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April 11, 2003
Right vs. Left
Zizka has been questioning my identification with the Right and focusing in on bizarre elements of the Left while neglecting the problems with the Right. In the end, this is probably to some extent correct and perhaps counter-productive, but I need to clarify. I am in favor of the Western political system, which in this day means pluralistic liberal democracy. Free speech, individual rights and equal application of the law are crucial to this. Within the West there is a general consensus in this direction, no matter that the pendulum of politics may swing Right or Left. I don't think Social Democratic Sweden is a "dystopia" nor do I believe the conservative United States is a "hell hole." Ultimately, they are both expressions of the Western Way. I contrast this with the Islamic or Chinese civilizations-which I most certainly do not agree with on normative grounds.
Within the West there are elements that I believe are undermining support for universal values of toleration and liberty. Some of this is on the Right-but these are long-standing groups of reactionaries that historically have fought a rear-guard action, shouting "Stop" to history. On the Left though, what I call the "retro-progressives," seem to me to be pushing a new paradigm that emphasizes group rights and an attack on the historic legacy of the West as immoral. This I find troubling. Because of the nature of the Left, many do not agree with this, and the scientists that routinely attack post-Modernists and intellectual relativists are often Leftists, even Marxists, who reject the "flight from reason." I wish them good luck, I now identify with the "status quo Right," so to speak. I do not wish for an ideal past as much as the liberal present.
There was a time as a hard-core libertarian when I was concerned with the mammoth-size of government. It still concerns me. But these values are tempered by greater concern with the threats to the liberal order that I see coming from within. Some right-wingers like Robertson & co. have shown their cards, citing 9-11 as retribution from god, but I believe these people are fringe elements on the Right. Additionally, though evangelicals and conservative Christians are a substantial portion of the American populace, they have never influenced the elite discourse to a great degree (most Americans want Creationism given "Equal Time," but the elite has never seen fit to implement this). This contrasts with the Leftists, of all stripes, who dominate Academia. Their words, their ideas, eventually percolate throughout society. What is Left in one generation is often the status quo in another (though what is Left changes, 18th century "Leftists" were anti-government, pro-free trade, etc.).
A good example of this is when I listen to anti-porn activists on the Right parodying Feminist Theory obviously culled from Dworkin & McKinnon to justify their censorship. Similarly, Islamists and their ilk now use anti-Orientalist rhetoric that they steal from the Left to justify their reactionary idylls as superior to the Western Way. The debate, the process, is the crux of the issue. Conservatives have always had factions that have had reservations about the liberal order-but these were marginalized because of their lack of intellectual firepower (in the United States). Today factions of the Left have become sour on the liberal project. Perhaps numerically these are marginal as well, but their Academic writings and the force of their logic is spreading, in particular toward identity politics (racial & religious) activists-who in my experience are only cosmetically "liberal". An example of the the spread of an elite mode of thought that may seem innocuous and perhaps is is that former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed has begn using the term "People of Faith."
The "Left," and the elites, make history. That is where the action & my concern is. My experience as a young man is that it is those on the Left that have labelled me as a "conservative," despite my libertarian affiliation, so I have accepted that over time, despite my reservations and heterodoxies. So be it.
PS My lack of interest in intercine conflicts is also why I think the Paleo vs. Neocon spat is counterproductive.
PPS Also, some elements of the retro-progressive Left and especially the non-Western movements that draw succor from them sound a lot like the 19th century Romanticists in their idealism of the past and the emphasis on group collective action and consciousness delineated by race or religion. Race and religion are important realities, but the Western Way allows us to transcend these particularisms by embedding our rights within generalities. The dichotomy in "rights" movements can be illustrated by feminism, which has a liberal strain coming in from Wollstonecraft, later appealed to "genteel" southern women by emphasizing their different but equal nature. Do women want equal rights with men? I hope so. Are women a separate class that should act in their own interests, and utter phrases like "sleeping with the enemy," well, this is what we should be moving away from. Most feminists are into equity, but the most active, the most vocal, have strong identity politics influences.
Addendum: Another Left-Right convergence that might interest readers, some members of the Intelligent Design movement have spoken of using Post-Modernism to "de-center" and "de-privilege" evolutionary theory in modern day science. Who needs a brain when you can borrow someone else's?
Human Races has moved, still under construction, but switch your bookmarks/links....
Shallow thoughts by razib
Can any of my green readers point me to a good site for streaming recitations of surahs? I remember some of them pretty well, but have forgotten a lot. I want to get back up to speed on that stuff before I talk about Islam too much-a point of pride, I want to be able to assert I can pray with some fluency before I go around making a business of blaspheming the whole business (now only if religious wacks would read a bit more secular philosophy and reflect on their often debauched youths).
Also, Richard Poe tells me that Mac Diva is trolling over at David Yeagley's site. First me, then Richard, now David. She definately does not like non-whites that do not toe-the-party-line. What, is individualism and thinking-for-oneself one of those "white" habits of the Eurocentric patriarchy we shouldn't emulate as people of color? Let me be frank, I suspect that if it were up to the Mac Divas of the world our particular anthropoid lineage would still be jumping through trees and eating fruit because venturing out to the savanna is "too white" (or whatever equivalent they want to pick on). The racial-identity folks are retro-progressives, profoundly conservative, without even knowing it.
Does anyone wonder if ugly people, especially ugly women, have more children? Just looking around and seeing who has litters (following an r strategy, lots of kids, little investment)-though the total number of teeth all these kids have left in their mouths is about the same as in families with fewer children (you know, two kids, full set of teeth, four kids, half sets of teeth)....
Also, Mac Diva, puts a bunch of Left bloggers of who don't believe that reason is a Eurocentric concept, under the microscope. Totally irrational. Torqumada indeed. I do invite anyone uncomfortable with blogrolling us to drop us-most of my readers are "regulars," not people coming through links anyhow. I just remind you though-when the bounds of discourse are limited along one axis, don't be surprised when others are restricted as well-you cede such power, people do not take it. As an example, Mac Diva starts off by talking about homosexuality before shifting the topic to race. Who knows, perhaps talking about the genetics of homosexuality will be an example of "Eurocentric linear thinking" or something pretty soon....
Finally-there are plenty of "facts" Mac Diva throws out there that are disputable. But a few quick ones: I'm only getting funding from myself-if The Pioneer Fund wants to throw some cash my way, fine, but it hasn't happened, nor do I expect it too. This is a blog-and I don't even talk about race most of the time (hell, I'm as likely to get funding from The Council On Secular Humanism for my comments on religion). Also, she decides that Charles Murtaugh has been an "active participant in Gene Expression and presenting its views on his own blog," his views stand for themselves, but Charlie only has commented on non-race related threads from what I can remember, and he tends to post about 1/month max. Perhaps he is "monitoring" this blog like Mac Diva?
April 10, 2003
In Chicago for about 5 days. Very flat. Snow on the ground (strange for me after all these years living along the Pacific Coast). Internet Access is an issue, so posting will be light.
April 08, 2003
A lighter shade of green
Zach Latif pointed me to this green-dude that is going to do a series on the "Secularization of Islam." This is on-deck for me, but I have a nasty tendency not to want to write without a reasonable understanding of the issues at hand-and my Islamic education is very sparse, my knowledge of Islam is most definately that of a kaffir. Religiously & politically liberal Muslims like Aziz Poonwalla & the Zack & Amber collective intrigue me (while Ikram Saeed is a Canadian-also, I note that I didn't say Left-wing, there are plenty of socialist Muslims, my parents to extent fall into that camp, but they are not social liberals). My personal perspective from my knowledge of kaffir religious history-which I know better-is that Islam's tendency toward sola scriptura (by scripture alone) will mean that though it seems vital and vigorous now, it will collapse to leave behind a rump of fanatics/orthodox very quickly, unfortunately, we won't see the inflection point coming. This is what happened after the "liberalization" of the Jewry during the Jewish Enlightenment and the rise of "modernism" in European Protestantism . The United States is the last white Protestant country by devotion as well as confession....
On a random note, anyone know anything about the little dancing girls in the new Missy Elliott video? The little white one and the Asian one?
Update: Frontpage has an article on the "Green Menace." Of course, they mean enviros, while I use green for Islam. I will now use faux green for enviros, like I use faux brown for Latinos. There are 1.2 billion Muslims and many enviros are pretty fake in their my personal opinion (not all-even most, but a non-trivial portion), so I think they get the faux even though it is not common usage. Similary, Latinos can be any color, not just brown, and the numbers again, there are 1.3 billion South Asians....
Update II: This article was titled, "Why Muslims are afraid of J-Lo" over at Beliefnet. I think it was kind of deceptive-it didn't talk about what the hadiths had to say on how tight a shawl should flow over her round rump....
 Spengler asserts that fundamentalism expresses the dying gasp of one cycle of a civilization. Protestant Christianity-which was more "fundamentalist" in a modern understanding of the term-attempting to return to "primitive Christianity"-might in such a manner be seen as the last gasp of medieval Christendom.
Chix in uniform
Slate is having a dialogue on this. There are always odd-balls, and from what I know of women, those who would want to be "ground-pounders" are peculiar, but perhaps they should be judged as individuals??? Of course, the main problem is not the women themselves-a few are strong enough to do everything required on the front lines, many (most) are not . But how will the men react to this? The argument is somewhat similar to the one about homosexuals-or the supposed problems that would occur with integration (most conscript armies don't give homosexuals exemptions from service from what I know, a country as button-down as Singapore does not-and conscription in Singapore is justified on grounds that it is the only place where races mingle in close-quarters, it is needed for ethnic and class harmony). Process, procedure and principle are sometimes important in & of themselves-and judging something by utilitarian outcomes expected can be difficult . We'll see....
 For instance, some would say that a professional military force is better for national defense. This might be true, they are professionals, but conscripts, or at least citizen soldiers who rise up by themselves, are probably better in a war of national defense where they defend their homes and families (but not so good for force projection in foreign adventures). The Roman Republic probably had a somewhat better army after Gauis Marius recruited from the urban proletariat, rather than raising levies periodically from the propertied farmers that lived in the environs of Rome, but the generals became far more powerfull and within a generation the army was marching on Rome-an army of Romans-for the future dictator Sulla. And of course, even the most casual studies of history show that Muslim rulers almost always lost control of their "slave" armies within a few generations....
You are either with us, or against us (?)
Charlie Murtaugh has a good post about intolerance in the blogsphere. Check it out:
To paraphrase Beck, "In the day of the reconquista you would have been Torquemada...."
I left the Left when it seemed there was a consensus among the Lefterati that Reason was a "right-wing" journal. Libertarianism can be defined as right-wing according to a given typology but they didn't dispute Reason having the title that it did! It was a symbolic matter but I think it goes to the heart of a shift on the Left. There are still Leftists that I can have a discussion with over honest disagreemants on public & social policy. They range all over the spectrum but seem to be united by a respect for the Enlightenment and the methodologies that subsume the Western world-view, skepticism, rationalism and empiricism, tempering the natural tendency to defer to tradition and appeal to authority. Because of this the reasonable Left tends to agree with my libertarian (liberal?) suspicion of the clerisy, moral absolutism and argument from authority. Tolerance bounded by a respect for basic individual rights, freedom, equality and rule of law were the hallmarks of my own childhood Leftism and are still adhered to by many of those that remain in that camp. But sometime in the past 10 years it seems that these basic values became open to critique-especially when tolerance swallows its own tale and individuals begin to expound on the various truths that "other cultures" can bring to the fore to "de-center" the "Euro-centric" paradigm . You know what I mean, it is hard to coherently encapsulate the irrational PoMoisms that rule the roost in some quarters. Like an oil slick it expands evermore until I believe that the Left as-we-know-it will become a utility for the personal prejudices and ambitions of individuals-just as Communism has become in China.
Yes, there are elements of the Right that are out of control (I am Razib-centered in this judgement), and I certainly don't have much in common with them on many issues-but when there is a fire in the movie theater, you have to run for the exits and ignore who you're bumping into in the crowd. The emphasis on "identity," "personal narrative" and most insidiously of all, the use of a racial or ethnic "group" as all-encompassing organizers of discourse rather than facets of an individual persona are revolting to me .
An anecdote will illustrate what my problem with the nouveau Left is. A few years ago I was sitting in Starbucks with a friend who is half-Israeli Arab half-Scottish. He by a quirk of fate looks "Jewish." I am brown. We were sitting talking about Islam, specifically the four major Sunni schools, since both of us were atheists from a green background who reflected on how we were shaped by our parents and "our culture." There was a guy-wearing birkenstocks and a loose shirt with a hemp illustration staring at us for a long time-until finally he came up to us and asked, "Excuse me, why are you talking about Islam? It seems that that isn't your native culture." We both explained our backgrounds. He seemed confused. He turned out to be Jewish, and apologized to my Arabo-Caledonian friend as he had assumed that he was also a member of the same tribe, and then turned to me and stated with a smile, "But you know, Hinduism is your natural culture" (like a monkey that jumps through the trees I suppose). I replied, "Well, my paternal grandmother comes from a recently converted family-but the rest of my family has been Muslim for at least 500 years, and some of my ancestors are probably Turkish or Persian...." He shrugged and simply wouldn't give ground. I was brown, so I must be Hindu. To him, it made no sense, and he felt sorry that I had lost my "natural" culture . This was the most extreme case of this fixation with identity-but this outlook is not too uncommon in milder forms-your personal background dictates your world-view, and deviations are simply ignored as "un-authentic" . Of course, conservatives from the Bible-Belt have made judgements about me (not often, I hang out only with liberals), but well, they are conservatives from the Bible-Belt (I was in a bible study this summer though, no problem, they weren't whack racists or anything). I don't have expectations that they will have a broad world-view, but the guy who explained how I *must* be Hindu had a Trust Fund (we talked about it after I asked what his job was) and had travelled the world. He lived in Jordan for many years, and waxed poetically about how "beautiful" the native culture was. My readers can see where this guy was coming from just from these facts.
I can't tell you how many times I have defused a tense situation with a radical feminist by pulling the race card out-it's like a "get out of jail" card-my oppression aces your oppression. A succinct but effective counter-punch, "I as a non-white male feel that you are imposing your Eurocentric values" . At first, I did this as a joke, and found to my surprise it worked. Later on, I realized that this was the only way to shut some of these types up. What do you do when a person who you know scored 1300 on their SATs and graduates summa with distinction on their thesis looks at you eye to eye and asserts, "Science is just another phallo-centric European paradigm that is a myth...." Yes, my jaw-drops, but I can't reason with someone that denies the validity of reason can I??? I am from Earth and she is from Pluto. I know some of my liberal readers will object that these are caricatures, samplings of the wacko-Left that do not represent what it truly is and the justice that it strives for. That is true to some extent, but the navel-gazers to seem to be waxing in strength. You're oppressed, I'm oppressed, and we'll OK as long as we can shit on white males.
I have now started to call the pro-multicultural PoMo anti-Western Leftists "retro-progressives." While Enlightenment Accepting liberals can criticize the brutal and savage treatment of women that prevails in non-Western cultures, I have noticed a shocking passivity of retro-progressives in the face of non-white "indigenous" practices. That have gone so far ahead of the rest of us that they now are starting sometime after the end of the Paleolithic-it was after all a more natural time.... As an example hemp-loving Trust Fundie I spoke of refused to condem honor killings without qualifications and asserted that the male-female relationships in those cultures were good and balanced in a way that American ones were not . Some feminists have even gone to the extent of asserting that non-Western males enforce patriarchy as a way of acting out their own resentment toward the white male power structure! Not only is this empirical fantasy, it illustrates another tendency-to patronize non-whites to the point of making them noble savages who have no accountability. We don't expect chimps to have a moral sense (in a fashion, they probably do), because they are brutes. Sometimes I feel that is how the retro-progressive Left look as non-white people in their "state of nature." Rousseau would be proud!
I will tell you something that many readers might find shocking, but people who know me will know is true, I would try something on people in my freshmen year classes when I first met them, I would assert, "White men should be killed and their women should be used as fuck-animals" (Update: To be fair to some of my good friends, people have asserted that the way I am as an individual is more important in explaining their inability to get angry at me-I don't totally buy it, but there is probably something to it-I don't know why I elicit giggles rather than shock, but in a way, it's a good way to be....) Most of the people would laugh or smile. It was so amusing you see. I really wanted to meet someone that was offended by this assertion, but no one said anything. I have many good friends-attractive women who stand up for themselves-who to this day are partly defined in my mind by the bright cheery smiles on their faces after I made this statement. I mean, what sort of world are we in when the fact that I have brown skin makes me have no accountability??? I can give many similar examples-outrageous things I would say, and could clearly say because of my color. I won't say any more on this.
One more thing, I have had a long running discussion with another blogger for a while now about traffic and what not. This is a hobby for me, and an addictive one-but just a hobby. Quality is MUCH more important than quantity as far as readers go. I would stop blogging if it weren't for the comment boxes-the exchange between David B. and Steve C. on "group evolution" for instance was worth as much as reading Unto Others. I don't really have specialized knowledge the world is interested in (you wanna know how to integrate JSP well with PostgreSQL mediated through a Servlet control layer using Java Beans as data containers???)-but the dialogue is of some importance I like to think. Oh, and please don't say the the stuff I know about religion or history is "specialized." It is the byproduct of a library card-not a great deal of specialized study-and I do it for my own curiousity.
P.S. I haven't commented on Murtaugh's original stuff about Creationism and what not. I tend to have sympathy with Yglesias on this-I like to joke about being one of "Darwin's Wolves." But unlike many people that think Creationisists are plain wrong, I have read a fair amount about the differences between say the ID people at The Discovery Institute at the people at the ICR (Institute for Creation Research) as well as people that are harder to classify like Billy Graham or William Jennings Bryant. You need to take different taks to refute and respond to them, a lot of the commenters seem to be using the ICR perspective as their model (some people bring up the overall methodological problem with Creationism-that is the best and most general point, but a lot of the people seem to be of the vein, "Fucking fundies!"). The ID people are slicker, so you have to be carefull, because they are slippery as eels. If you read Ronald Numbers The Creationists you will know that fundamentalist geologists generally abandon their views when they get into grad school-does it really matter what an accountant thinks about evolution in the end? Please understand, I am actually one of those people who calls in during radio shows about the Creation vs. Evolution "controversy" and can debunk point by point the bizarro lies that Creationists throw at scientifically naive but liberal people who don't understand how The Second Law of Thermodynamics is being warped by the fundie-on-the-phone because they don't know what it is :) The importance has to do with science in the broad-view, I have stated I would accept Creationism in the schools with the proviso they admit that no one in modern biology uses any of their models and that there isn't a "controversy" in scientific circles-this is factual and you can't get around this by presenting quotations from Darwin on Trial-that way, any half-way-decently intelligent kid would know this isn't really science, well, cuz it isn't. As the problem is not the conclusions but the methodology that is being prattled about, Murtaugh is right when he hints that many atheists who "accept evolution" have not internalized the scientific methodology-Dawkins was wrong IMO when he stated in The Blind Watchmaker that atheism was untenable in the pre-Darwinian age. I think evolution and science in general tear at many aspects of religion and are a problem-but the human mind is clever, and there are religionists who have responded with some vigor and I think success, though I still disagree in the end (perhaps I'll rehash why I think so, but different post). Ok zizka, tee off :) BTW, if anyone thinks that "reason" will banish religion, and that facts are an impediment to faith, see the tale of Sabbatai Zvi.
 Much of this is posing, the proximate behavior is political discussion, but the actually intent is to make onself seem better, more righteous and more intellectual. Political tools are an end to personal self-esteem & enchanced group status. So of course, it doesn't matter if you don't know what the hell you are talking about-theory is more malleable than a full-fleshed paradigm tempered by the moderation won through 2,000 years of Western culture.
 I talk about race on this blog, but I talk about religion, language, history-many things that combine to form who an individual is. It fascinates me partly because I am a bit truncated in this regard, I have little personal feeling for "my race," "my religon" or "my language." But I assert that the basic unit of organization remains the individual, the class or grouping is formed from the bottom up, rather than from the top-down. I will elaborate further, but a bottom-up viewpoint means that generalizations that apply to the group obviously do not hold for the inviduals. It is not a idealistic conception of groups-it is an empirical one. I won't go so far as zizka and say I am a nominalist, but I wish the world looked at these things more like that. Unlike zizka, most of the world does not come to nominalism easily and tends to give metaphysical-emotional weight to these categories. I have to deal with the world as it is, so I tackle race, religion and linguistic groups.
 There is some truth to this in that I think malwali peoples have some identity issues, but he wasn't expressing any nuance or much knowledge about the details. If you know not what you speak of, speak not.
 Most minority individuals that reject identity politics have the experience of being called "sell-outs" or "white-washed" by their oh-so-progressive co-ethnics. I know this personally and other friends who are more professionally or personally rather than ethnically oriented have told me it has happened to them too.
 One thing I suggest to whites now days is to make up a non-white ancestry. People will not dispute you, they have been conditioned not too. A few years back in a history class at the University of Imbler a red-haired girl talked about how she felt "discriminated" against because she was a minority, the professor asked her to explain herself since she looked white, and she said, "I'm Native American." The class and the professor laughed and she went to the Dean of the History Dept. and complained, and the professor is now much more sensative to these sort of things-his job depends on it....
 To paraphrase someone, "Name the Savage." Liberals should not fail to identify savagery and barbarism where it occurs. We don't speak of chimps as savages because they are beasts without full sentience (at least so we think). If we don't speak of non-Western cultures as savage when they behave in such a fashion are they too beasts who bring color and richness to the fabric of nature rather than civilization? Differences between cultures goes deeper than spicing the food or the color of your sash-in many (most) cultures of the world, property rights of a paterfamilias extends to women (I use the Latin term to remind readers that this was so in the West in the past as well-we have made "progress" so to speak). If damaged, they must be discarded. To a Westerner it is barbaric-but the act itself is less barbaric than the cultural context in which it is embedded. To elucidate-when a man kills his sister for being raped, the normal reaction is to wonder what is wrong with the murderer. But in these cultures, this act is seen as a "defense of honor"-the act of rape was a shame on the whole clan, so a man that kills his sister is taking upon himself the full responsibility of the act of clearing their name-he is doing a good deed for the family. He is more than just a murderer, he is an avenger, through him acts the hand of justice in these cultures. The fact that the woman was innocent is irrelevant, the crime was against the family, not her, she is a bystander. Yes, the individual is sick, but the culture is sicker. A pagan before Christ might go to hell, but it is a far deeper sin for those those who know of the Good News to reject it....
More on Silver Rights
So, Ms. (Mrs.?) Mac Diva (aka Silver Rights) shows signs of being open to reason (perhaps inadvertently):
Well, I scored an internship at a venture cap firm in San Francisco. So, I don't know how much I'll be around, I need to impress so that I can get a job somewhere by fall, when my savings will run out. (I don't want to have to sell my stocks).
I'd just like to point out some of "Silverrights" problems.
1) S/He claims that the "millions of white" meth users are not "scrutinized" because of their race. I suppose s/he has never heard any "white trash" "cracker" or other jokes about skanky white-trash meth addicts. I suppose s/he advocates throwing the users into prison like ......wait, users usually AREN'T thrown in prison...the DEALERS/TRAFFICKERS are (you can argue about definition of amounts used it "intent to distribute" charges, but that's the whole point--the small-time users aren't jailed or aren't jailed for a long time). Who are the dealers/traffickers (at least in CA, where I live)? Sorry to be politically incorrect, but they're mainly Mexicans. No, I don't think that's due to their race. I think you have a market, (legal or illegal) and people move to fill it.
2) His/Her "rubbish" argument about Mr. Chin is just that....rubbish. A primary problem with people's understanding of genetics and traits stems from assigning certain INDIVIDUAL traits to a person's genetic background. At that level of granularity, it can't be done (with a few exceptions). Of course, there are plenty of high-SAT scoring African-descended Americans. However, there aren't nearly the same number, even when controlled for income, of high SAT-scoring blacks as there are whites or East+South Asians.
3) As for criminality in general, it's clear that blacks commit proportionately more crimes than whites and Asians. That's a fact. Period. The pertinent question is why. I differ from some of my blogmates here in ascribing most of the blame to the huge number of fatherless young black men, the main cause of that being, in my opinion the highly destructive effects of welfare (again, economics matter, as much as our Marxist friend over at SilverRights would like to ignore them).
Anyhow. just some venting. I don't know how much I'll be posting, as I need to get up to speed on these business plans to look over, proffer opinions on how many millions to throw at them and the like. Which is much more rewarding than arguing with a religiously fanatic Leftist/Marxist. (who doesn't have comments at his/her site--indicative of the depths of his/her Maoism).
PoMo nonesense (yes, the second goes without saying)
Reading Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science. Give this book to any young person who is considering majoring in any subject that might require PoMo. Check it out:
Can you imagine a computer program writing this? A primitive one yes-it certainly wouldn't pass a Turing Test.
Who said the soothsayers and raving oracles of the pagan age are no longer with us? This sort of stream-of-consciousness bullshit requires either great brilliance on the part of the bullshitter or extreme stupidity and unlawfull intellectual lazines on the part of the audience.
The wack thread below has spawned a lot if thought on my part, some controversial, some banal....
I'll put them to text when I sort them. Suffice to say I noticed that I was littering my post-drafts with objected-oriented analogies, so I realized, I need to get to coding before I let my hobby take over my life.
But tell me fair readers, what would you like me to address? My penis length we won't get to, but the other points addressed below....
April 07, 2003
Shaking it up
April 06, 2003
A twinkle in your eye
There are no new discoveries, hey?
Middle Ages were warmer than today, say scientists. OK, is this new? Perhaps more certain, but I read about the medieval warm period in my "First Book of Climatology" when I was 6. I'm not getting into the global warming debate, but I do wonder if people just forget things all the time or what-since this Telegraph headline is pretty funny since it has been long known that the Middle Ages were warm and that the Little Ice Age was cold. The enviros don't want people to know about past climate change, while the global warming skeptics want to assert that it is business-as-usual....
Update: /. has a whole thread on the story.
The end of the racial democracy
Human(e) Sciences: Group Selection-the prologue
Well, I said I'd get back to this this weekend, and I've finished Unto Others again, but Darwin's Cathedral remains un-reread. The latter is short, I'll get to it today at some point. As far as the first book goes, I read the 2/3 of it that deals with evolutionary biology pretty closely, but I snoozed through the theoretical psychology & philosophy-of-the-mind parts, though I awoke periodically when they presented data from the laboratory. This happened the first time around, so I think I've satisfied the condition of reproducibility when I submit the hypothesis that most psychology & philosophy-of-the-mind bores me to explain the finding of my semi-sentient mental state when exposed to said stimuli.
Anyhow, if you read the reviews of Unto Others, you'll see they're pretty good, and they tell you to do more than just skim it. Though the content is only 340 pages, I will say it is a 'big book' in the density of argument and supporting data. Some have complained about the rhetorical format the authors use, this gets out of control in my opinion in the second section as the advocacy started to annoy me (almost certainly written by Sober, who is a philosopher by training, and wordy-to-boot from what I could figure out). I found myself examining the equations that were highlighted in special boxes to indicate that less technically oriented readers didn't have to bother understanding them because the text elaborated and explained in loquacious detail what a few lines of math could encapsulate . But there was a reason they presented so much padding, repeated themselves ad nauseam and worked their case as if they were attorneys in front of a slack-jawed jury-Wilson & Sober believe that they are facing a paradigm block. Frustration is a recurring theme in Wilson's tone as he makes the case that group selection has been validated empirically and that W.D. Hamilton himself weighed in on their side in the mid-1970s only to be ignored.
I came into it as an individual selectionist I suppose, but I was open-minded and could have been persuaded by some pretty math and citations from the literature of predictions that matched what was in the lab or the field. But the authors clearly believe that this hasn't sufficed for the past generation to convince the doctrinaire individual selectionists, especially reductionists like Dawkins. In short, Wilson and Sober are presenting in Unto Others a multi-faceted thesis and intellectual exercise, ranging from population genetics & ecology, yes, but venturing into philosophy of science and history and ethics, and the latter can not be reformulated in a few compact equations and appeals to a somewhat different audience than those who would be drawn to the first chapter of the book. I would not be surprised if people interested in psychology were scared by the math in the first few chapters and never made it to the back, because the tone & style shifts radically between part I & II. They are attempting to force what Chris Mooney would term a shift of frames-not just elaborating at length their academic papers. You got to give them props for the attempt, though the execution can be a bit laboring for those of us who have no professional grudge against group selection.
As the comments on my previous post titled 'Groupies' implied, a lot of the debate seems to be around semantics. Wilson confirms this because he comes back over & over to the point that individual selectionists simply redefine clear group selection as individual selection . I haven't read JM Smith's critiques of Wilson yet, so I'm not going to wade too deep into the debate, but let me present the general thrust of the ideas in Unto Others.
Wilson cites the averaging fallacy many times in this book (and brings it up in Darwin's Cathedral too). Instead of looking at the fitness of individuals within the context of their groups and evaluating the groups themselves, biologists just average the fitness of individuals over all the groups. What they mean is this, you have two phenotypes in a species, and a population of animals form discrete breeding pools, then you lump all the individuals from the from the two phenotypes into two pools and then average their fitness as if they were in one whole population and ignore the superstructure of their group organization. Here is a website with more detail on this issue and the general points of Wilson & Sober's thesis.
Groups matter to Wilson, but as everyone knows, "group selection" can't work if they are always isolated. Selfishness takes over because in within-group competition, free-riders always win. If you have groups A & B, with A being filled with half selfish and half unselfish phenotypes, and B being all selfish, it is plausible that the unselfish individuals in A will contribute to greater group success and B will be marginalized-but in the long run, the selfish individuals will still overwhelm the unselfish ones in group A. For unselfishness to not be transitory and group selection to work in the simplest models, there has to be a period of relative isolation of groups followed by dispersion and reassociation-in such a fashion, though within groups the unselfish individuals are less fit than the selfish ones, the reshuffling acts to prevents selfishness from outcompeting unselfishness within the various groups.
I'll come back to this with a few equations and graphs to illustrate the points later-suffice to say, I am starting to understand why Wilson had to use so many words to describe what the hell he was talking about. And that is why group selection kind of sucks, Wilson admits that it isn't particularly parsimonious, and it seems eminently vulnerable to sloppy thinking, even if it jives better with some empirical data points (Wilson admits group selection's past faults and bemoans how they have stained the paradigm's reputation). Because of this, it will take a lot of evidence to shift people from skepticism or agnosticism-beauty is not on the side of the group selectionists. Reductionism is seductive and almost religiously appealing to the scientific mind-Wilson makes clear that he has sympathy for those who would speak of a holistic multi-level selection. This converges with some of the ideas of S. J. Gould-and anyone that reads this blog knows that I don't have much sympathy for that man's scientific ideas. That said, I'm not a population geneticist, and I do believe that though Wilson hasn't proven his case, he does add to the contention that individual selectionists are a bit doctrinaire and do not advance their cause by being able to literally explain everything with a just-so story.
More later. And yeah, I'll read the critiques. I know I'm going to get a head-ache over this though, that's one thing I loved about individual or gene level selection, the math ended up to be a bit knarly, but the axioms were clean and easy to grasp. Group selection just knots everything up again.
 What that long sentence-irony, no?-basically means is that the authors could have reduced 5 pages here and there to half a page of equations with explanatory captions. But for obvious reasons-this is aimed partially at a popular audience-they did both. If you are math-friendly, you will know when you see an equation to just skim over the text.
 One amusing example-if you have group A and group B, with A being more fit than B because A behaves "altruistically" within the group in competition with B, one could say it is group selection, no? Well in the discussion of Myxomatosis, the rabbit-killing virus in Australia in the 1970s, this sort of thing seemed to be happening-virus populations that were less virulent as a whole were spreading. But Wilson recounts with rage that some asserted that the viruses that infected any one rabbit were clones of each other, and so could be thought of as one individual, ergo, it was individual selection (or more properly, gene selection)!
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