Scientist cited in push to oust Harvard’s Claudine Gay has links to eugenicists: Christopher Rufo, credited with helping oust school’s first Black president, touted critic associated with ‘scientific racists’ (Jason Wilson, 14 Jan 2024, The Guardian)

The 2019 paper is entitled Polygenic Scores Mediate the Jewish Phenotypic Advantage in Educational Attainment and Cognitive Ability Compared With Catholics and Lutherans. It argues that the high cognitive abilities of Ashkenazi Jews are “significantly mediated by group differences in the polygenic score” – that is, genetically caused. They speculate that “culture-gene coevolution” may influence “Jewish group-level characteristics” like high cognitive abilities.

The basis of the paper was an interpretation of publicly available data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, one of the longest-running population surveys in the US.

Pallesen’s co-authors were Emil Kirkegaard, Michael Woodley and Curtis S Dunkel.

The paper was demolished in a direct response from academics from universities including Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Wisconsin, who wrote that “researchers have been warning against using polygenic scores for comparisons across race/ethnic groups for some time now, and a closer look at the data results [in Pallesen paper] provides another illustration of why”.

The lead author of the paper criticizing Pallesen’s paper is Jeremy Freese, a professor of sociology at Stanford. Freese was also part of a team that integrated genetic data into the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study – the same data the original paper draws on.

In a telephone conversation, Freese said that “we were moved to write something because the paper seemed to mistake correlation for causation in a question that obviously deserved more care”.

Freese added: “The problem we pointed out didn’t take a detailed interrogation to notice.”

Aaron Panofsky is the director of, and a professor in, UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics, and one of the authors of the paper How White Nationalists Mobilize Genetics, which includes the Pallesen-co-authored paper in its survey of the misuse of genetic data by scientific racists.

On the paper’s claims about Jews’ innately high intelligence, Panofsky said that this was a persistent trope among white supremacists that “fits into a larger narrative about Jewish conspiracies and the idea that Jews are controlling the problems of the world from behind the scenes”.

The paper Pallesen co-authored repeatedly cites Kevin MacDonald, a retired psychology academic whose antisemitic publications argue that Jews engage in a “group evolutionary strategy” that explains their financial and cultural successes, and that antisemitism is an understandable reaction to this phenomenon.


Does the Rise of Nikki Haley Mean Trouble for Joe Biden? (Brad Bannon, 1/14/24, The Messenger)

She appeals to swing voters who can’t abide the president and his predecessor.

It took a conservative president — Richard Nixon — to travel to China and open a relationship with the communist regime. Might it take a conservative woman — Haley — to break the presidential gender barrier and rise above the glass ceiling that Hillary Clinton failed to crack?

Biden has been running against Trump since 2020. The president would need to do a complete 180 to retool his reelection campaign for a race against Haley. Her service in the Trump cabinet gives the president the opportunity to tag her as a Trump clone. But Trump is a true believer, while she’s flexible and subtle enough to avoid the extremist tag.

She found a way to run against Biden and Trump at the same time with her “New Generation of Conservative Leadership” message.

The nomination of any conservative–as opposed to MAGA–candidate would drive Joe from the race.


Why our fear of cancer is outdated — and harmful (David Ropeik, January 8, 2024, Washington Post)

We now know that tens of thousands of common breast, prostate and thyroid cancers that are detected early never go on to do any harm. People “overdiagnosed” with these types of cancer are understandably frightened and usually choose more aggressive treatment than their clinical conditions require. Such “fear-ectomies” cause great harm, leading to side effects that range from moderate to severe and include death itself. We spend an estimated $5.2 billion a year on such clinically unnecessary treatment, 3 percent of the total spent on all cancer care annually.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2017, nearly 16 million people were screened for cancer even though they were younger or older than those for whom screening is recommended, based on who is more likely to be helped or harmed (by false positives, the side effects from follow-up diagnostic tests, and aggressive treatment for clinically non-threatening disease discovered in screening). We spend a minimum of $9.2 billion per year on this overscreening.

A majority of people believe that most cancer is caused by environmental carcinogens. Yet we now know that cancer is principally a natural disease of aging, which allows DNA mutations that cause uncontrolled cell growth to accumulate. More than half of those diagnosed with cancer in the United States are at least 65 years old, while 87 percent of those who die of it are 50 or older.

Yet governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year to reduce the risk from environmental carcinogens, vastly more than on any other environmental health threat, including fine-particulate air pollution, which kills more than 100,000 people a year. We spend billions on organic foods, vitamins and supplements, as well as many other products that promise to reduce our risk of cancer but don’t. The public has voted against fluoridating the drinking water in public supply systems serving 30 percent of Americans, despite a lack of evidence to support the fear that fluoridation is a cancer risk. Fear of ionizing (nuclear) radiation, a vastly smaller cancer risk than commonly believed, has driven the cost of building nuclear power plants so high that this source of non-greenhouse-gas-emitting energy struggles to compete in the energy marketplace.


Nathanael’s Epiphany (Malcolm Guite, January 13th, 2024, Imaginative Conservative)

The Gospel reading for this second Sunday of Epiphany (John 1:43-51) takes us to one of the most mysterious and beautiful moments in the New Testament. As the disciples begin to gather around Jesus, Philip finds Nathanael and says “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45) Nathanael’s unpromising response is ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Nathanael is not alone in having this kind of bigoted and prejudiced attitude to ‘other’ places and people…