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July 02, 2003

Into Darkest Africa....

So, we're going to send troops to Liberia. Since the United States ran it as a quasi-colony, I suppose we have some special obligation. But after reading Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe by Martin Meredith the idea of American troops in Africa only depresses me.

Robert Mugabe was taught by Jesuits and has racked up six degrees (not just honorary degrees, real honest to god courses of study). Though his current wife is venal and greedy, Mugabe is relatively abstemious for a "big-man" who is more concerned with power than material acquisition. It is clear that Mugabe is a sly man who would sacrifice his nation on the alter of the worship of his own power & glory.

While Mugabe is relatively educated and Westernized many of the thugs of West Africa are racist dreams come to life, uneducated militaristic brutes that engage in modern day barbarities out of myth and actualize the most offensive stereotypes of black folk [1]. We will go into Africa with the same false promises of democracy & liberty that we prattled on about in Iraq-but the situation in Africa is even less promising. Iraq has a well-educated populace and 5,000 years of urban civilization under its belt. In contrast, most of Africa was jerry-rigged by European nations and formed fully-formed from the head of the colonial Zeus.

The racist Rhodesian government of Ian Smith was unpleasant and had a tinge of Latin-American style authoritarianism even in relation to whites, but it seems clear in hindsight that from a utilitarian perspective Rhodesia was a safer place to live than modern day Zimbabwe [2]. But at least for much of Mugabe's reign the majority of the populace had one-man-one-vote [3]. They have democracy now, though they ended up backing a totalitarian leader. Now the blacks are getting their land back, though they are starving because the cronies of Mugabe that are getting the farms don't know what to do with them. Justice without a full stomach.

There are no easy answers, only hard questions. I hope Bush knows what he's getting into....


Update from Godless:

See my comments below - to make a long story short, it is a MISTAKE for the US to get involved, because no matter how we spin it we will either kill people (and be seen as racists/etc.) or we will not kill people (and be seen as ineffectual UN-crats). In any case, we will have to eventually withdraw. When we do, the people will likely just go back to killing each other. And if you doubt just how war-torn Africa is - see this map from Global Security.org. Almost every country in sub-Saharan Africa is either at war or borders a country at war. Note that this does not even include the insane crime rates in South Africa. Murder, for instance, is variously reported to be committed at between 7 and 10 times the US rate. One guess as to the common characteristics of the perpetrators - and no, there is no prize if you get it right...

The whole Africa situation is to some extent reminiscent of the decades-long paroxysms of war that used to afflict Europe. Nowadays the Euros think they've "outgrown" war by really listening to each others' feelings. I happen to think that this is foolish, because the main reason that war is "unthinkable" on the continent is because Uncle Sam is standing over the potential combatants with a massive billy club. The secondary reason, IMO, is the presence of four nuclear states with interests in Continental Europe. But hey, that's just me...

Update 2 from Godless:

Rather than simply saying "Africa is in trouble", it's worth commenting on which countries in Africa are doing well, and whether their situations are stable and reproducible. I am already on record as saying that I've grudgingly come to the conclusion that the problems of sub-Saharan Africa are mainly genetic. This is because unlike other war-torn regions of the world (e.g. Vietnam, Iran, etc.), as far as I know there are very few mathematically competent expatriates coming out of Africa. With neither ancient civilizations, nor current success, nor many competent expatriates, I don't see much in the way of empirical evidence that enough mathematically able individuals exist to build and maintain technological societies. That said, I am very interested in this claim by John McWhorter that:

Yet many groups have triumphed over similar (or worse) obstacles—including millions of Caribbean and African immigrants in America, from Colin Powell to the thousands of Caribbean children succeeding in precisely the crumbling schools where black American kids fail.

Can anyone provide a citation with the statistical profiles of these groups? I googled for quite a while, to no avail. I'm interested in the absolute numbers, the countries of origin, and whether the numbers are incompatible with a Griffe-style back-of-the-envelope calculation.

A few other very non-PC points...there are some who believe that the wars and diseases that plagued Europe selected for higher planning/intelligence in the population. I'm skeptical as to whether this is the case. Note, however, that questions like this can in principle be answered by population genetic methods, e.g. by ascertaining whether putative IQ related genes suddenly became more prevalent around the time that black-plague resistance conferring alleles became common . Along the same lines, many have speculated on the natural selection effects of AIDS in Africa. It's very non-PC to say so, but AIDS exerts tremendous selection pressure for genetic tendencies that favor planning, self-restraint, and delayed gratification. Of course, this silver lining would come at the cost of the very dark cloud of millions of dead innocents, and is in no respect an argument against providing assistance to those with AIDS.

Ok. So now for positive things in Africa. I'm not very well educated in African history, and all my stuff is coming off the net (with links), so I welcome any corrections. Ogunsiron has nominated Cameroon:

Because of its oil resources and favorable agricultural conditions, Cameroon has one of the best-endowed primary commodity economies in sub-Saharan Africa. Still, it faces many of the serious problems facing other underdeveloped countries, such as a top-heavy civil service and a generally unfavorable climate for business enterprise.

and Gabon:

Gabon enjoys a per capita income four times that of most nations of sub-Saharan Africa. This has supported a sharp decline in extreme poverty; yet because of high income inequality a large proportion of the population remains poor. Gabon depended on timber and manganese until oil was discovered offshore in the early 1970s. The oil sector now accounts for 50% of GDP. Gabon continues to face fluctuating prices for its oil, timber, and manganese exports. Despite the abundance of natural wealth, the economy is hobbled by poor fiscal management.

Also worthy of mention is Botswana, which is perhaps the most successful all-black country in the world (stable + good diamond industry) , but IMO it's headed for a cliff because of its 40% AIDS rates:

Botswana has maintained one of the world's highest growth rates since independence in 1966. Through fiscal discipline and sound management, Botswana has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country with a per capita GDP of $7,800 in 2001. Two major investment services rank Botswana as the best credit risk in Africa. Diamond mining has fueled much of expansion and currently accounts for more than one-third of GDP and for four-fifths of export earnings. Tourism, subsistence farming, and cattle raising are other key sectors. On the downside, the government must deal with high rates of unemployment and poverty. Unemployment officially is 21%, but unofficial estimates place it closer to 40%. HIV/AIDS infection rates are the highest in the world and threaten Botswana's impressive economic gains.

The common characteristic of these countries is that they have impressive natural resources and relatively stable governments. Like the Middle East, these resources are largely mined and extracted by foreign firms, which probably have some interest in keeping the region stable. However, all three countries are suffering from punishing AIDS epidemics:

In Botswana, a shocking 35.8% of adults are now infected with HIV, while in South Africa, 19.9% are infected, up from 12.9% just two years ago. The adult HIV prevalence rate in Botswana has more than tripled since 1992, when it was an estimated 10%.

In Botswana, life expectancy at birth is now estimated to be 44 years instead of 69 without AIDS. In Zimbabwe, life expectancy is 43 instead of 65.

By the year 2010, crude death rates in Cameroon will have more than doubled as a result of HIV/AIDS. An estimated 340,000 people in Ghana are currently living with HIV.

When the UN is saying things like AIDS will kill half of African youth, IMO the stability of these countries is in doubt. Just to make things clear - it would, of course, be heartening if there was an African country that bucked the trend of AIDS, war, and commodity/loan dependence and developed a technological market economy...but I don't believe that will happen before the advent of genetic engineering. I'd love to be proven wrong.

[1] Child soldiers, mass amputations, ritual cannabilism, etc.

[2] One could protest that blacks were treated as second-class citizens by the regime. This is true, but Ian Smith killed far fewer blacks than Mugabe has. The Matabele people have certainly suffered more ethnic prejudice from the Shona elite under Mugabe than they experienced under the whites-ZANU-PF unleashed North Korean trained terror squads on Matabele villages who burned families alive in front of relatives and made mothers eat their own infants after it was boiled. Even the Shona people have suffered deprivation and the rising specter of an AIDS epidemic while the regime fights foreign wars and concentrates on the "white menace."

[3] Most elections in Zimbabwe have been characterized by intimidation and irregularities, but nonetheless, at least the blacks could vote.

Posted by razib at 11:20 PM




"Irregularities"? Try an out-and-out fraud on a massive scale.


A former Zimbabwean police commander has told the BBC that police officers helped rig last year's presidential elections, won by Robert Mugabe.
He said that all police officers were told to vote three times in postal ballots and three more times in person - each time for Mr Mugabe.

...

"I have all the proof that can help the MDC win its case in court. Mugabe did not win the presidential election. It is the police and other security organs which helped rig the election," said the former officer.

...

Election observers from the Commonwealth said the election was held in a "climate of fear", a finding backed up by western countries.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2762773.stm

Posted by: friedrich braun at July 3, 2003 12:08 AM


the rigging has gotten A LOT worse in the past 20 years. it was more like 'irregularities' and garden-variety intimidation in the first election back in 1980....

Posted by: razib at July 3, 2003 12:18 AM


I don't see any problem with the US in Liberia - the British have done quite well in Sierra Leone.

And it's not particularly accurate to see Africa as a homogenous mass of barbarity. It's like making judgements about Europe based on WW2, Stalin and the Balkans. While I was in West Africa recently I was struck by the differences between Ghana - calm, quiet, economically confident; and Nigeria - a shithole prone to corruption and dictatorhips (yes, Nigeria is the Italy of West Africa).

Posted by: fredrik at July 3, 2003 03:13 AM


Odd, I count seven degrees for Mugabe:

1 x Bachelor of Arts
1 x Bachelor of Administration
1 x Bachelor of Education
1 x Bachelor of Science (Econ)
1 x Bachelor of Law
1 x Master of Law
1 x Master of Science (Econ)

"Seven Degrees of Robert Mugabe", anyone?

Posted by: daen at July 3, 2003 06:23 AM


GC-If we transported back in time to 1941 and looked at a map of europe -you could argue the U.S. should stay out of that hellhole as well-(and be incorrect imho.) As far as Africa being full of low IQ savages-true perhaps-but in 1941 the higher IQ europeans had designed industrial death camps and the even higher iq jews were just walking into them-so let's just say humanity is a fucked up species and leave it at that.
However, I agree the U.S. army is not the right entity for the task. We really need to charter a straight up mercenary force of "hired killers" in the professional sense to handle this sort of dirty work.

Posted by: martin at July 3, 2003 07:38 AM


I don't get it. How is Iraq a disaster. It seems to me that although it hurt us internationally, the oil is Worth a bit of bad PR.
Do you think that the fall of the house of Bush would be a bad thing? I'd take Cheyney over Bush any day. I really wish we could reduce the authority of the presidency so that it didn't Matter so much what incompetent asshole filled what Should be a limited position.

Posted by: michael vassar at July 3, 2003 08:06 AM


the problem with african successes like ghana is they turn into nightmares in a blink if you look away. coite de voire is a case in point, but zimbabwe in the 1980s is also a case in point. as far as the WW II analogy, while occupied germany & japan and dictated massive changes to their culture. are we willing to do that in africa??? some neocons have made a compelling argument for recolonialization based on their axioms-do we want to seriously entertain that?

Posted by: razib at July 3, 2003 08:41 AM


yes.

Posted by: martin at July 3, 2003 09:43 AM


Seven degrees of Mugabe:

It would perhaps be useful to know from where he got those degrees?

Posted by: friedrich braun at July 3, 2003 10:14 AM


I agree that Ghana is a relative success story for Africa because it's not at war, but it's not really "economically confident"
Well, I'm only reporting what I saw. I first went there 5 years ago when the (half Scottish) Rawlings was boss. It was pretty good then. But it seemed even better on my last visit.

some neocons have made a compelling argument for recolonialization based on their axioms-do we want to seriously entertain that?
It's not just neo-cons. After the British and the UN stabilized Sierra Leone, plenty of Sierra Leonians wanted the British to officially re-colonise the country.

I think the US (with the UN?) should intervene in Liberia, but only if they follow the British model - for instance, they should train and arm a national army.

Posted by: fredrik at July 3, 2003 10:30 AM


its the price of multiculturalism.. expect left-wing black leaders to demand that the US intervene militarily in Africa... (as it did in Serbia etc..)... and expect them to shriek 'racism' and 'imperialism' every time some collateral damage happens... and then expect them to demand that the US pay restitution... and give more financial aid... which allows dictators to suppress their people more easily... and lo you have an endless vicious cycle... its the price multiculturalism in the USA my dear... no longer can the US do things that are "right"... it now has to do things because powerful groups (including ethnic, minority etc.) want them to happen...

Posted by: marinara at July 3, 2003 06:02 PM


friedrich,

If you click on the "six degrees" link in the text, it tells you where those degrees came from. Four of them came from the University of London.

Dick Thompson

Posted by: Dick Thompson at July 3, 2003 06:42 PM


the problem with african successes like ghana is they turn into nightmares in a blink if you look away. cote de voire is a case in point,
----------------
But the Côte-d'Ivoire situation didn't get too out of control. The French did intervene but i also think that the country was simply civilized enough not to sink too deeply into hell. It's NOT like liberia , which is a real hole, no doubts about that. There was even an attempt to "liberianize" western cote d'ivoire, but i believe that even one part of the rebels is collaborating with the government to kick the liberian mercenaries out.
I'm cautiously optimistic about the Ivoirian situation then.
Other peaceful african countries are Gabon and Cameroon. Gabon has never been involved in any wars and i believe Cameroon hasn't either.

The botswanan situation is strange. I keep reading about 40% aids rates in that country and yet i also read glowing economic reports and their local newspapers on the net give the impression of a stable little place .
------
but zimbabwe in the 1980s is also a case in point. as far as the WW II analogy, while occupied germany & japan and dictated massive changes to their culture. are we willing to do that in africa??? some neocons have made a compelling argument for recolonialization based on their axioms-do we want to seriously entertain that?
------
I think the only way the recolonization of a place like Liberia would be worth it is if the colonizers are serious about putting things in order there. This would mean coming in with the project of remodeling the culture from the ground up. Turn them into westerners, as much as possible. Erase all traces of fetishes and traditional beliefs that are nothing but a hindrance. Impose, as a temporary measure, some kind of rigorist christianity there (not the pentecostal mindrot though) and churn out church educated pupils (Hopefully the following generations naturally become more secular). Have a 30-year plan and carry it out fully ! If the colonizers are not willing to do something like that then they're not really serious and maybe it's better to leave the country to its own devices.


In the end, Liberia and Sierra-leone probably need to be conquered by one of their more civilized neighbours (that leaves pretty much only senegal, cote d'ivoire, ghana ). A neighbour who won't be afraid to erase the worthless local culture .

---
Posted by razib at July 3, 2003 08:41 AM

Posted by: ogunsiron at July 3, 2003 11:36 PM


it would, of course, be heartening if there was an African country that bucked the trend of AIDS, war, and commodity/loan dependence and developed a technological market economy

senegal has the first two beat it seems. its economy is prolly helped by the frenchies a little too much-but i don't think it's half-bad. of course, the technology part isn't there yet. probably others where that comes from.

i think that africa has a bad confluence of genes, geography & history-seen from the 21st century western perspective. remember than the gene-culture matrix of africa resulted in the development of homo sapiens sapiens, homo sapiens, and the homo genus. the problem is transplanting it other regions of the world where local populations have the benefit of developing social structures, possibly buttressed by genetic selection, that takes advantage of the "guns, germs & steel" that jared diamond talks of.

Posted by: razib at July 4, 2003 01:16 AM


I have actually visited Botswana (though only for 2 weeks) but I find it really hard to believe the statistics about the AIDS. The 40% seems TOO high. The country seems to be doing really well right now but it's still a poor country. Don't you think it would have imploded by now with such a high infection rate of its working-age population?

Posted by: OZ at July 4, 2003 01:30 AM


QZ: "I have actually visited Botswana (though only for 2 weeks) but I find it really hard to believe the statistics about the AIDS."

The truth seems we have no way to ascertain the real impact of HIV on Africa:

"Millions of Africans have long suffered from severe weight loss, chronic diarrhea, fever, and persistent coughs. In 1985 Western researchers suddenly defined this cluster of symptoms as a distinct syndrome, AIDS, and declared that it was caused by a single virus, HIV, which they considered to be sexually contagious."

http://www.rethinkingaids.com/Archive/1997/RA9707GeshekterOnAfrica.html

Also, you might consider dissenting views on AIDS, like Duesberg´s:

http://duesberg.com/books/pdbinvent.html

See also:

http://www.rethinkingaids.com

Posted by: eufrenio at July 4, 2003 07:39 PM


Here´s the statement from The Group for the Reappraisal of AIDS:


"The Group's members include biomedical scientists, physicians, and other professionals from around the world who encourage a serious and open evaluation of the HIV explanation of AIDS, as well as criticisms of and alternatives to it. The Group's members have identified solid scientific and other reasons to conclude that:

-The phenomena labeled "HIV" may qualify as entirely harmless.

-Illnesses diagnosed as "AIDS" may derive not from a retroviral infection, but rather from other factors, such as one or more of the following:

1.Direct or indirect effects of recreational drug consumption.

2.Immunological exposure to foreign proteins, such as through hemophilia clotting factor therapy and blood transfusions.

3.Impoverished living conditions.

4.Toxic chemotherapy with "anti-HIV" pharmaceuticals such as AZT and protease inhibitors.

5.Psychosomatic terror inspired by a positive HIV diagnosis.

6.Conventional infections, such as those normally diagnosed as tuberculosis, malaria, and enteric infections.


-Within the AIDS risk groups, conditions diagnosable as "AIDS" may appear at increased frequencies even among those who test negative on the "HIV tests." This would represent a reason to look beyond retrovirology in order to explain AIDS, and a need to reconsider the official AIDS definition, which limits diagnoses to patients whose blood reacts to these tests.

-Pharmaceuticals prescribed to treat HIV infections may actually cause some cases of AIDS.

-Most people who react positively on the "HIV tests" may possess no active HIV infections, including many AIDS patients.

-Contrary to the public health message that "everyone is at risk for HIV and AIDS," the vast majority of even sexually active Americans have no significant risk of either.

-Public officials, medical scientists, and social activists may have:

1.Accepted the infectious HIV/AIDS model without properly scrutinizing it; and

2.Dismissed alternative models without properly considering them; and

3.Created an environment in which their peers, subordinates, and others feel unable to express conclusions that contradict the HIV explanation of AIDS, for fear of severe political, professional, and social penalties.

OUR MISSION
1) To develop, articulate, and promote rational scientific discourse on the subject of HIV and AIDS.

2) To advocate the absolute right for students, professors, physicians, scientists, government officials, and everyone else to think freely and speak openly on the subject of HIV and AIDS without fear of professional, social, political, economic, or criminal penalties.

3) To assemble scientists, physicians, and other informed people who support these views, and make them available for commentary and consultation to interested social groups, media outlets, government agencies, professional organizations, and individuals. "

http://www.rethinkingaids.com/index.htm

Peter H. Duesberg is Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology, at the University of California, Berkeley.

Posted by: eufrenio at July 4, 2003 07:53 PM


Godlesscapitalist wrote:
"...I really don't want American soldiers to die for the idealistic, wrongheaded idea that sub-Saharan African countries can be turned into Minnesota."

This is really short-sighted. Wouldn't it have been better if the US could tackle problems before being hit by tragedies like of 9/11? Of course it is extremely difficult to isolate incidents that could come to haunt the US but the greatest threat to the security of the US is the idea that the country should not involve itself with regions like west Africa just because they seem so unconnected with US security right now.

A mission to Liberia need not be humanitarian. Al-Qaeda -like organization seek regions like Liberia. That country itself might not be a potential terrorist hide-out but it is close to many predominantly muslim countries. Liberia has already exported civil wars to Sierre Leone and Ivory Coast. And it most exported conflict to Gambia, a country that it does not even bother. You want to bet it could not export one to countries like Niger, Mali, etc.?

Posted by: Ousman at July 5, 2003 12:03 AM


Godless: "Hmmm, I've been taking the stats at face value. They do come from the UN and other reputable agencies (at least when it comes to stat collection). Also, Botswana is spending an ever-increasing share of government revenue on stuff related to AIDS.

"One other thing - high infection rates do not mean high immediate death rates. I guess the latency inherent in AIDS means that it will be a few years before Botswana is really hit hard."

Good point Godless. But I don't know if the lack of immediate death really makes such a difference. True, some infected individuals are able to function for quite some time. But this is Africa with extended family systems. Most of the time, you have one individual who takes care of a huge household. Once this individual gets sick, the repercussions are big.

Posted by: OZ at July 5, 2003 12:22 AM


Godless:" I suggest you read this site, which has a fairly detailed refutation of Duesberg. I was initially semi-sympathetic to his ideas, till I read this paper. It pretty much demolishes the idea that Koch's postulates have not been demonstrated to hold for HIV."

Thanks for the information. I thought there were no substantial refutations of Duesberg´s third point.
It is good to look at both sides of an argument.
However I still feel, as a layman, that there´s something wrong with the current prophyllaxis and understanding of Aids.

Posted by: eufrenio at July 5, 2003 06:31 AM


"to my knowledge there has never been a "great" civilization in sub-Saharan Africa (though I'm sure I'll hear from Afrocentrists)."

Which only proves that you don't know a thing about Africa. Try Mali, Songhai, Oyo, Benin or any of a large number of other West African kingdoms - learn about them, not from reading racist, pseudo-scientific claptrap on Stormfront or by Rushton, but by looking at mainstream references like the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

By the way, your map of current conflicts is *wrong*; contrary to your beliefs, Nigeria is not engaged in a civil war, nor has it been for 33 years (which only goes to show your ignorance about a subject you're all too willing to pontificate on.)

Posted by: Juvenal at July 5, 2003 05:10 PM


"questions like this can in principle be answered by population genetic methods, e.g. by ascertaining whether putative IQ related genes suddenly became more prevalent around the time that black-plague resistance conferring alleles became common"

They can also in principle be answered without resorting to unsubstantiable notions of selection for "IQ-related genes." The problem with your prediliction for "just-so-stories" is that such stories can be used to rationalize any sort of prejudice one holds; I might posit that, rather than selecting for high IQ, the events about which you speculate selected instead for docility, sex perversion and avarice. My speculations would be just as firmly rooted in hard evidence as yours on supposed black inferiority, i.e. not at all.

You guys would do yourselves a world of good credibility-wise with potential readers (other than the usual "Aryan supremacy" nuts) if you showed a little more restraint in resorting to genetic explanations for everything, particularly when you have so little hard evidence to go on. Reaching for ridiculous characters like Rushton to back up your notions of black "inferiority" does your cause no good whatsoever; not everyone who strays from the mainstream is a Galileo in disguise, and as the saying goes, "they also laughed at Bozo the clown."

Posted by: Juvenal at July 5, 2003 05:21 PM


Ghana/Mali/Songhai were wealthy empires-the gold & salt trade being important, but their success was in large part stimulated by islamic influence. muslims from the north brought many of the elements of "higher civilization." as godless has noted, what are africa's great cultural & technological exports? that is the mark of a great civilization.

david landes, jared diamond and thomas sowell have explained the paucity of persuasively by appealing to geographical disadvantages that africans faced. because of the enervating heat, lack of navigable rivers to the ocean, and paucity of domestic animals, africans never accumilated enough social capital to leverage it into centralized civilization-states characterized by indigenous literacy, bureaucracy and clerisy. note for instance the many languages that exist in africa, evidence of the great decentralization that characterizes that part of the world.

the flip side of the lack of centralization and the prevelance of a bureaucracy or well developed high religious clerisy is that it seems no great cognitive elite emerged because of selection pressures that occur in the context of "higher civilization."

Posted by: razib at July 5, 2003 06:50 PM


"I can find hosts of PubMed citations on twinning rate, time to first menarche, salivary testosterone levels, etc. if you feel this citation to be insufficient."

You needn't bother, as I already know all the same sources you do - computational biology is my stock-in-trade.

"That said, do you disagree that *most* of the lighted-up countries in the map above *are* in fact involved in wars, either now or in the recent past?"

And what, pray tell, were things like in Europe for most of the last 500 years? Or South Asia for that matter? Are the all-too-frequent clashes between hindus and muslims a figment of my imagination? If not, then surely India deserves the same appellation as Nigeria, especially in light of the religious character of the conflicts in both Nigeria and India.

"Rushton, as I said above, has identified data points. But he did not invent them - he just put them together."

It's astounding that godlesscapitalist should consider WHO condom statistics as any sort of hard evidence of penis size, as if transnational bureaucrats were never likely to err or to base their decision making on prejudiced sources. The WHO is as messed-up as any other UN parastatal, i.e. very much so, and there's no telling if the condoms distributed on the basis of this data end up going unused in some dusty warehouse or not.

Rushton's methodology is also quite suspect, in that he fails to consider that people might either lie or overestimate their own body measurements, particularly when their egos are on the line. Assuming to begin with that Rushton hasn't fudged his data in any way, consider this: if black males have been told all their lives that their penises are bigger than those of their white patriots, and they've internalized this information as a mark of their masculinity, of course they're going to exaggerate their penis sizes!


"Ghana/Mali/Songhai were wealthy empires-the gold & salt trade being important, but their success was in large part stimulated by islamic influence. muslims from the north brought many of the elements of "higher civilization." as godless has noted, what are africa's great cultural & technological exports? that is the mark of a great civilization."

This is, to be blunt, rubbish. What "great civilization" hasn't benefited from external stimulation of some sort or other? Did South Asians come up with Devanagari from scratch? Did the Japanese erect their civilization on a tabula rasa, or do you not consider pre-Meiji Japan to have been "civilized"? And what did the Koreans ever give the world by way of civilization anyway? What has the Indus valley contributed to world "civilization" other than the concept of zero?* If Africa hasn't had any "great cultural & technological exports" of which you are aware (which is not the same as saying there aren't any), it is largely for the same reason that many technological innovations never spread to sub-Saharan Africa to begin with - the Sahara desert is one gigantic obstacle for innovations to cross; but then again, you should already be aware of this, since you claim to have read David Landes' books.

In any case, you ignore the existence of civilizations in West Africa that had no Islamic stimuli before or during their rise to prominence. Neither Benin nor any of the various Yoruba city-states had any contact with Islam before Othman dan Fodio's initiation of Islam in the early 19th century. Ile-Ife's founding predates that of Kyoto, the Japanese imperial capital until the Meiji restoration.

You can play definitional games all you want, so that sub-saharan Africa always falls outside the remit of what you'd like to consider civilization, but that will only confirm in the minds of better informed observers that you're operating on the basis of prejudice.

I've said what I had to say here because I'd like to think that you guys haven't completely closed your minds to objective thought, though I may well be wrong on that score - it's up to you to prove or disprove the assumption. If I am indeed correct, then I urge you to try consulting more sources that don't necessarily mesh with your world-view, and assess what they have to say on its' own terms, rather than waving away uncomfortable facts by saying "leftist!" or "Politically Correct!"

Apply some mathematical rigor to your thinking for a change - for instance, a back-of-the-envelope calculation ought to tell you that given heritability estimates of 0.5, it takes an awful lot of selection pressure to get the sorts of changes you guys like to suggest in the time frames you suggest. Don't be so quick to make all sorts of invidious suggestions about intellectual inferiority without seriously considering alternative explanations. There is nothing like a dose of caution and self-scrutiny in establishing one's scientific bona-fides.

*Even that was at best an indirect contribution, owing its' spread to the Arabs.

Posted by: Juvenal at July 5, 2003 07:48 PM


look, there is some truth in what you say, when it comes to history, proof or disproof is hard to come by. what we define as civilization is by its nature subjective. certainly archaeologists tend to have a skewed view of what the past was like-they see what survives (non-perishables), while historians are excessively tied to archives, written sources, etc. (so it is elite focused).

of course i don't deny benin's anquity and its independence from islam. certainly, the indigenous african response to the environment was ingenious-otherwise, human beings would not have survived and flourished as they did. but that response was fundmentally different than that of the stereotypically hydraulic civilizations (to use an old definition). the character of chinese, indian and greater western (christendom + islam) are all different. similary, african, pre-columbian, southeast asian, etc. civilizations are all different.

so what constitutes a "great civilization"? let me use another example-southeast asia. there is an early history of metallurgy in thailand and rice culture probably came from that direction to india. but the defining characteristics of southeast asia are synthetic, and the stimulus of indian, chinese and islamic culture overlain over the native substrate is what has created the culture. i won't get into the nitty-gritty of religious, linguistic and governmental influences from the two greater asian civilizations, but we all know that southeast asia imported much of its high culture, though refitting it to native conditions (the anbangan muslim culture in indonesia is a good example).

to the example of africa, you given benin and the other west africa kingdoms, but these sort of nations were simply not consequential on in the same manner as ashokan india, tang china, or imperial rome. we both know this. ethiopia is an example of an africa state that developed close to a more eurasian model with motifs and cultural touchstones that westerners can relate too (established "higher" religion, literacy, etc.). and yet the ethiopian example is clearly close the southeast asian model-christianity was introduced by syrian missionaries.

in any case-what hath korea done for the world? well, i believe that printing technology was actually more well developed in korea by buddhist priests than in china, but that is neither here nor there. i have asserted that there are 3 real great civilizations on this planet that have made us what we are. the western is the most prominent. china probably next. and india the last. the borders and definitions of what these are can be varied (does russia count as "western"), but the general outlines are clear. southeast asia is a synthesis of all three. central asia is between all three to some extent. western religion (islam & christianity) is sweeping through africa. indian religious concepts (though not religion) has a non-trivial impact on western spiritual ideas.

on to your main point-i don't make a case that the genetic cause is ALWAYS the only cause. i make the case that must not be dismissed a priori. it seems clear that genes, culture and environment have strong influences on each other. the jewish culture influenced their genes, that seems quite clear. why could not african culture influence their genes?

btw-zero was independently "invented" several times. the time it happened in india was in the 5th century AD-so it had nothing to do with the indus valley civilization. india's greatest contribution to world civilization is obvious, and it is not numerical (i think that decimal notation and what not would have been stumbled upon at some point anyhow), but religious. the influence of buddhism on asia is obvious, but that religion probably indirectly influenced some of the mystery cults, including christianity, as well (remember buddhism predates christianity by 6 centuries and that buddhist ideas were well known in alexandria and indian philosophy had a stimulative impact on some greeks thinkers).

Posted by: razib at July 5, 2003 08:10 PM


The Black Plague in 14th century Europe caused death tolls similar to those projected for the hardest-hit African nations, but did not destroy European civilization. Less than two centuries later, the Renaissance was starting in Italy, wind-driven exploring ships of newer and better designs were fanning out across the world, and the first harbinger of the industrial revolution appeared as fire-arms replaced muscle-powered weapons on the battlefields.

Not to imply that I expect an African Renaissance to result from this - but the long-term effects of a plague depend on the strength and flexibility of the society far more than on the virulence of the disease. If the African nations are truly even half the centralized socialisms that their intelligentsia claim they are, then they are in deep, deep trouble, because central planning will fail even more dramatically than usual as planners die and the population they are trying to control shrinks. OTOH, I'm sure there is also a substantial unofficial free market, and perhaps collapsing government power will let that come to the forefront. A bigger question is how AIDS deaths will interact with tribal warfare - whether the warriors will decide that too many have died already, or that reduced numbers and no effective government give the chance to finally wipe out their enemies...

Posted by: markm at July 5, 2003 09:11 PM


Razib: “david landes, jared diamond and thomas sowell have explained the paucity of persuasively by appealing to geographical disadvantages that africans faced. because of the enervating heat, lack of navigable rivers to the ocean, and paucity of domestic animals, africans never accumilated enough social capital to leverage it into centralized civilization-states characterized by indigenous literacy, bureaucracy and clerisy. note for instance the many languages that exist in africa, evidence of the great decentralization that characterizes that part of the world.”

Razib, I don’t know if you have read Steve Sailer’s excellent review of Diamond’s very peecee tome: “Guns, Germs and Steel” (like all good close-minded, ideological commissars he, a priori, deems all genetic explanations "racist" and "loathsome"; now, that's what I call solid, objective science!!!); but here are some pertinent to your point excerpts:

The Clash of Continents

An early version of this book's subtitle illustrates its ambitiousness: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years. Jared Diamond's goal is to explain why Eurasians conquered Africans, Australians, and Americans instead of the other way around, even though conventional social scientists shy away from such a fundamental question out of fear of what they might find. Since random accidents of personality and culture appear too trivial to account for the clash of continents' lopsided outcomes (e.g., a few hundred Conquistadors demolished the grandest empires of the New World), this leaves only two possible underlying causes: either the winners had better homelands or better bodies and brains. Deeming genetic explanations "racist" and "loathsome," Diamond sets out to reaffirm the equality of humanity by showing the inequality of the continents. To him, the three most important engines of history are location, location, and location.

Diamond's geohistorical approach certainly clarifies continental-scale history. Most of world history, however, is Eurasian history, and he's only sketchy on why the West Eurasians eventually overcame the East and South Eurasians.

But, are indigenous peoples merely not inferior? In truth, on their own turf many ethnic groups appear to be somewhat genetically superior to outsiders. Diamond makes environmental differences seem so compelling that it's hard to believe that humans would not become somewhat adapted to their homelands through natural selection. And in fact, Diamond himself briefly cites several examples of genetic differences impacting history. Despite military superiority, Europeans repeatedly failed to settle equatorial West Africa, in part because they lacked the malaria resistance conferred on many natives by the sickle cell gene. Similarly, biological disadvantages stopped whites from overrunning the Andes. *****Does this make Diamond a loathsome racist? No, but it does imply that a scientific-minded observer like Diamond should not dogmatically denounce genetic explanations, since he is liable to get tarred with his own brush.*****

The undeniability of human biodiversity does not prove that we also differ somewhat mentally, but it's hard to imagine why the brain would differ radically from the rest of the body.

http://www.isteve.com/diamond.htm

Posted by: friedrich braun at July 6, 2003 01:12 AM


Godless, i was going to point out to friedrich that while this site is far from Silver Rights, it's not Stormfront either !
Is friedrich banned ? In any case, if he's reading this i'd like him to point out major technological and cultural advances that have come out of the northeastern european peoples like the prussians/balts that he claims are his ancestors. Of course we'd like to know about contributions from before they joined the mainstream of western civilization . Personally I haven't heard of them contributing anything other than slaves (and genocide practice targets in the case of prussians) for neighbouring peoples like the scandinavians and the germans.

Posted by: ogunsiron at July 6, 2003 09:12 PM


the "who produced more geniuses" line is getting old ;) the thing about civilization, we can argue 'till the end of time that ogham writing pre-christian irish were "just as advanced" as the period of the "irish golden age" during the 7th & 8th centuries-depending on your criteria. if you use literacy and systematic paradigm building, well, african civilization doesn't come out well. it is better when it comes to the arts and oral traditions.

Posted by: razib at July 6, 2003 10:04 PM


GC: Well, if pointing out an established historical fact, i.e., that Africans had an oral tradition, and then making a lame joke unleashes so much fury and hostility, it's time for me to bail out of this forum.

Ogunsiron:

Did you know that the union between Lithuanian Balts and Poland produced arguably the greatest economic and military power in the history of the European continent?: "The association produced prompt benefits in 1410 when the forces of Poland-Lithuania defeated the Teutonic Knights in battle at Grunwald (Tannenberg), at last seizing the upper hand in the long struggle with the renegade crusaders."

Your historical ignorance is breathtaking.

The Polish-Lithuanian Union
Poland's unlikely partnership with the adjoining Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Europe's last heathen state, provided an immediate remedy to the political and military dilemma caused by the end of the Piast Dynasty. At the end of the fourteenth century, Lithuania was a warlike political unit with dominion over enormous stretches of present-day Belarus and Ukraine. Putting aside their previous hostility, Poland and Lithuania saw that they shared common enemies, most notably the Teutonic Knights; this situation was the direct incentive for the Union of Krewo in 1385. The compact hinged on the marriage of the Polish queen Jadwiga to Jagiello, who became king of Poland under the name Wladyslaw Jagiello. In return, the new monarch accepted baptism in the name of his people, agreed to confederate Lithuania with Poland, and took the name Wladyslaw II. In 1387 the bishopric of Wilno was established to convert Wladyslaw's subjects to Roman Catholicism. (Eastern Orthodoxy predominated in some parts of Lithuania.) From a military standpoint, Poland received protection from the Mongols and Tatars, while Lithuania received aid in its long struggle against the Teutonic Knights.

The Polish-Lithuanian alliance exerted a profound influence on the history of Eastern Europe (see fig. 3). Poland and Lithuania would maintain joint statehood for more than 400 years, and over the first three centuries of that span the "Commonwealth of Two Nations" ranked as one of the leading powers of the continent.

The association produced prompt benefits in 1410 when the forces of Poland-Lithuania defeated the Teutonic Knights in battle at Grunwald (Tannenberg), at last seizing the upper hand in the long struggle with the renegade crusaders. The new Polish Lithuanian dynasty, called "Jagiellon" after its founder, continued to augment its holdings during the following decades. By the end of the fifteenth century, representatives of the Jagiellons reigned in Bohemia and Hungary as well as PolandLithuania , establishing the government of their clan over virtually all of Eastern Europe and Central Europe. This farflung federation collapsed in 1526 when armies of the Ottoman Empire (see Glossary) won a crushing victory at the Battle of Mohács (Hungary), wresting Bohemia and Hungary from the Jagiellons and installing the Turks as a menacing presence in the heart of Europe.


http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+pl0020)
Bye.

Posted by: friedrich braun at July 6, 2003 11:25 PM


GC: You've deleted my post and ogunsiron has called for me to be banned. I think that's pretty hostile.

Here's what Razib said in a subsequent post: "if you use literacy and systematic paradigm building, well, african civilization doesn't come out well. it is better when it comes to the arts and oral traditions."

I didn't think that my post was fundamentally different from Razib's (the Lewinsky joke excluded). I don't know why what I wrote generated the reaction it did. Who's over sensitive? Who has overreacted here? Was it racist to point out the obvious (African's oral tradition)? But, it's your blog, and if I'm not welcome that's cool, I'll go somewhere else (market capitalism at it's best!). I don't like having my posts deleted (without at least an explanation; common courtesy, you know?). Was the joke that offensive? Really? Surely, you must have heard worse! It sounds to me like you got intimidated by whoevere that "Ogunsiron" is.

Ogunsiron: “Personally I haven't heard of them contributing anything other than slaves (and genocide practice targets in the case of prussians) for neighbouring peoples like the scandinavians and the germans.”

First of all, the Baltic peoples were never slaves. Read your history.

As my previous post indicated the Lithuanian Balts were hardly slouches at the arts of warfare (ultimately, coming victorious in their long struggle with Teutonic Order, not a bad feat considering that the Teutonic Knights constituted *the* most fearsome military/religious order at the time).

One more point, I’m not Lithuanian, therefore, bringing up the Balts (?) is neither here nor there.

But in any case, considering that the Baltic states were always very tiny (for e.g., Lithuania has about 3 million people, see http://193.219.137.48/english/brief/pop.htm) they haven’t been doing too badly, especially when keeping in mind that they’ve gained their independence from the Soviet Union only in 1990.

To see their impressive recent economic stats:

http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/lh.html

http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/lh.html#Econ

GC: The Grand Duchy of Lithuania *was” a major European military power see http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.state.gov/www/background%5Fnotes/lithuania%5F9801%5Fbgn.html

Well, GC I won’t lie to you and tell you how I love intermarriage. I do believe that it is a form of “genocide” in the same way that this author on Vdare meant it: http://www.vdare.com/letters/tl_081902.htm, I have a right to my opinion. If you can advocate race-mixing on a grand scale, I can speak out against it (at least as it applies to my people) without being anathematized for it. Fair enough? Or is that, again, stretching your "tolerance" to the breaking point? It's your blog, and it's your call.


Posted by: friedrich braun at July 7, 2003 12:49 AM


GC: You've deleted my post and ogunsiron has called for me to be banned. I think that's pretty hostile.
---------------

Actually I *wondered* if you were banned but never asked for for you to be banned. I did point out that gnxp was not stormfront because i thought that the content and tone of that particular post belonged there more than it did here.

-------

Here's what Razib said in a subsequent post: "if you use literacy and systematic paradigm building, well, african civilization doesn't come out well. it is better when it comes to the arts and oral traditions."

I didn't think that my post was fundamentally different from Razib's (the Lewinsky joke excluded). I don't know why what I wrote generated the reaction it did. Who's over sensitive? Who has overreacted here? Was it racist to point out the obvious (African's oral tradition)? But, it's your blog, and if I'm not welcome that's cool, I'll go somewhere else (market capitalism at it's best!). I don't like having my posts deleted (without at least an explanation; common courtesy, you know?). Was the joke that offensive? Really? Surely, you must have heard worse! It sounds to me like you got intimidated by whoevere that "Ogunsiron" is.

Ogunsiron: “Personally I haven't heard of them contributing anything other than slaves (and genocide practice targets in the case of prussians) for neighbouring peoples like the scandinavians and the germans.”

First of all, the Baltic peoples were never slaves. Read your history.
-------
I'll read up on it .

-------

One more point, I’m not Lithuanian, therefore, bringing up the Balts (?) is neither here nor there.
--------

I seem to recall you stating that you were from the east-baltic area of germany (ie the area formely occupied by the old prussians). But I may be wrong on that.

--------
Well, GC I won’t lie to you and tell you how I love intermarriage. I do believe that it is a form of “genocide” in the same way that this author on Vdare meant it: http://www.vdare.com/letters/tl_081902.htm, I have a right to my opinion. If you can advocate race-mixing on a grand scale, I can speak out against it (at least as it applies to my people) without being anathematized for it. Fair enough? Or is that, again, stretching your "tolerance" to the breaking point? It's your blog, and it's your call.

Posted by friedrich braun at July 7, 2003 12:49 AM

Posted by: ogunsiron at July 8, 2003 12:16 AM


Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, and *ancient* Prussians are Baltic people, not Teutonic people.

I hale from a Teutonic tribe.

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12519c.htm

Posted by: friedrich braun at July 8, 2003 08:57 PM


My girlfriend is Lithuanian-Canadian (both sides of her family), though. At 5' 10", with natural blonde hair and light gray-blue eyes, she easily fits into my family (she could be my sister!). She looks very Prussian.

Posted by: friedrich braun at July 8, 2003 09:04 PM


"Actually I *wondered* if you were banned but never asked for for you to be banned. I did point out that gnxp was not stormfront because i thought that the content and tone of that particular post belonged there more than it did here."

Well, I meant to sound humourous and not to offend anyone. I guess the Lewinsky joke was inappropriate.

GC: If anyone acted ignominiously in that entire sordid White House episode it was surely that sleazy rapist Clinton and not the 22 year old Monica. BTW, just how do you "stalk" a President?

Posted by: friedrich braun at July 8, 2003 09:18 PM


I propose that all the intellects posting here devise a means for us/them to abandon the regressive reptilian territorial circuitry and start proposing some viable plans of action. You have the intellect so I issue the challenge of "Show Me" or shut up.

refer: Keep your handz off my desert - Pink Floyd
refer: Prometheus Rising - Robert Wilson

Posted by: W.L. Youmans at July 31, 2003 05:08 PM