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March 19, 2003

Against the stamp collectors

Dienekes deconstructs pan-European racialists. He points out the problems caused by centers of reference and drawing lines on an arbitrary basis (or being influenced by non-anthropological criteria). To be mislabelled is a common occurance for many people, and if an individual of group A can confuse someone of group B as one of their own (or vice versa), then there needs to be a closer examination of the basis for any given taxonomic division.

If the oldest European civilizations were situated in the heart of Europe, in the region of modern Bavaria, Austria and Bohemia, the pan-European racialists would have a much easier time. They could dismiss Greeks as peripheral and only marginally European. Unfortunately, Greece serves as one of the main taproots for western culture, and the deepest to boot. The Romans, who served as models for European states and empire-builders for 2,000 years were also a southron people, though probably somewhat more physically diverse [1]. Northern & central Europeans can not cut the southerners off from the movement with any ease simply because much of what makes Europe what it is came from the south (Christian religion primarily, but also Civil Law, and inspiration for the Renaissance). On the other hand, Europeans with less historical heft can be demonized, so the Russians have often been portrayed as semi-Asiatic in nature to explain their despotic traditions and alien ways. Similarly, even the Germans were depicted as "Huns," harking back to a people of Oriental origins and pagan brutality.

Minor note: I've been linking a lot to Dienekes, so much that some will accuse me of being a Hellenic stooge! In fact, I think that the Perl editor I used to use was made by a Greek company...connections, connections. So I offer this link Pontikos Exposed, brought to you by your local anti-Mud Clearinghouse Stormfront. To be fair, I do think Dienekes is a bit of a Hellenophile who tends to see his own people as the apex of creation (and can't help but get some swipes in at "Nordicists" and rehash ancient ideas of his people being the Golden Mean), but, he is a Greek-and they frankly have a lot to be proud of. When was the last time you heard a Greek claiming that The Pharoh was an Achaean or that an ancient Indian philosopher had an Athenian father? They don't need to do that, not when you have 3,500 years (minus a Dark Age) of literate history to draw upon. Contrast this with the Hinduvata movement that has a bizarre tendency to always assert somehow that "it all started in India," (the ludicrous claims about nuclear weapons in ancient India as recorded by the Mahabharata). I can give Afro-centrists some slack for claiming Hannibal and Rameses II as "great black men" because black Africa had little in the way of literate centralized statecraft and if you need to believe your ancestors were great builders of cities but they were mostly at a pre-literate neolithic level, some white lies are understandable. But folk of the land of The Kama Sutra (brown people having sex-yuck!) shouldn't need to resort to fantasy and falsehood. True, they were running around half-naked before my paternal grandfather's foreskinless forbears came sweeping down out of the highlands of Turan introducing prudery, but those ornate temples with golden calfs required a great deal of taxation, alms and general injustice and despotism, so Indians can be proud, tyranny is part of their patrimony (and the idols melted so well, all the better to make ingots that could finance the building of clean mosques!) . No need to go one up everyone and claim that they had their hands on nuclear weapons before whitey!

[1] Dienekes has a fair take down of John V. Day's contention that the proto-Indo-Europeans were fair-haired peoples who were later absorbed by swarthy indigenes in the ancient world. Dienekes criticises Day for noting the first 19 Roman Emperors as being rather light in color compared to what we perceive Italians to be, for of course, many of these individuals were related and so would not be a random sample of the Roman elite. The first five were members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caesars gens, the Julii, were notoriously fair-haired, as Gauis Julius Caesar himself was. Augustus had reddish blonde hair while the last of his line, Nero, was also a blonde. Of the later Emperors, none of them were from old Roman stock (from the patrician & plebian nobility of the City), so to use them as exemplars of the Aryan ideal among the Latins is somewhat peculiar (there were still some non-Indo-European tribes in Italy during the late Republic aside from the Etruscans, so "Latin" was still a far narrower term in that age). The Flavians were Italian lumpen by origin (and related, father and two sons). The Antonines were of mixed provenance, but they were all provincials after Nerva, Roman stock mixed with Spanish and Gaulish (and related by marriage and extended family ties). I don't wish to harp on this point, but I do simply because 19 is a small sample. That they were mostly related and most of the later ones were not by blood connected to the ancient Roman aristocracy makes Day's point rather mute. And why did Day stop at Commodus? Well, after a period of chaos, the Libyan-Syrian dynasty of the Severrans comes to the for, so this was the point with Mr. Day probably would want to draw the line (They were of polygot partial Italian origin as well, but the busts of Septimius Severus seem to indicate he would not stand out in modern day Tripoli as far as features go). He isn't as extreme as Afro-Centrists trying to prove that the Sumerians were black because they called themselves the "black-headed people," but I certainly knew what his conclusion was going to be (The essay was an interesting read of course)....

Posted by razib at 01:49 AM

Peoples can easily change on historical time scales. Just rememeber that the narrow-sense heritability of practically every behavioral/cognitive trait you could shake a stick at is substantial, tens of percent. If the pattern of society causes certain traits to be rewarded (in terms of increased reproductive success) for a few hundred years, you'll see noticeable change. A one-standard-deviation change is perfectly possible.

Hardly anybody seem to realize this.
I wonder why.

Posted by: gcochran at March 19, 2003 08:34 AM

For those inclined to like such things, what's so gross about watching brown people have sex?

Posted by: duende at March 19, 2003 09:05 AM

"Black-haired people" is a stereotype phrase for commoners in Archaic Chinese and even in XIII c. Mongol. There are reports that Chinggis Qan had reddish hair and blue or green eyes. To me this means nothing much, though. (I did try to figure out once what the genetic relationship between the highly-mobile Turks of today and of 900 AD was if they had 10% intermarriage every generation. I'm not good at compound interest but unless the intermarrying people are almost identical the original heritage becomes extremely dilute.)

The Finns were illiterate (except for a Bible and some hymns, etc.) until very late (1750? 1800?), but nobody ever bugs them about it except maybe the Swedes. Maybe it was them that Ibn Khaldun had in mind when he said that smart people were sort of brownish and that closer to the equator and the poles people got dumber and, respectively, darkers and fairer. The Muslim Ibn Fadlan who observed the Swedes (Rus) around 800 AD admired their appearance, but described them as filthy and probably though of them as noble- savage type brutes with no culture.

Traditionally when the Chinese dealt with non-Chinese they felt friendly toward they described them as like the archaic Chinese -- honest and good, but lacking in culture. One of the first XIX c. Chinese students in the US described Americans that way.

Posted by: zizka at March 19, 2003 09:34 AM


people want to be proud of their ancestors. if they have something to be proud of-they make sure there is no talk of "degeneracy." if they don't have much to be proud of, they make shit up.

looking toward the future and appreciating the present seem less fashionable...mebee it's hereditary? :)

Posted by: razib at March 19, 2003 01:56 PM

duende, i oppose intraracial sex. it is against nature :)

Posted by: razib at March 19, 2003 02:03 PM

Look, _nobody_ thinks about this. I'm not just talking about people who want to celebrate their ancestors' real or imagined achievements.

If you really want to understand long-range historical trends, assuming that that is even possible, you're going to have to take selection over historical time into account. Or so it seems to me.

Posted by: gcochran at March 19, 2003 02:50 PM

well greg, i guess it's kind of like assume that a cow is a sphere to model it in physics. i have tried to bring this issue up now and then, but what sort of empirical data would we work with?

for instance, i have brought up the possible ancient IQs of the egyptians, who are today somewhere between 80-90...but obviously, we can't go back and give them tests.

also-i've heard some ppl talk about the idea that the length that one's ancestors have lived in agricultural settlements could change average IQ or size. if you one could make a nice correlation between the time elapsed the neolithic transition occurred and some trait, that would be interesting of course, but i can't think of one.

of course, part of the problem is that say you study ashkenazi jews, they are a pretty discrete and easy to nail down. but there is some doubt as to whether the ancient urartans are related to the armenians. perhaps in the future we will have extracted enough DNA from ancient mummies and what not, but now don't have that info for most groups....

Posted by: razib at March 19, 2003 02:58 PM

That Stormfront exposé was hilarious, you can learn some of Dienekes' shocking views such as:

1. Pontikos believes that North Africans and Southern Europeans are the same race;!!

2. Pontikos says that race-mixing does not destroy races!!

3. Pontikos says that race-mixing is actually a good thing and has very positive effects!

Gasp! This Dienekes guy just keeps getting cooler.

Posted by: Jason Malloy at March 19, 2003 03:16 PM

I have heard it said that the ancient Athenians were the smartest people who ever lived based on the number of geniuses ancient Athens produced. Where did they go? Greece has an average IQ of 92 now.

Posted by: Jon Wilkins at March 19, 2003 04:05 PM

To razib:

To be fair, there are in fact some extreme views held by ultra-Hellenists, although not as publicized as the various views of the Nordicist/Afrocentric/Hinducentric/... variety. A close match for the "nuclear weapons in the Mahabharata", is the belief that Talos, the metal creature created by Hephaistos was a robot. Such views are held all over the world (e.g., Nazis had flying saucers, etc.)


Some comments on Arthur Kemp's "Pontikos Exposed":



To Jon Wilkins:

Greeks have an average IQ of 99.4 according to the Buj (1981). The value of 92 is given by Lynn in his book "IQ and the Wealth of Nations" by averaging a study on 9-14 year-olds from 1961 and the Buj study with a misreported value of 97.

European and Greek IQ: http://www.geocities.com/dienekesp2/greekiq/index.html

Posted by: Dienekes at March 19, 2003 06:35 PM

Does she or doesn't she? That was a valid question in ancient Rome since the germanic people did a brisk trade in hair--selling their long yellow and red tresses for wigs to the ladies of Rome, Titian red remaining popular right up to the time of Titian. Since their hair was an early form of currency, maybe that's why it seems like an important issue for some to this day. Anglo-Irish author Rebecca West, in her historic, eve-of-WWII travelogue/sociological/anthropological/political/historical tome, Black Lamb Gray Falcon, about the South Slavs (Yugoslavia) she so admired, she described blondism she saw there as an infusion of golden color while northern blondism seemed an absence of color. Makes me think of Italian hill towns, all bathed in amber sunshine. People sort of resemble their indigenous terrain.

Posted by: MaryClaire at March 19, 2003 07:55 PM

Well Dienekes makes a point. We had a thread that touched on IQ and the wealth of nations a while back, and various people had objections of sorts. Sailer had a useful reminder:

I'm a big fan of "IQ and the Wealth of Nations" but individual country's scores should be taken with a grain of salt, unless there are either a lot of studies (such as the 10 for Japan) or a major IQ test has been standardized on a national sample (as in Britain and the US). It's hard to put together a truly representative sample. In general, there is a surprising amount of internal validity (e.g., if there are two or three studies for one country, the averages come out roughly the same). There are enough exceptions however (such as the 92 and 106 for Poland) to demonstrate that individual country scores are not terribly trustworthy.

I guess some additional people also found the thread, through a Google accident or something, like two months later and left some critical comments (I wonder how often that happens). One guy was peeved at the irish score. Another thought that ancient civilization starters couldn't possibly have lower IQs than your modern-day Anglo big-shots:

it is also ridiculous that the most intelligent and ancient people like Indians-Greeks-Iranians-Israelis etc have a lower IQ than the US/UK???

Well India is probably...what's the word?...more "multi-modal" than most countries so that probably drags down the extra-ordinary egg-heads that obviously lives there in the final mean. The Israel score definitely has a glowing red "WTF" hovering above it. Though John Ray has said the Ashkenazi IQ is really around 107. If that's true than the lower mean becomes more probable if we consider the lower scores of Israels non-Ashkenazi population.

Posted by: Jason Malloy at March 19, 2003 07:58 PM

lots of ppl post on old threads that aren't read anymore when they come through google-the "black beauty" type threads especially.

Posted by: razib at March 19, 2003 08:20 PM

the "black beauty" type threads especially.

Yeah, I saw that post you deleted where you flipped out :)

Posted by: Jason Malloy at March 19, 2003 08:33 PM

A minor comment, is that there is no reference to G. Julius Caesar's hair color in ancient literature, although Suetonius mentions clearly that he had black eyes. Of the first five emperors, Tiberius Caesar's hair color is also not recorded, but Ioannes Malalas (who records many of the other emperors' pigmentation) mentions that he was "dark" and curly-haired.

Posted by: Dienekes at March 19, 2003 10:28 PM

Razib writes:

"for instance, i have brought up the possible ancient IQs of the egyptians, who are today somewhere between 80-90...but obviously, we can't go back and give them tests."

I want to second Greg Cochran's point and point out that this is so long ago that the average relative IQ of Egyptians could have gone up and down several times since then. For example, it is the considered judgment of many elderly people in Cairo that the people of Cairo are less intelligent than they were in the early 20th Century when Cairo was a center of culture. (See David Lamb's "The Arabs.") Many members of the elite have left the country while the peasantry has flooded into Cairo. Add in the highly different birthrates of the two groups and it's quite plausible that this common observation about Cairo is true.

So, there's little reason to expect peoples from the ancient world to have average IQs that resemble those of the people who live in those territories today.

Posted by: Steve Sailer at March 19, 2003 11:46 PM

i thought colleen mcculough gave a classical reference for depicting caesar as blonde in her series of historical novels, but mebee i misremember. she did note that he was said to have dark eyes, but she made his blue in the novels because she gave him ash blonde hair.

Posted by: razib at March 20, 2003 12:14 AM

If anyone can find a classical reference to Caesar having light hair, I will be much surprised. Colleen McCullough, like Mary Renault are perpetuating stereotypes of the Greco-Roman peoples as being different racially from their modern-day descendants. At least Renault was a good author...

Posted by: Dienekes Pontikos at March 20, 2003 01:09 AM

Stop me if I sound like a troll, but maybe environment has a lot to do with IQ. Imagine a few Syrian (for example) village families splitting up in 1880 or so, half of each family emigrating to the US and losing contact, but intermarrying on both sides of the divide. (An artificial but not at all impossible example). By now you'd have two very-similiar gene-pools living under widely different institutional/ economic/ cultural conditions, notably village vs. urban life and free public education vs. nothing much. The IQ's of the two branches might be quite different at the end, especially if the emigrating branch became educated-middle-class as many Arab-Americans have.

I have a German friend who thinks that Communism selected for stupidity when it was in power, and probably Naziism too. It wouldn't take a long time for that to have an effect. (There's a lot of anti-East German prejudice in Germany. Can't call that racist).

At the same time, though, Communist education systems were always better than those of economically-comparable non-Communist countries -- what this mostly means though is probably that Communism repressed the economy more than it repressed education. In other words, these countries didn't have to be so poor.

Posted by: zizka at March 20, 2003 11:05 AM

Stop me if I sound like a troll, but maybe environment has a lot to do with IQ.

I think you worry about being a troll too much ziz :)

Environment clearly has much to do with IQ and even more to do with cultural success. I have a strong feeling that many positive cultural results have their root in historical contingency (much in the Diamond mode), and I enjoy seeing thing broken down in that manner too (Razib touches on that when exploring the conditions in which Western liberalism was incubated). Biological or environmental though, it's tricky business figuring out the rise and fall of civilizations, and I'd hate to see any considerations left out. (and you know what we're here for ;) )

Posted by: Jason Malloy at March 20, 2003 06:12 PM

Re the hair color of Romans, the last name of a Roman was a nickname unique to the bearer and wasn't necessarily flattering, for Marcus Tullius Cicero, Cicero means 'chick pea' for a wart Cicero supposedly had on his nose. The names were also sometimes very slangy too so their meanings are often obscure to moderns, but they almost always meant something. 'Caesar', I read somewhere, means 'bald'.

Posted by: j mct at March 20, 2003 10:03 PM

Talk about S Asian hindu's claiming other civilizations. Did you guys know about the jewish claims over the Hellinic or Egyptian civilizations?

Posted by: S at March 21, 2003 08:13 AM