles, I think I'll try to put a bell on a deer by persistence hunting techniques.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:08 AM
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I was running the other month and spooked a deer something fierce. It took off in a panic and I was going to follow it before I remembered that running through backyards after dark was probably not a good idea.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:09 AM
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Keeping this part: to optimize one's fitness*, scientists keep coming up with rules that essentially mimic what happens automatically in dance and sports.

*yeah, yeah, whatever that means

You also need asterisks next to "dance" and "sports". And possibly also "scientists". Which is an awful lot of hand-waving.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:10 AM
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Also, the moderate-density urban environment abounds in fences that the deer can jump and I can't. I'll need more open territory.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:11 AM
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204: you should be dancing more.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:12 AM
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201 is a good way to get a pretty nasty kick. The deer may be too tired to run away, but that doesn't mean it won't try to defend itself. And, since you've been chasing to exhaustion, it probably will think you mean to do it harm. If you aren't prepared to kill, don't get within striking distance.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:13 AM
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203: probably also "automatically" and, if we're going to go all the way with this, "mimic".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:13 AM
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What urple is saying, Moby, is that you need a DEATH BELL. And also to dance more. Do they have special deer Capoeira?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:14 AM
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To kill, you need a permit and you have to go out and run the woods on the Monday after Thanksgiving when all the jumpy people with guns are sitting in trees.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:15 AM
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Deep Capoeira and Death Bells: Our Evolutionary Heritage


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:15 AM
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Goddamit.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:15 AM
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Does ballet count? What about just twerking? And you never answered my question about golf.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:16 AM
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You also need asterisks next to "dance" and "sports". And possibly also "scientists". Which is an awful lot of hand-waving.

This is silly. Dance is moving to music, and all cultures do it. Sports is some sort of game which makes you hot and sweaty, and probably has a better, real definition than that. It's like jazz and obscenity.

But yes, "scientists". I forgot to define that.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:16 AM
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Golf definitely doesn't count as dancing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:16 AM
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Does ballet count? What about just twerking? And you never answered my question about golf.

Of course ballet and twerking count, and golf does not.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:17 AM
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Sports is like jazz and obscenity?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:17 AM
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In that I know it when I see it. Or if you gotta ask, you ain't never gonna know. Etc.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:17 AM
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I think many of your more robust scientific theories have eliminated most of their reliance on "I know it when I see it".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:19 AM
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Is marathoning a sport?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:20 AM
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It's just like chess, so yes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:23 AM
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If you're trying to optimize your fitness, does it matter how often you play sports and dance? Or how long you spend doing those activities, when you do them? Because it seems like an awful lot of articles I've read on health and fitness have something to say about those variables.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:24 AM
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This is clearly a very serious, thoughtful, evo-psych argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:25 AM
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Is marathoning a sport?

Yes. But haloing isn't.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:25 AM
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Of course ballet and twerking count

So a fitness regime of ballet and baseball or twerking and tug-of-war will each produce "optimal" fitness?

I really think at some point we're going to have to define "optimal fitness", or I am going to become skeptical.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:28 AM
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||

Ok, one of my tenured, fulltime colleagues sent me a FB message a week or two ago, about inviting me to a wine and cheese thing:
- on campus
- during regular work hours
- so that she could tell us about this dazzling new skin cream, have I heard of it?

I could not begin to figure out how to respond, so I ignored it. Done! But weird!

She just called me, in my office, to tell me all about this exciting opportunity.

It just seems so strange that she's doing this at work. And wow is my opinion of her plummeting - if she were doing this in an evening, at her house, I wouldn't bat an eye. And also to contact me twice, when FB undoubtedly told her I saw her message - is she getting heavy pressure from somewhere else?

Eh, I guess it's no biggie.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:30 AM
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Waltzing and wiffleball! Foxtrot and falconry! Bolero and bocce!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:30 AM
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She probably owes big money on a gambling debt.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:31 AM
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"Status display" is the laziest possible evolutionary theory.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:31 AM
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225: essear's gin-soaked noontime tupperware parties are legendary in his department.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:32 AM
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The easiest way to handle this is to deny that you have skin.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:32 AM
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No need to think anymore about the possible physical and cultural effects of dancing. We've got it filed under "status display".


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:32 AM
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228: why?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:32 AM
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Oh okay peacocks have those feathers for status displays to help in mating. You have explained nothing! Why are they BLUE-GREEN?#?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:34 AM
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"Status display" is to evolution as "Ritual ceremony" is to archaeology.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:35 AM
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225: "Do I look like I need to hear about skin cream so urgently? What are you trying to tell me?"


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:35 AM
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"reproductive fitness" is the laziest (which I am intuiting means the most general) evolutionary explanation, pretty obviously.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:37 AM
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complex sociality is considered one of the primary drivers of what led to the big modern human brains described in 171

Along with eating meat cooked by fire, according to some totally non-tendentious science I've read.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:40 AM
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laziest (which I am intuiting means the most general)
Why?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:40 AM
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234 gets it right. I'm not saying it's never wrong, and I'd be surprised if displays of reproductive fitness weren't part of the explanation of dancing, but it's really a default theory.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:43 AM
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What if the ritual ceremonies WERE status displays???? .


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:44 AM
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Have we talked here about how early humans were totally doing it with the Neanderthals?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:46 AM
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I think so. Someone also posted a link to literature about dinosaurs and early humans having sex.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:53 AM
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I'm not saying it's never wrong

But it's almost always right?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:54 AM
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I love the picture accompanying this story. The human-neanderthal love child looks so sad!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:57 AM
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If I believed that dance and games were the royal road to health and fitness, I'd find that fact stressful and depressing.

First, those are predominantly young persons' activities. In my twenties I participated in pickup basketball games and held my own, in my teens I'd played all the major American team sports in the casual way many people did. I know a few friends still play a bit, but these are scheduled activities among long-time Bball friends; it would be eccentric and Quixotic for me to try to round up friends to do that now, and I'd worry about their health and safety.

Dancing is something I've never really enjoyed at any time in my life. At a social occasion, these days usually weddings, I make a point of dancing now: It pleases my wife, and honors the occasion. If there's a Hora, for instance I'll always try to take part. But if I were to be called away, I wouldn't feel I'd missed something.

I've cycled with undiminished joy and enthusiasm since childhood. One reason I know I have clear memories from being 6 and 7 is how many cycle-related events from then are clear to me still. I always rode more and farther and with more pleasure than anybody else.

I shovel snow and chop wood in winter, and lift heavy things all the time. But cycling is absolutely central. Should I lose the ability to balance safely, I hope to get a lightweight adult tricycle, although it's already too late for me to learn the special skills necessary to do that on a really high level. I should have laid the foundation when I was in my 40s.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 12:00 PM
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From link in 244:

Related Links

Who Didn't Have Sex with Neanderthals?

I don't have to click because I already know the answer: Stuck-up bitches.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 12:02 PM
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And also to contact me twice, when FB undoubtedly told her I saw her message - is she getting heavy pressure from somewhere else?

Presumably. I mean, it's the entire basis of multi-level marketing.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 12:02 PM
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238: because... fuck you? I don't remember third grade very well.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 12:03 PM
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Golf definitely doesn't count as dancing.

Sez you.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 12:04 PM
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225 is deeply weird and makes me feel slightly better about my own colleagues.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 12:08 PM
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Not to say that 229 is inaccurate.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 12:09 PM
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Just back from a really jaw-breakingly boring couple of days reporting on the Church of England. One genuine experiment I know of in this field was Robert Trivers in Jamaica, who measured rude boys all over then fitted them with motion sensors and asked girls to rate how well they danced. The interesting thing was that those judged the best dancers were also the most symmetrical, a quality which argued for the least disturbances in development, and possibly for gene complexes that are resistant to environmental disturbance. Which - he believed - was a proxy for fitness. I don't know where this was published (Science, I think).


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 12:18 PM
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the most symmetrical

My one leg being 1/4" shorter than the other keeps all the girls from the yard.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 12:21 PM
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252: Wasn't that just retracted? (No time to hunt for the link, but I seem to remember a very terse notice retracting that paper.)


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 12:23 PM
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254: http://retractionwatch.com/2013/11/27/at-long-last-disputed-dance-study-retracted-from-nature/


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 12:26 PM
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Persistence hunting for the link.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 12:26 PM
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Persistence hunting is slower, but it is more likely to find a primary source.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 12:27 PM
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Hey, urple, think your client has seen today's news?


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 12:45 PM
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OK. He told me about it in the course of a profile - he was really excited. I never saw the thing come out. And now, looking at the retraction links, it appears that he was the retractor. Wow.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 1:18 PM
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I feel like there might have ended up being some lingering bad feelings among those collaborators.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 1:21 PM
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And how would that have increased their reproductive fitness?


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 1:23 PM
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Data mishandling: the forbiddenest dance!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 1:27 PM
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146.2: thank you, for what it's worth.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 1:53 PM
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I've been developing a Pleistocene setting for story-writing, not based on real knowledge of human evolution but pieced together from these miscellanous articles about inbreeding and a vague notion of punctuated equilibrium. It's a society full of hominids with extremely diverse genotypes and phenotypes, due to the outbreeding instinct being turned up to eleven into xenophilia, so you can't talk about different species or subspecies or even races, because everyone is fucking everybody else like crazy in search of new oddities or capabilities, mental or physical. The underlying idea is that this is the period of sudden evolution that eventually led to our genocidal forebears, and that all the skeletons we might find today from this phase are not actually representative of the prevailing phenotype, because there was none.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 4:06 PM
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Inbreeding s/b interbreeding, as in 244.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 4:06 PM
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On the dance front just found out kid broke his foot in class on Saturday. Am successfully resisting "I told you so" urge thus far vis a vis both kid and better half but it's nip and tuck. Predict it will cause an up tick in feminine sympathy and attention at school and therefore kid's reproductive chances enhanced. Just hope that's a very long term project.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 4:14 PM
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264: When they make the movie, females of all genotypes will still have breasts.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 4:39 PM
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Okay, so here's the theory that I understood heebie to be positing in the OP:

Back on the veldt (whatever that means), some human groups developed dancing and sports, while others didn't. The ones that did ended up getting more exercise on a regular basis than the ones that didn't, which meant they were in generally better physical shape and better able to carry out the occasional subsistence tasks that required considerable strength/speed/stamina/whatever than the other groups, which weren't in as good of shape and were therefore less able to effectively carry out those tasks. This gave the dancing/sporting groups an adaptive advantage, and over time they out-competed the other groups and all later human societies ended up dancing and playing sports.

That... seems like a totally reasonable hypothesis to me. It's probably not possible to really prove it, of course. The criteria in 90 seem reasonable enough as standards against which this sort of theory should be evaluated, but I don't see how any theory could possibly demonstrate that it meets all of them; we just don't have enough information to judge. Per Sifu, it seems like the main alternative theory is that it was carrying out the strenuous subsistence-related tasks themselves that created and maintained the physical fitness necessary to do them, which seems to me like a much less plausible theory than heebie's. So it's not clear to me why Sifu seems so skeptical about this theory.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:16 PM
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And, yes, in 188 heebie seems to be walking back her original theory and offering another, quite different one. That one seems plausible to me too, although it posits a different sequence of events than the one in 268.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:19 PM
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To spell out 269 a bit more, in the new theory the sequence would be that adaptive strenuous activities trigger the release of adrenaline (or whatever), which creates a pleasurable feeling that encourages the adaptive behavior, and it happens that sports and dancing also trigger the same effects, which makes them pleasurable too. Really the two theories aren't mutually exclusive, and the two processes could be mutually reinforcing.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:42 PM
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In summary, heebie is the greatest evolutionary psychologist of this or any other generation.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-12-14 11:51 PM
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Not just adrenaline, from dancing; maybe not adrenaline at all. Oxytocin? Are there other watching-people-and-cooperating-and-getting-them-to-cooperate-with-you humors?

Last I looked, we don't know very well, but couple dancing (like the waltz) may not even be common, whereas group dances -- lines and rings -- probably are universal. I'm persuaded that one of the great joys of dancing with other people (which includes dancing to music) is because it tickles the fluidly cooperative ability that makes humanity stronger than our primate cousins.

I've read arguments for this being a predecessor to language and for it co-evolving with language. All I know is that a group in the swing, when all the feet hit the floor in time or all the oars hit the water or a whoop rises from all over the floor, is hugely happy.

Also, folk and social dancers are startlingly long-lived and seem to have lower rates of dementia.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 02-13-14 2:11 AM
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Persistence hunting hypothesis FTW. Marathon fitness, plus MEAT!

(NB. Like all the best just so stories, this has possibly been falsified.)


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-13-14 2:24 AM
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Humans are the animal that dances? Science says hmmm.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-15-14 3:21 PM
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