Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Third Spike

The poop is being thrown freely about whether there is a third spike of C19 occurring. Worldwide, the answer is an unequivocal yes.  In the US the answer is varied. A half-dozen states have a large increase in number of cases, another half-dozen troubling increases, and a few have mod increases in death, some dramatic: LA, MS, TN, FL, NV.

A lot of states have a new moderate increase in  number of cases, including some states which have had very low rates until recently, such a HI, VT, AK. There is some trend for the warmer states to be seeing more cases, but not all, and Washington and Oregon are suddenly worse. More death anywhere is partiularly alarming, because hospitals and clinics have a lot of experience treating Covid now, and we should not be seeing much.

Bsking suggests that we should switch to hospitalisations as the metric.  At-home cases are more of an inconvenience than a danger at this point, but improved treatment reduces the number of deaths over the rate that occurred in early 2020.This makes sense and I may start looking at things from that perspective instead.

The overall is that yes, we have a third spike in the US, but it is mitigated by vaccinations, low base rate in some states, improved treatment, and the avoidance distancing we do automatically now, even when we say there are no precautions. The southeast and south central states worry me, as do the previously closed states now open for tourism. The rest, including even NYC and other northern cities, do not seem to be exploding. The international spike worries me because it will affect things here.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Scandinavians Expected To Win (And Did)

I have written about Mondo Duplantis in the pole vault, out of Louisiana but jumping for Sweden. Just missed a new world record, and made a gold medal look easy

Also Karsten Warholm out of Norway, who did get a WR in the hurdles. He was pushed - semi-unexpectedly - and thus pushed the record way down. All three medalists broke the previous world record, in fact.

Both are young and may yet do better.  Track & Field is about the only Olympic sport I care about.

Major Cultural Change

I comment from time to time on language changes that are occurring in the background even as we live through them.  It is fun to contemplate when reading about language changes in the past, wondering if the older people even much noticed.  In literate societies these changes are slower, as written material conserves older forms. Those of us who were church-raised, and especially those in liturgical churches (or Baptists who insist on KJV), see how forms long out of use can nonetheless be preserved.

The same thing happens with culture, which affords thinkers and writers ample material for comment. You can make a career noticing how things were different in the old days and telling the tale artfully. I occasionally do that with some skill, but more often simply get the job done in plain fashion, pointing things out.

Personal genomics has transformed the culture and will transform it further. Books have been written by people wrestling with the information that their proudly Irish grandfather was actually baby-switched with a Jewish boy, or discovering that their father had serial affairs, or that their mother had a child before she was married or such.  I was listening to Linda Avey, one of the founders of 23 and me describe that they had not initially anticipated such things.  One of their engineers reported he could discern relatives from the samples just before the product came to market. Even as the kits were coming out, their own staff was discovering for the first time the occasional alarming piece of information - that mom had been sleeping with stepdad before the divorce from dad, for example. Only as this was emerging it occurred to them that many adopted children would be willing to pay a lot to find out who their relatives were, on the way to finding out who their parents are.

We have some in our family. My grandmother, the one that died in 1952 whose maiden name is my much-disliked middle name, had a son before she married my grandfather.  My father never knew about this half-brother, and I suspect my grandfather did not even know this. Our Son #5, a nephew, has a close match that must be his grandmother's (or less likely his grandfather's) sister. His mother was a closed adoption, but the pieces can be partly assembled. This connection denies that any woman in her family in California had a baby in Cambridge, MA in 1967. Look, some girl was sent to Boarding School or Summer Camp then. From our POV, he just wants to know who his grandparents were.  Yet I can sympathise with her view as well. The family moved heaven and earth to keep this secret, and it's not this woman's fault that her sister decided to have her DNA run.  

When I had mine run, I spoke to my brothers beforehand that this might uncover uncomfortable info, as our father was not a sexually responsible person.  It might even produce a Japanese sibling from 1946-7, when he was in the army of occupation in Hokkaido.

Eventually an Obama descendant will have DNA done, and no one will bother to ask about birth certificates.

We are only in the foothills of this, enough that it is still scandalous and amazing.  But the information will soon be automatic - everyone will have a full genome done at birth because it will be cheap - and such secrets will no longer exist.  We will all be in the fishbowl. How far can this go? In fifty years what information will they be able to extract from your skin or your hair, which are things you are going to have a very hard time preventing from other people getting ahold of? Not to mention what your devices can download from nearby devices as you walk past. It is not just the security breaches of hackers, or Zoom selling info to Facebook that will do this.  The shear volume of interconnection will make privacy impossible.

Maybe some types of privacy will still be possible.  I imagine someone worked this out in a Sci-Fi story in the fifties. There was one about suppressing time travel, not because of what remote events would be revealed, but because The Past starts one minute ago, which is essentially the present. (It was a Science Fiction HOF story.  I imagine I could find it.)

These days Connie could scrape it off and find out who she was.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Medieval Violence and Head Injury

We have a predisposition toward thinking of people in an era as being very similar to each other and different from us. Yet stratification and difference was even more intense in previous centuries. Urban merchants and rural woodcutters were not alike.

When I mentioned the TBIs of Henry VIII and their possible effect on his personality, there was mention of tournament injuries, as these did often involve the head.  Hence helmets, but those only help so much. The knightly class over time had ceased to be a group heading out to dispense justice and defend the right.  Most likely never were anyway, but even the pretense was vanishing.  They were a warrior class trained to bash others over the head and otherwise remove them from this world. By the beginning of the age of exploration they were largely concerned with defending their "honor," which increasingly meant the status they felt they were do.  For someone not to doff a cap or defer to them was an insult that needed redressing. Nothing Arthurian about it anymore. AS Europe did not have much other than cloth in trade goods - and warm cloth was not a prized item in the Mediterranean, Africa, or beyond - they increasingly just took things by force of arms. The Portuguese were reportedly very effective in this.

If you are going to live like this, a large percentage of that class is going to have been head injured, with the natural loss of emotional control and good judgement that follows. A pathological behavior would seem normal.

There is also strong evidence that overall violence was decreasing in society from at least 1200 to the present, and possibly earlier. How can these things be? Different classes of people.  The majority of people were not going to war, as professional armies were growing up. They were learning to trade, cooperate, get along.  I don't want to oversell this, because it was still a more violent time than our own, and there are plenty of other ways to get concussions and other compromises to the skull. But comparatively there was a difference between the nobility with their head-injured idea of their "honor," and the folks just trying to make a living. Literally. 

Had there not been new trade routes to exploit - for the knightly class married with the merchant class throughout Europe - I don't know what would have come of it.

For those who have read Albion's Seed, the stratification is still visible well into the founding.  the Scots Borderers did not have standing armies so much as clan groupings still involved with raiding. Armed violence was part of the lives of most.  This was not so in Puritan East Anglia or the partly- Quaker Midlands. Those were traders, craftsmen, yeomen, fishermen. In Virginia and Coastal Carolina there was an elite that bore arms for military purposes, while the lower classes had arms only for hunting and perhaps some skirmishes.

Obscure Linguistics Vindication

Merritt Ruhlen was my guy.  He not only claimed that all languages sprang eventually from a single initial source, he provided evidence that he said made that the mostly likely reality. He was almost universally reviled a generation ago, and is still disdained, though younger historical linguists are giving him some grudging acknowledgement.  A PhD linguist who was a student of Joseph Greenberg of Stanford, likewise dismissed as terrible. Ruhlen recently died, and I think missed the new tidbit of DNA evidence that speaks in his favor. It is not the first.  Research from other field, increasingly including archaeology and genetics, have vindicated them. Plus other linguists had always sulkily agreed that both were excellent at classification.

I have written about the controversy many times before, if you are interested.  About half of these don't pertain, though.  You will have to skim.

For the moment, the interesting piece is his claim that the Kusunda language was related to Juwoi in the Andaman Islands. They are a thousand miles apart, with lots of mountains and oceans creating barriers. Worse, there are no languages in between them that would suggest a connection, and at the time of the claim, it was believed that these peoples had not been in any contact for 80,000 years. Linguists believe that language relationships cannot be detected beyond 10,000 years, so this was hooted at. (When I was in school anything more than 5000 was considered suspect.  So things change.) Things got a bit better over the years and the time distance dropped to 60,000 years, but still excessive. But new DNA evidence suggests that because one population pushed out another on the way to the islands, the real number is now only 25,000 years. Even that would be a lot, but because one of the main similarities is a pronoun ("He, she, or it" gita versus kiteh), it is looking like less of a stretch, as pronouns are some of the most stable words in families of languages.  Ich in German and ego in Greek are separated by a few thousand years, for example.

Genetics and language relationship are not proofs of each other.  One only needs look at America to see that a lot of genetically diverse people are all speaking English. But it happens often enough that it is the first line of inquiry when there is any question.

Excess Mortality, A Few States

Two months ago Massachusetts was just under 11,500 and it's currently at 11,362, so it has added nothing.. TN is now almost 7k deaths up (18,103) and AZ is 11k ahead at 22,235. Vax rates (for 1st dose) stand at 72% for MA, 53% for AZ and 44% for TN. 

- MA 1623 excess deaths/million
- TN 2586 excess deaths/million
- AZ 3176 excess deaths/million 
These states are focused on because the person sending them to me continues to be annoyed at the reporting by TN and AZ (states of similar size to MA), which make it look by their Worldometers and CDC numbers that these three states are about even.  They aren't. You can describe the inaccuracy how you will, but to me it's just that Tennessee and Arizona are lying, to make their covid numbers look smaller.  It is worth noting when one is tempted to think that there are vast swaths of American territory where SARS-2 is being overcounted. The anecdotes put up on some sites about counties or hospitals here and there that are revealed (gasp) to be overcounting by 25% or whatever are a drop in the bucket. The strong trend is states trying to look good by undercounting.

NH is now up to 1151 excess deaths/million, FYI.(Mentioned because I am in NH, which has very good numbers, particularly considering that the most densely populated area is essentially a suburb of Boston.)

Some big states:
-CA 2176 excess deaths/million w/65% receiving first dose of vaccine
-FL 2245 excess deaths/million w/58% receiving first dose of vaccine
-TX 2475 excess deaths/million w/52% receiving first dose of vaccine 
-NY 3111 excess deaths/million w/63% receiving first dose of vaccine 
Diseases don't do what we tell them to.  
Also, to quash a growing rumor, there are reports that only 50% of the employees at NIH have been vaccinated, the dark implication being "You see, they know this is risky and they aren't getting it." That number is how many the agency has record of, and possibly the percentage that they themselves administered to employees.  People get their vaccinations at their MD's, at their local pharmacy, at mass programs that states put on to encourage them.  When the NIH calls those papers in to get a clear idea what they've got, that percentage will certainly not go down.  It will likely go up quite a bit.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Covid Denialism

I am frankly tired of repeating myself at a half-dozen sites. I will let this excellent Quillette article out of the UK speak for me this time. I think it is stronger for paralleling our own situation so closely, but with different personalities, culture, and details. So it's not about Trump, or Biden, or Cuomo, or DeSantis.  It's about human nature, and therefore, about us.

I am tired of reading about how "they," usually meaning Fauci and a lot of handwaving, lied to us about Covid, which is why "they" haven't any credibility now and we won't listen to what they say or do what they say anymore.  Because they are just controlling bastards, and the people still masking are timid and cowardly - not brave true Americans like us, who value liberty.

Because that's what our Founding Fathers fought for, sure, to not have to follow safety precautions unless they felt like it (and they weren't going to feel like it if it was physically uncomfortable or didn't look daring). It's so easy to accuse others of bad motives, isn't it, and so hard to even consider that theirs might not be all that good.

Glenn Reynolds has spent the last year putting "experts" in quotes and complaining how they "haven't exactly covered themselves with glory over the past year."  Well compared to the skeptics, they absolutely have covered themselves with glory. The deniers have been repeatedly and spectacularly wrong.

I was there for all of it.  I remember when as far back as March of 2020 people were saying this was exaggerated and no big deal. We kept hearing that this was "just the flu,"  and then "only like a bad flu season," and then still some mutters like that, but most people abandoned that line of argument. That was when we had just passed 100,000 deaths and I, also thinking that there was only going to be the one peak, and a long slow decline in deaths rather than a sharp one by June, predicted we would hit 150,000 deaths by September, maybe even August 1st, and was cautioned to check my statistics and estimates, and not to believe data that lead to such predictions. 

Now we hav 4.5-5 times as many deaths as that, and the same people are still finding excuses. Sometimes the same excuses. I've got a guy over at Chicago Boyz, a retired physician, saying he thinks these deaths weren't really covid, they are influenza, and you just wait, eventually it will show.  Sure Dr. Mike. The 2020 flu inexplicably struck twice instead of once, and worse the second time, killed 30 times more people than average, and just happened to occur in the year when there was all this covid rumor going on. Oh, and it petered out just as the new vaccines came on line.

Residents of states that had not yet been hit hard spoke contemptuously. Texas, Georgia, Florida - "We're not seeing any problem down here.  You people are all panicking. You must be doing something wrong. You just like telling other people what to do, but we won't have it. We're freedom-loving Americans. Why I know a guy who works at an ER and he says it's empty these days." Again so easy to accuse others of bad motives, so hard to even consider the possibility that they are just being sulky teenagers who don't like being told what to do.

Not all of them are that.  Some of them are exactly that.

When the second wave hit all those states harder than New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, I do not recall a single statement on any of the blogs I frequent or their commenters that admitted the slightest bit of inaccuracy, or any apology for being insulting. As the numbers rose the excuses went with them. These aren't deaths from covid. These are deaths with covid. What? What the hell does that mean? Tom Bridgelend the ICU nurse from Chicago who comments here sums it up well: If someone comes in with covid symptoms but we don't do a test, and he dies in his own fluids, I don't really mind if the doctor writes coronavirus on the death certificate." Right.  Seeing that C19 is the overwhelmingly likely cause of death. What would you call it instead? 

Then the focus on covid deaths occurring primarily among people who had other factors, like age, obesity, diabetes.  So you are saying that's okay then? There is the constant denial that this is what is being said, but when it gets highlighted repeatedly, with no on-the-other-hands or cautions, I have to conclude that is what is being said. The little polite nods that of-course-those-deaths-are-all-tragic-but... no longer cut it. Minimising is convenient for you for some reason. A year ago I suspected that.  Now I'm sure.

Relatedly, there are stories about relatives that died from lack of medical care because of all the focus going to covid.  I imagine there were some, but interestingly, those aren't showing up in the statistics. There is no increase in deaths from other causes, except a bit in things that have similar symptoms to Coronavirus - heart disease and respiratory failure. And drug OD's, which did legitimately go up - and account for 3% of the excess mortality. The story may be working backwards from the data, from "Maybe Aunt Jessie might have survived if she had seen the doctor earlier" to "The focus on covid killed her."

The hospitals are calling things covid because they get extra money for those cases. And governors get reelected by making it look like the state's numbers are low, so that's a competing incentive.  And so when you look at other clues to see what the real number is, you find we have undercounted, not overcounted.

But by all means, lets get exercised all over again that they said "flatten the curve" and it didn't work out that way. Because they were supposed to know. And refer only to the studies that tell us what we want about masks, ignoring the ones that tell us differently.  Because that's brave. Now the cry goes up that the lockdowns were worse - sometimes it is even said there may have been more deaths (again Instapundit, repeatedly) - than from SARS-2 itself. Okay then - by what metric? I know there were lost jobs and diminished business, I know there was a general economic hit, but put that in numbers.  Put it out there and weigh x number of jobs versus y number of deaths. Make the assertion that "We should have stayed open even if it meant a million more deaths.  Because that's not crazy now that we are up to 750,000 even with precautions. Convince me with numbers, plus your years-of-life versus quality of life equation.

And then factor in all the other effects of Covid that are gradually emerging.  Those are part of the equation, too.

Of course it is irritating that politicians and other powerful figures, especially Democrats, were hypocrites and traveled, and didn't mask or distance themselves, but really, so what?  It doesn't change a thing about the disease itself. Get over it. It's irritating if kids have to wear masks at school when that isn't likely a big danger of spreading, but we are comparing that to what level of difficulty and oppression children have gone to school with before? Masks?  Quelle Horreur. I think they'll get over it. Talk to people from Romania about oppression at school. People talk now about how traumatic it was for American children to be told to get under their desks in the fifties, fearing nuclear attack.  I think we got over it.  I'm not seeing any downstream effects of that, even though there has been occasional hyperventilating about it.  We regard it as funny now. Masks are a bad thing for a small number of people, with speech or hearing difficulties. That's legit. It's an irritation for the rest of us, unless you assign great symbolic value to having to wear one.

Yes, maybe they assigned symbolic value to not wearing a mask first, but that doesn't really change things, except it's irritating.

An anecdote of irony: the guys in charge of security in churches because of the very occasional horrendous events that occur - they clearly understand the principle of being prepared for a low-chance but devastating event. But they don't see the point of wearing masks because...why, exactly?  The evidence would suggest that picking and choosing like that suggests some personal motive rather than a risk assessment.  Not such a good thing from a professional security firm. You might even guess at their motives.

And the claim that we really don't know what works, and maybe this many people would have died despite whatever we did anyway.  Evidence?  Because people are making the opposite claim with lots of evidence.  Please include in your calculations the countries with low rates of infection and death, some of which don't have anywhere near the hospital care we do. I think the evidence is those selectively-chosen studies about masks.  Not a devastating case.

I think the deaths don't seem real because people don't see them, but they do see masks and signs about distancing, and closed businesses.  That is understandable, but is still illogical. The numbers are what they are.  If you have different numbers, bring 'em. For the record, I am not currently masking except at the places that require them, which is mostly medical facilities at this point.  The Delta variant is worse, but not worse enough to respond to.  That could change. If we have to mask again, I shrug. I am hugging children at church. That too could change, if the data changes. 

Worldwide there is a third spike in both cases and deaths.  In America...maybe.  There has been a small recent upturn in cases, driven by Texas, California, Arizona, and especially Florida. Maybe a rise starting in deaths, from the same places.  But clinics and hospitals know what they are doing at this point, which will likely keep the deaths moderate unless something catastrophic happens.


It was almost a week ago that I published my CRT post, so few of you will be going back to check on the comments.  Resident geographer JMSmith (that always catches me up short because I have a cousin who is JM Smith) has a new comment worth going back and reading. It includes the radical statement "The connection to your post is that public education is not possible in a truly multicultural society." He makes a brief case, with examples, for the premise. And that isn't even his only point.

Update:  And it's still going.  Great stuff.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Louisiana Purchase

 It's got to be tough when they say "Write us a song about the Louisiana Purchase."  But Irving Berlin...

Thanks to John McWhorter for the tip.

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Violence of Henry VIII

The contradictions of Henry VIII character have attracted much attention.  He had a reputation for wisdom and patience early in his reign, and though adventurous was not known to be especially violent, and certainly not cruel. He became an unquestionable tyrant later.  Historians during the 18th and 19thC tended to see these changes as a function of the temptations of power, and losing his grip on his better self because of not getting his way.  That fit their beliefs.  In literature since the Greeks and Romans, humans were prone to such temptations, and rulers were especially susceptible to deteriorations of character once they were unchecked. It is a common theme in Shakespeare and all subsequent European literature. Nothing wrong with that, it's often true.  But they didn't really know how baps on the head might affect you once you had regained consciousness, so they never went to that explanation.

One traditional approach, favoured by (David) Starkey and others, is to divide Henry's reign into two halves, the first Henry being dominated by positive qualities (politically inclusive, pious, athletic but also intellectual) who presided over a period of stability and calm, and the latter a "hulking tyrant" who presided over a period of dramatic, sometimes whimsical, change.
More recently, there have been suggestions that he died young due to the obesity caused by brain trauma, or that his personality was influenced by the draining effects of many medical conditions resulting from his several blows to the head and periods of unconsciousness, and finally a direct suggestion that his violence and impulsivity were clearly derived from his TBI's. They didn't think that way then, we think that way now. Taking more factors into account is usually better than fewer. (As we just discussed under Critical Race theory.)

Even in my generation, unless permanent results were very obvious, people did not ascribe behavior to brain trauma. Parents might be aware of it - "After that he was never quite the same agin, always losing his temper and getting into trouble." Yet parents are both the best and worst of observers of such things.  They see that something is wrong even when everyone else looks away or attributes behavior to simple disobedience or other bad character.  But parents also have too much information and their own needs, and so fit behavioral changes into any of a dozen categories: parental divorce, the emotional rather than physical effects of abuse, rejection by a girl, a bad teacher/pastor/school bully, competition with siblings. I have heard all these explanations offered by parents when taking a social history. We all fall into this naturally, as the brain will not endure having an unexplained phenomenon, and we jump to conclusions. Much of what I believe about how my children became who they are is likely only partly true. Many of their own explanations are probably similarly slanted, as are mine about why I am who I am.

Baps on the head are one of those things that fade from memory fast. We expect boys to be reckless, they take falls, they hit their head on rocks. Because ice is a factor in New Hampshire, my worst blows to the head were usually to the back. These injuries usually take place out of sight of parents or other adults.  They were considered just a normal part of growing up. Getting assaulted by older boys, or sneak assaulted from behind by weaker boys, even with sticks or bats was also just considered part of childhood, unless something obvious and severe occurred.* Men and women in prison have an unusually high incidence of head injury, which we often write off as the environmental effect of "being exposed to violence," or "coming from a bad neighborhood."  Yet while those things matter a bit, when we try to factor out all such factors they don't matter much. Measurable neurological changes matter a lot more, and have larger consequences. Like maybe a nation's split from the Roman Church and a division of Europe that has enormous consequences even in our own time. 

It would be great if my bad qualities were the result of one or more of those incidents as a boy, so that I have "diminished responsibility," as they say.  Yet that would immediately extend to everyone else, and it may be that the evils done to us were the result of actions by people who had diminished responsibility themselves. What societies have to consequate for their own survival may not be the most accurate measure of judgement.

There is a gene-environment interaction that goes even deeper. In families that have a lot of children showing risky behavior, so that we figure they can't all have been bapped on the head in exactly the same way and there must be some genetic risk-taking involved, those kids are going to just naturally have more head injuries, including repeated small, undetected ones. When they become teenagers and adults we are going to blame the parenting, and the courts are going to treat crimes as personal decisions. We might be wrong.

*This may also affect whether we perceive something as traumatic in an emotional sense. I don't like to go too far down the road of what is called "blaming the victim," but I experienced events at school for which I might have sued my children's school district had they happened to them, a generation later and in a gentler place. There was a comment-section argument a few years ago among women about sexual assault in which one woman who still lived in a rough part of town quoted a young woman from a suburb who was describing some aggressive behavior by a date and noted "At my high school forty years ago, we just called that dating." The younger woman may have been correct that it should be considered assault - I would have expected a call from the police myself had it been me - but clearly the older woman did not experience it as traumatic.  Expectations matter, because they affect feelings of uncertainty and control. What children experience they immediately compare to the experiences of those around them.  If Jeffrey next door got beaten up much worse than you, you didn't feel so bad about yourself.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Buyer's Remorse

Play with this thought with me. What if our elections were (more) temporary and had to be ratified a year later? There would be no sense in doing that with governors or the House of Representatives, which are already only two years.  But Senators and presidents, we get to do a redo a year in. First terms only.

Looking at presidential approval ratings as a proxy, it looks like  Truman, Carter and Reagan would be marginal but survive, Clinton 50-50, and both Obama and Trump would be out.  That's not necessarily reality, however, as each of them would have to run against someone, and as we saw in 2016, that matters a lot. The serious third-party impact of Ross Perot also makes 1992 even more unpredictable.

I will concede it a net negative to have an even longer campaign season. I have also not thought through the elite media and general PR implications of "how long can you lie and keep up the appearance" for such events as framing Donald Trump about Russia without serious media scrutiny. It would also change the territory for protests.  Maybe those would be worse, maybe better. 

No fair speculating why this is occurring to me just now.

Stray Thoughts On Genetics

One downside of listening to podcasts while walking is that it is hard to take notes.  I have used both a notepad system and a "dictate into notes" system, but the latter is hampered by poor reception in some areas, and the battery going down very quickly, not to mention toggling back and forth between apps. The cumbersome nature of the former should be easily imagined by all of you.  First world problem, I know.

But when I think of things they collect up and I forget them if I don't write them down.

In the discussion of measuring intelligence, people often give an example of being placed in a hunter-gatherer's environment and not being as smart as they are. Yet there is more to that story. Hunter-gatherers don't survive alone in those environments either. If you were plunked down in Amazonia alone you would die, yes. Someone who grew up there would last longer than you, and might by some chance make it on their own, but most likely, they are also dead. But if you flopped into an Amazonian group and tried to survive, there would be a few abilities you would need. You would not only need the intelligence to know that you had darn well better be humble and inoffensive and willing to be subservient, but the ability to actually effect such things. Learning physical skills would be as important as learning cultural skills, and both of those involve cognition. Copying others is a useful human skill and it is usually wisest to do what everyone around you is doing.  However much we might praise the nonconformist, that is a tendency best expressed against a background of 90% conformity, and in the Amazon, you had better aim for 99%.

This is true for the Amazonian native moving to America as well. She could not survive alone, but we are pretty used to integrating people in, if she were willing to adapt. And she would do better at this if she has better cognitive skills. Thus the example chosen to undermine the standard definition of intelligence ends up supporting it instead.

This adjusting to new groups is what we do throughout our lives to survive, though in less dramatic forms. We are parachuted into kindergarten, into a new job, into a new family of in-laws, into a new town...and we have to make that work.  We do need a variety of skills - again, humility might be one, ability to get along with others also.  But cognitive skills are going to help at every turn.


JBS Haldane said "I would lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins," being clever and cute about the math of natural selection at the gene level. Yet it is not the laying down of one's life that is the issue but the enduring risks for the sake of others.  As in the line from General Patton's introductory speech in the movie "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.  He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." This overlooks the fact that the other guy doesn't die unless someone takes the risk of dying himself. (Patton certainly knew this but was sidestepping it for persuasive purpose.) It's better for your brothers and cousins if you also survive. Once we see that it is risk, not sacrifice that is the key the equations change. There are varieties of risk, physical, financial, social, and they are often not simple in how much one is putting others at risk as well. Generosity is risk, because circumstances might change and we need that money or object someday.  Helping others physically is risk for similar reasons. Tolerance and forgiveness are both social risks, as a difficult or offending person might cost us something in the future. 


Social disapproval used to signify danger more than it does now. When resources are scarcer, a girl's friends and family communicated that having a baby without being able to claim resources from the father might mean starvation, and for the man, offending against that family or the society might mean punishment or banishment as well. Even in survival, resources would be diminished for all concerned. However cruel it seems to us to shame or even banish offenders, it would serve to discourage others - because young people do not weigh consequences well and take too many risks that also affect others (as above). A harsh calculation, but the survival of the customs suggest the math works out for the group. 

The calculation changes as resources improve. Unmarried women getting pregnant now do not face death, and the men face diminished consequences. Therefore, social disapproval seems unnecessarily unkind we have taken to disapproving of the disapprovers instead. Yet unmarried pregnancy does still result in diminished resources for several people, and young people are still not fully understanding of risks. It is a less dire calculation than the one our ancestors faced, but social disapproval - even the milder shaming or punishment of the one for the sake of the group - did work up until the day we stopped using it.