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August 30, 2003
Shout out to Allah!
NR & Immigration Reform, Cont'd
National Review writer Rich Lowry is now actually calling for a reduction in legal immigration:
"The real answer is to scale back legal immigration [emphasis mine] and control the nation's borders, so low-income workers don't have to compete against new immigrants, especially people who have no right to be here."
Lowry also wrote:
The NR has been railing against illegal immigration, multiculturalism, and especially immigrants who present a direct national security threat, but has not generally been so hard on legal unskilled immigration. It's good to see the NR taking a tough stance on legal immigration, because any immigration reform that does not include the reduction of legal unskilled immigration is not taking care of the main thrust of our immigration problem--the importation of a persistent, dependent, and resentful underclass.
 Even notwithstanding Bell Curve-type theories, it is clear that something is tending to hold down some non-white immigrant groups but not others, and that this something is not going away any time soon (for example, second- and third-generation Latino immigrants continue to lag behind native-born whites (on average, of course) in income and education). Given the general success of many non-white and/or previously discriminated against groups (South Asians, many East Asian groups, and Jews), it seems unlikely that the "something(s)" holding down some immigrant groups include white racism or "institutional racism."
Understanding The Religious on Their own Terms
Howdy all. First off, I am quite flattered that I have been offered the privelege of posting here on Gene Expression while my own blog is down. That having been said I'm a grad student working towards an M.A. in Medieval Studies, and I should probably be studying for my Latin exam right now. Here, then, are my thoughts on how we understand (or rather do not understand) the Islamic world.
The modern west has always had a hard time understanding the Islamic world on its own terms. The Orientalists regaled their readers with tales of the dark-eyed Musselmen, hot-blooded and quick to anger, a people that were inherently sensuous and accustomed to ease, luxury, and fatalism. In our own day, the right wing polemicist (who probably knows less of Arabic and of history than the Orientalist before him) denounces Muslims as backward savages who understand only force and must ruthlessly be crushed lest they overwhelm our civilization in a brown tide. The left-wing polemicist, on the other hand, sees the Muslims as oppressed people of color, allies in the war against whiteness, patriarchy, capitalism, colonialism, and Zionism. None of the above pictures are fully accurate, and all instead serve as a projection of our own fantasies and fears.
I bring up the image of Islam as serving as a projection of what we would like Islam to be to bring up the question of Medieval Islam. When debate emerges about the nature of the current religious revival underway in the Islamic world, it is only a matter of time before the inevitable, “Islam was an advanced civilization in 800 when westerners were still living in thatched huts! So there!” crops up. Strangely enough, while the trope of “Advanced Islam/Backward Christendom” often comes from the perspective of the left, it is nonetheless a product of the same sort of projection and misrepresentation that Edward Said and his disciples disparage.
Before going into detail, I need to back up a bit. Americans, sadly, have little acquaintance with history. Even amongst those Americans with a College or University education, most contact with history comes from introductory survey courses. Now then, survey courses are excellent in their own way, especially in that they will introduce people to subject matter with which they were earlier unfamiliar. They do, though, have a key weakness—a survey course, due to the breadth of the subject matter covered in a single course must by necessity deal in generalizations. Unfortunately, generalizations are much easier than the particulars of history to shoe-horn into pre-held conceptions.
Now then, over the last few centuries Jacobin and Protestant historiography have combined to, more often than not, make the Roman Catholic church the Big Bad Villain of western history, to the extent that neither secularists nor protestants realizing that they are borrowing one another’s myths. As such, the Church is often presented in High School history classes and histories for popular consumption as an oppressor of totalitarian dimensions, one that smothered all free thought, all inquiry, all science, and all knowledge until the bright light of the Reformation brought tolerance and pluralism. Of course, when you set up a villain, you need likewise to set up someone good and upright to counteract him (or, since I am speaking of the Church, her). So it is that we see the brave young rebel Martin Luther serve as the early modern voice of tolerance facing down the almighty Church.
The wrong-headedness of such a view of the Protestant Reformers is a topic for another essay; when we go back before Luther, though, we see people like the Cathars presented as the heroes standing against Rome, people practicing a pure and virtuous faith that are crushed by the corrupt and power mad Roman Church. Both Protestants and freethinkers (I shall avoid the sneer quotes around the latter since I am being allowed to post on a blog run by atheists) wind up making doomed heroes out of folks who believe that since matter is evil, you shouldn’t have sex, but if you just can’t control yourself, then you need to have oral or anal sex so that no babies get made. While the Albigensian Crusade was a great horror, I must say that I would think that Cathar beliefs would be bothersome to Protestants and freethinkers alike. I bring such advocacy up merely as a case study of the tendency when writing history to idealize Rome’s enemies. Such a tendency finds its full flowering in the western portrayal of Umayad Spain.
The Umayads appeal to different people for different reasons: the Orientalist dreaming of Arabian Nights-style splendor is wowed by their opulence, the freethinker sees tolerance, and the bookworm sees a love of learning. So it is, then, that Umayad Spain is presented in general histories as the Platonic ideal of Islam. See? we are told. Islam is urbane, enlightened, and tolerant. Much, though, is left out of this picture. We are rarely told that one of the reasons that the Umayads were driven out of Syria was this very splendor and moral laxity that the Orientalist finds so appealing. We are not told that in this haven of tolerance of all faiths, pogroms against Jews did, in fact, occasionally break out, and that the penalty for converting to Judaism or Christianity from Islam was death.
Am I writing these things to smear Islam? Far from it. If you want a smear of Islam, you can easily go to Little Green Footballs. Indeed, in spite of its weaknesses, Umayad Spain was a center of immense learning, brilliant culture, thriving commerce, and astoundingly beautiful architecture. I must also say that if you are trying to run a state on the principle that there is but one God and that His perfect revelation must be obeyed, and that to do otherwise is an affront to the sovereign of the universe, then the system of dhimmi status and like civil disabilities for Jews and Christians that at the same time fall short of outright persecution is the best way to handle recalcitrant unbelievers without forcing obedience to Allah that is a mere sham, having come under fear of death. Indeed, the Muslim system of dealing with non-believers who nonetheless came credally close to Islam was much better organized than anything Christendom had. Christendom’s system of dealing with unbelieving monotheists was always fairly ad hoc, and could range from the urbane tolerance of the Norman kings of Sicily to the fanatic persecution of Ferdinand and Isabella.
Why then am I writing this? I merely write to make the point that Islam is a monotheistic religion that differs by time and place depending on the historical contexts, and must be understood as such. The book Europe and the People Without History makes the excellent point that Europeans, when looking at the Other, have a disturbing tendency to view them as existing in some sort of timeless never-never land like insects trapped in amber and existing apart from the vicissitudes of history. So it is that the character of the Muslim was often portrayed as fixed and unchanging by the Orientalists, and so the people and religion of Islam were seen to exist in something of a timeless past/present, in which Islam and Muslims are always the same. It is exactly such thinking, though, that causes people to say that Muslims cannot possibly be intolerant based on a Spain that was, to be honest, a geographically small part of Islam that existed for two hundred of Islam’s fourteen hundred years of existence.
Such discussion brings me to Saladin. Ever since the Third Crusade, the man has captured the western imagination. Even chroniclers hostile to Islam saw the man (a Kurd, incidentally) as the exemplification of the courtly ideals of chivalry and honor. Here was a man who showed magnanimity towards his defeated enemies, respect for an opponent who fought bravely, and, in general, and urbane and diplomatic demeanor in all things. He was certainly a better character than Richard the Butcher of Acre.
His taking of Jerusalem is often presented in stunning contrast to Godfrey de Boullion’s close to a century earlier. Godfrey left no unbelievers alive, Saladin allowed the Christians to remain and worship as they pleased. Saladin took prisoners and ransomed them, Godfrey showed no quarter. This glaring contrast must demonstrate that Islam is superior to Christianity, right?
Here, though, is the problem of looking at the story outside of its context. Yes, Saladin did allow Jersulam to surrender (though the fact that Jeruslam’s defenders threatened to kill every Muslim in the city if not allowed to surrender might have had something to do with that), and yes, Godfrey left blood flowing ankle deep in the streets. But suppose we look for more than two examples of the magnanimity of one faith and the bloody-handedness of another. Let us look, then, to Baibars. While most everyone who has had general history is familiar with Saladin, very few are familiar with Baibars. It ought to bear mentioning that when Baibars took Antioch in 1268, he slaughtered the Christians and sacked the city so thoroughly that it has not recovered to this day. Suppose we look to German Emperor Frederick II, who negotiated a peaceful return of Jerusalem in 1229 (though admittedly the fact that he did this peacefully infuriated the Pope and all of the Latin clergy in Outremere) and left the Muslims their holy places. I could then say (dishonestly) that the contrast of Frederick II and Baibars proves that Islam is more bloody and intolerant than Christianity.
I am bringing up this counter-example to make the point that it is foolishness to cherry-pick historical anecdotes to attack the Catholic Church, for one could just as easily cherry pick anecdotes to make Muslims seem bloody handed savages. History is complicated. Examining single historical vignettes outside of their larger context to prove some sort of eternal truths about one culture or another is foolishness. There have, after all, been three Romes (and there will not be a fourth!)—history and peoples change. Moreover, using Islam to make a point against the Catholic church does a great disservice to the actual history of Islamic civilization. Now the reader may say, “But really, Andrew, these are just introductory histories taken by semi-literate freshmen. The specialists know better.” Unfortunately, semi-literate stoned freshmen grow up to be semi-literate sober politicians and journalists, and so when encountering something like “Islam” (as if millions of people across a millennium and a half could be reduced to a single entity), all they will have to go on is what they picked up from Western Civ.
What if, though, we were to try to examine the Islamic world on its own terms? What might we find? We would find a religion, like Christianity, that believes itself to be the final revelation, and that the Koran is the sole repository of this revelation. As such, dar al-Islam will have most of the same quirks, peculiarities, and great accomplishments that that other monotheistic religion had. We will find a faith that believed that it had superceded all that had come before and yet needed to reach some sort of accommodation with the faiths it had replaced. As I have said above, system of dhimmitude was a perfect system if one accepted as a given that there was but one true religion, but that remnants of those who had almost gotten it right remained. Likewise, in states that believe Christianity is the Final Revelation, the Jews were allowed some sort of grudging tolerance.
In both cases as there was little tolerance for the believers in religions that came after, since, after all, if you have more than one final revelation, people will start to ask questions. So it is that Christian officials extended little tolerance to Islam, and Islamic officials extended little tolerance to groups like the Bahai. In both cases, the state sought to bring itself into line with what men assume that God wanted, as any man would do if he believed in God.
The two faiths went their separate ways after the seventeenth century. Christendom lost its faith and found pluralism, while today there is a religious revival underway in the House of Islam. Marxists and fools (though I repeat myself) attribute this revival to economic circumstances, colonial oppression, or any of the other bugbears that they believe actually caused what goes on in history. What if we look on the religious revival as a genuine religious revival? In such a case, understanding Muslims as religious men and women—the vast bulk of whom are decent people—would greatly facilitate our own understanding of what’s going on. After all, most of us know deeply religious people from work, school, or our own flirtations with religion.
Many have the deep conviction that they are absolutely right, and that God wants society to reflect His own wishes. Most probably believe that European and American women are unnecessarily wanton and want their daughters and wives to dress modestly. And while they usually make good neighbors, we would make damn sure that they are not allowed to threaten pluralism. In that way, then, we ought to deal with Muslims the same way we deal with Christians—“I respect your right to believe and practice (with obvious exceptions) as you see fit. Try to impose your religion on me, though, and we will have problems.”
I will come back with another entry on the nature of religious reformations what they mean for war, peace, and the like. Now, I suspect that I really ought to bet getting back to my Latin.
My favorite example of this is in Cradle of Filth's song "For Those Who Died." Despite the Band's Satanic motif, they nonetheless basically reproduce the Protestant mythology of the Inquisition.
Bookish moi & the VMAs
Reading Theoretical Population Genetics by J.S. Gale. Venturing into chapter 3. Nice to have Principles of Population Genetics under my belt, all the equations (and more) that you find in Clark & Hartl's book are derived in great detail by Gale (again, judging by what I've read so far). The references & notations are themselves a gold mine. As I said, I'm early on in the book, but though some of the derivations might seem byzantine, the mathematical methods themselves don't seem out of reach for someone who has a basic understanding of statistics, with calculus, differential equations & and a smattering of linear algebra. If you read evolutionary psychology & biology for fun & pleasure, I would suggest first Hartl & Clark's text, and then this, I think it's worth it to keep digging-stuff your brain with data & theory and result might turn out as delicioius as fois gras. My main complaint is the notation of the equations seems kind of primitive & clumsy-but the book was published in 1990, so perhaps that explains it.
Please read further for my take on the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA).
fn1. From page 13, "We shall, in general, adopt a 'stochastic' approach; that is, we take account of factors leading to random changes in allele frequencies...." The author states that stochastic models of population genetics are more difficult for lay persons to grasp than the deterministic ones-which is surely correct. Fuck, take a Quantum Mechanics course, and come out of it without turning cross-eyed when you see some plain ole Mechanics.
OK, I didn't watch it, rather, I downloaded the Britney & Christina + Missy & Madonna performance from Kazaa. Some observations:
fn2. Derb better not write about straight flight based on the lesbianism on display at the VMAs.
Re: Population Genetics
I recommended Hartl to Razib, and it's the book I learned Pop. Genetics from (though I'm much more a molecular bio & systems biology kinda guy). If you want to check out population genetics in action, check out this phat set of simulations on various concepts in population genetics. For example, they've got a section on selection and drift here.
I agree with Razib's belief that the methods of population genetics are not truly arcane. At root, what population genetics is about is:
This is something of a simplification, but in this form (initial conditions + updating equations), it's recognizable to physicists and other quantitative people. Molecular biology comes into play as a constraint on the sorts of updates. For example, diploid populations have paired alleles for every gene, which introduces quadratic nonlinearities (top of page 3, equation for p') into the updating equation. More on this later...
Re: Christina, Britney, and Madonna
Here are some more pics:
I agree with Razib's assessment on this issue, though I think Aguilera is still very attractive. Dark hair doesn't suit her, though. Here's some more depravity and licentiousness, courtesy of Tatu:
If they were real lesbians (rather than Hollywood lesbians), they ain't gonna be reproducing (so we can safely set f=0 in the evolution equation)...but it's fun to look at ;)
Along the same lines - I've often thought that facilitative lesbianism is more frequent/more easily inducible in women than the analogue is in men. Not sure if this is backed up by data, but my (totally speculative) theory is that it has something to do with the frequency of polygamy vs. polyandry.
fn1. In this respect the update equation is conceptually similar to the Fokker-Planck equation, which also directly describes the evolution of a pdf.
fn2. Note that conventional definitions of fitness (with births at periodic intervals) do not account for the fact that people can have kids at any time. The way to get around is this to introduce something called the "Malthusian parameter", which is analogous to the idea of continual compounding in finance. More on this here. You can also read the aforementioned Hartl, or else Maynard Smith's book, page 38.
Another update from GC:
Listen to this sorry conservative, bemoaning the tackiness of it all:
I bet this is the kind of guy who'd sneer at masterpieces like There's Something About Mary or a classic like Ace Ventura . I should probably shake him by the shoulders, point and say "Dude - Lesbians! Dude...*lesbians*!"
August 29, 2003
Brawn drain from Africa
Article in The Economist on the migration of athletes out of Africa (and the African Diaspora) to other nations. Full text below....
The brawn drain from Africa
Qatar's poaching of African champions
Exceedingly successful economic migrant
AS USUAL, the world steeplechase champion is a Kenyan. But his passport says he is from Qatar. Saif Saeed Shaheen, who until this month was called Stephen Cherono, was bought by the rich little Gulf state for $1,000 a month for life, and a new track for his home town in Kenya. Another ex-Kenyan runner, now called Abdullah Ahmad Hassan, who came fourth in the 10,000 metres at the current World Athletics Championships in Paris, was also part of the package.
Qatar, with little home-grown sporting talent, has acquired world-class athletes this way before. In 1992, it poached a few Somalis for its track team and got an Olympic bronze medal. For Sydney in 2000, it imported a whole squad of weightlifters from Bulgaria and won bronze again. Another Qatari steeplechaser, Khamis Abdullah Saifeldin, originally from Sudan, but clearly a patriot already, says that “Qatar is the best in the world in spending money on sport.”
Buying talented sportsmen, common enough at club level, is burgeoning in international sport. In March, for example, landlocked Switzerland beat New Zealand to the America's Cup, sailing's most prestigious prize, by hiring a crew of New Zealanders. Since the 1980s, European sports federations have been attracting African athletes and footballers, and obtaining passports for them.
But sport is war by other means, and changing allegiance is sometimes considered high treason. Merlene Ottey, the sprint legend who won eight Olympic medals for Jamaica before defecting to Slovenia last year, is not much liked in her native country. And athletics' world governing body, worried about the brawn drain from Africa, is now thinking of changing its citizenship rules.
Neoclassicists vs. Behaviouralists
Very interesting article in The Economist exploring the nuance of human behavior in an economic context. The skinny: neoclassical economic assumptions of rational choice are more valid for financial professionals than Joe-Schmo. Big surprise.
U of Michigan adds "diversity" essay
In response to the Supreme Court's decision essentially upholding quotas (but not the 20-point bonus for "underrepresented" minorities), the University of Michigan is replacing with the 20-point bonus with something I see as even worse: a required essay that students must write on diversity.
Students will have the choice between two prompts:
"At the University of Michigan, we are committed to buiding an academically superb and widely diverse educational community. What would you as an individual bring to our campus community?"
Not only did the Michigan decision do practically nothing to erode affirmative action, it has made things worse, at least at the University of Michigan. Now students are going to be forced to write an additional essay that essentially must be from a leftist perspective (could anyone seriously write a non-leftist response to these questions and not get hurt in admissions)?
See the full story at the LA Times (registration required).
August 28, 2003
Questions for Dear Readers
Polls attached below, please peruse and respond if you love us....
CHC, g, & Intelligence
I have received a few questions on g, John Carroll's Theory (technically the Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) Theory, named after Raymond Cattell, John Horn and John Carroll), and intelligence.
While the field is far from in total agreement, I think these points are safe to say.
1. Intelligence is too broad and nebulous a term to use, except for common parlance. Moreover, it often evokes visceral reaction, which often hinders more than helps. Consequently, most use the term g, which stands for general intelligence (named by Charles Spearman). Spearman, like Galton and others before him, noticed that when he administered tests to kids that required cognitive ability (e.g., pitch discrimination, math facts), the zero-order correlations were all positive. Because of his rigorous math background (he was en engineer) he was able to use his correlation matrix to invent the technique of principal factor analysis (well, an early version of it anyway), which, basically, just took the first eigenroot and used the first set of eigenvectors. This gave him 2 things: a principal factor (which he called general intelligence, or g) and test-specific variance. There was lots of "controversy" over whether g was embedded in every cognitive task, and two of the main opponents were Raymond Cattell and John Horn. While over simplified, they said there were two general factors, Gf and Gc, which stand for fluid and crystallized general abilities, respectively, and not one common g. Gf was meant to denote the skills it takes to do tasks that require minimal previous knowledge (repeat numbers backwards, solve matrix analogies), and Gc was meant to denote the skills it takes to do tasks that do require specific content knowledge (vocabulary, math). While there was a debate on the specific hierarchy (i.e., whether g alone stood on top, or whether it was Gf and Gc), they all agreed that tasks could be broken down into specific (i.e., stuff that was unique to it alone) and general (i.e., stuff it shared with similar tests) parts. Well, this debate went on for a while until John Carroll came along with his 1993 classic, Human Cognitive Abilities, it which he re-factor analyzed hundreds of published cognitive test data sets (akin to a meta-analysis), using a factor analysis procedure that allows one to factor analyze correlated factors. The details are a little too complex to go into here (although he Carroll outlines it well in his book), but what he found was that when there were enough tests to analyze, g existed by itself as the higher order factor, but that there were 8 sub-factors (Gf and Gc being two of them) and under each subfactors were about 60 narrower abilities. See here for pictorial model. Because he had three different strata of abilities, ranging from specific to general, it is sometimes called the three-strata theory of cognitive abilities. Hands down, this is the most data-based and supported theory of cognitive ability currently viable.
2. Some researchers are more interested in g (e.g., Arthur Jensen), as it permeates all tests of cognitive ability, while others are more interested in some of the specific second order abilities (especially when working with those with learning difficulties) (e.g., the folks at IAP). Consequently, both study "intelligence", but with different goals for their research (i.e., differential psychology vs. clinical/practice-oriented psychology).
3. g, a subset of CHC theory, is probably the most researched aspect of the theory. After decades of research (about 100 years), these "facts" seem to have ample support, although new data is always being published:
a. g permeates every test that involves cognitive ability. Test is broadly defined and can mean regular daily activities (see Robert Gordon's work), health and occupational outcomes (see Linda Gottfredson's work---who, IMHO, ranks right up there with Arthur Jensen, Cyril Burt, and Charles Spearman for prolific research on g), reaction time (Mental Chronometric) tasks (see Arthur Jensen and Ian Deary's work) or regular scholastic tasks.
b. g's heritability is about .5, with it increasing as tasks get harder, and decreasing as tasks get easier. When you extract g from any body of tests, the heritability of performance goes to almost zero, which tends to show that it is the g component of a given task that is heritable, not the specific tasks themselves. Tony Vernon has done a lot here, as has Robert Plomin.
c. Race differences on cognitive ability tests tend to be primarily on the g factor. Phil Rushton has done oodles of work here. (some also say there is a sex difference, with men slightly higher, but I have not seen enough evidence to think it viable....at least at this time).
d. There appears to be a biological and neurological basis for g. The reason for this is that g correlates (and substantially so!) with a ton of biological variables. The best, although now a little dated, piece in this area was: Jensen, A. R., & Sinha, S. N. (1993). Physical correlates of human intelligence. In P.A. Vernon (Ed.) Biological approaches to the study of human intelligence (pp. 139-242). Norwood, NJ: Ablex. Although, also see Jensen's Psycoloquy posts, and the second section of the new Jensen festschrift.
I am not a biologist by training, so I cannot critique the literature here as well as most of the folks who will read this post. From my readings though, the purponderance of evidence seems indicate that g does have a biological basis.
g--a brief history and overview
It was brought to my attention that perhaps there is some confusion on the idea of psychometric g . I wrote a brief article about it in a student newsletter a few months ago, that does a brief explaination. My stuff starts on p. 11.
For more in depth, I suggest reading:
Jensen, A. (1998). The g factor.
Carroll, J. B. (1993). Human Cognitive Abilities.
Deary, I. (2000). Looking down on human intelligence.
Token Roy Moore post
I like this article over at Frontpage by Lowell Ponte-he's a conservative, but pretty balanced I think about what's going on. I do want to add one thing though-Ponte points out the Left's hypocrisy when it comes to the use of religion, good if it serves "progressive" ends, bad if it is in favor of socially conservative ones. For instance, the Catholic Church is great when the bishops push universal health care, not so congenial when they want to roll-back abortion rights. On the other hand, I used to watch CNBC years back, in college, and Jerry Falwell would sometimes be on this or that show. One time when asked why he opposed a lot of social welfare, he stated that "to force people to give to those in need removes the act of virtue since it is not done freely out of charity and compassion, but coerced." I remembered this when weeks later Falwell sadly admitted that though this country would never ban pornography, he wished it would, because it was a terrible sin. In this case, Falwell did not seem inclined to err on the side of free will and allow people to virtuously choose The Good and reject the sin. Just goes to show, hypocrisy is a human universal.
fn1. OK, before anyone jumps on me for saying a nice thing about a religious conservative, I was an activist for Campus Freethought Alliance back in the day and have been in the past relatively active in the internet atheist community. I can't get worked up over this stuff going on in Alabama because I can't relate to Alabama, the state I live in has the highest number of non-religious (almost 20%) in the country, and most of my friends are as non-religioius as me. The town I live in probably has a greater number of Buddhists than evangelical Christians. Not that I reject universal principles & church state separation-but I think there are bigger things in the world to worry about. I am thinking of pitching an article to Frontpage addressing my contention that seculars and christians should stop their bitching & clawing and look to the threats from the outside and the weakness at the heart of Western civilization that they both claim to love. Amen!
Godless briefly comments:
Moore is a fundy in the Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell mode:
Has anyone actually read the 10 commandments? There are several versions floating around, but in every case these are primitive taboos we're talking about, on par with Thor and Asgard. Like Moore, the authors of the 10 commandments had an uncertain grip on "cause and effect" :
Obviously I'm not in favor of perjury, murder, theft, or disrespecting your parents. I'm neutral on greed, though...in my experience, it's only considered "greed" if someone else is making money hand over fist :)
Beyond the obvious points of agreement, we get to the nub of the question, which is that many religious practices are primitive superstitions that make no sense whatsoever. Are we going to prevent stores from opening on Saturdays? Are we planning on outlawing adultery or utterances of "goddamn"? Are we planning on constraining religious freedom by preventing people from having other Gods (or no gods) besides the Christian God? Are we going to sanction the tacit endorsement of slavery ("the manservant is *thy neighbor's*")?
What this manufactured controversy boils down to is whether we are going to accept the rambling injunctions of the jealous & vengeful Yahweh over the laws of the United States of America. Much more on this here. I'm not a militant atheist (anymore), but Moore-like stupidity brings it out in me...
fn2. Does anyone really think that the radical Islamists wouldn't have attacked us on 9/11 if we had been more religiously observant?
Addendum from Razib: This post really wasn't about the Roy Moore case per se, rather the role of religion in American life. Or rather, the lives of Americans, does it surprise us that the 10 commandments are being shown in an Alabama courthouse, while California funded the building of a statue to Quetzalcoatl? I think Lowell is being a bit disingenius, "One Nation Under God" is a patriotic assertion, the statue to Quetzalcoatl is more an acknowledgement of the historical past of some Californians (putatively) than it is an attempt to promot his cult. We are a nation with schizophrenic attitudes toward religion-and Lowell is correct when he notes that the cultural Left has a double standard, heaping contempt on "toothless evangelicals" while respecting & promoting faiths espoused by minorities that are rather weird or quite often regressive. On the other hand, I do believe that the religious Right has not squared the circle of broad pluralism in concert with a tightly focused public piety.
fn3. It is disputable that many of the ancestors of today's Latino Californians were Aztecs. Many are mestizo to begin with-and even then their indigenous ancestors were probably of the conquered peoples.
August 27, 2003
Intellectual capital & the nations
Gweilo touches the average national IQ question. A good wolf smells the blood on the trail and pursues....
I tossed in a few comments that readers/co-bloggers may be interested in.
The Law of Unintended Consequences
George Bush Sr. is a saint! He signed the American's With Disabilities Act! Today, I walked into Starbucks, and for the thousandth time I saw a guy using his laptop on the special "disabled" desk. He, like all others using the desk, had full use of his limbs, and he was not grotesquely obese. Have you ever had a lot of luggage or something? And you look at the steps and wonder how long and hard it's going to be...and then, you see the roll-up ramp! Or you walk into a rest-room, and there is that big spacious stall....
From elevators, ramps, bigger seats and more comfy restroom stalls, the American's With Disabilities Act has been a great boon for fully functional normals! I would even hazard to guess we used "disabled" services and access points more often than the disabled (differently abled, whatever).
English as "pure Germans"?
In the 19th century there was the idea that the English were descended from Anglo-Saxons who drove the Welsh to the "Celtic Fringe." But looking at some English people, it seems clear to me that they are a hybrid population, at least speaking from the perspective of one who has a keen eye for the Germanic physique. Victorians must have known this too on some level . . .
...or, a more typically Germanic actress, Naomi Watts:
Ain't diversity great?
Here is a real German, Eva Habermann:
Ok, more Keira....
August 26, 2003
Wheat/Chaff of Intelligence
Two exquisite critiques on "pop intelligence" theories have recently been written.
1. In the August issue of Intelligence, L. Gottfredson and N. Brody do a masterful job dissecting R. Sternberg's Tri-archic/Practical Intelligence theory.
2. In the Arthur Jensen festschrift, G.V. Barrett et al. have a great chapter entitled New concepts of intelligence: Their practical and legal implications for employee selection that spells out the minimal criteria for a scientific theory to stand in court, and most of the en vogue ones (e.g., emotional IQ) don't come close to the minimum.
As it stands today, I have yet to see a better, more researched and supported theory (and I use the term loosely, here) than J. B. Carroll's 3-strata one. It would be nice if it received even 1/2 of the attention of its "pop" counterparts. Case in point, 6 months ago the American Psychological Association's newsletter, Monitor, did a piece on intelligence and the only mention of g came from Robert Plomin in a passing comment.
The reason this is important is because in the "real world" it is the parents/educational administrators who ingest this unadulterated pop-rubbish and it is inexplicably hard to explain to them the cogency of intelligence (g) when they are lead to believe that either there are multiple ways one can be intelligent, or that effort can easily overcome any inherent intellectual problems.
Anyway...three cheers for Gottfredson, Brody, Barret, and the others who let data speak over popular notions.
"For reasons of basic sensitivity, you don't want to make the Chinese take-out container an Asian," Bellisle said, as she flipped past a crossed-out pencil sketch of an Inuit ice-cream carton. "But, if you make the same type of container represent two different races, people notice. It's a delicate balancing act. I discovered that there were negative connotations attached to a surprising number of the things people throw out."
(The Onion seems to have adopted a new page-naming convention, so I don't expect the link to last more than a week.)
A bit of self-promotion
I have an article in Frontpage Magazine, thanks to Richard Poe for pushing me, and Jamie Glazov for giving me a chance. Also, check out the The American Conservative, I should have an article out in the current issue, though it might be next week (I can't find it around here yet!). Thanks to Scott McConnell for giving me a shot to break into the ink & dead-tree world.
Update: This is from the Frontpage Forum:
Update II: The piece I've got in The American Conservative dealt with Muslims, The Netherlands and a Dutch dude I met on the bus (Hi David!). Here is a report (audio file) from a recent issue of PRI's The World on something called The Arab European League. Here is a snippet from an article by the President of the organization:
The article is kind of strange-the basic tone is that you brought 9-11 upon yourselves-but this guy is obviously worldly and urbane, European in a fashion, though he obviously rejects Europe and its ways. The funniest part for me is that the title is "Welcome to Adobe GoLive 5." Oh, and most of the articles seem to deal with Israel, I don't know what the European part of the oranization's name indicates outside of the geographic locale of the members.
A. Beaujean Bio Sketch
By way of a brief bio...
I am a graduate student with interests in psychological/educational assessment and measurement, especially human cognitive abilities.
My psychological hero is Sir Cyril Burt, although most of the London School of Differential Psychology "members" are quite extraordinary, and I could read about them for hours. I think that sums up my academic side. See my web page for more info.
Personally, I have developed a newfound love of mathematics and am now wishing I could exchange my training in the humanities for more training in math. Also, in my spare time (ha!), I love reading about behavior genetics.
Is Superman Half-Brown????
OK, so it has been conjectured that Supermensch...err, Superman, is Jewish-but how about Anglo-Indian? True, I don't have much evidence compared to the Jewish hypothesis, but this is what I do have:
Atal Vajpayee, prime minister of India, seems to look a lot like: "Jor-El (Marlon Brando), Superman's father":http://brando.crosscity.com/htmlver/gallerymb/Images/Films//Film62.jpg.
Did Jor-El escape Krypton contrary to the story told in his son's true-life movie??? Is Vajpayee's vow of celibacy in fact due to his undying love for his dead wife Lara, the mother of Kal-El (Superman)? That begs the question, were the Rishis of Hindu legend escaped Kryptonians???
And doesn't Norah Jones kind of look like Christopher Reeve (ignore that pre-differently abled Reeve is much prettier). How exactly did the Kryptonians make it past border patrol? Though it seems plausible they could have flown over, don't we have kryptonite laced cordons to prevent alien ariel intrusion? Joe Guzzardi needs to add something challenging the alien infiltration into his platform, after all, California is no doubt a magnet for Kryptonians like Marlon Brando.
Tell me where I'm wrong?
My back-up plan to de-center and Otherize Superman is to imply he's gay, after all, look at the picture, they didn't have Queer Eye For the Straight Guy back in 1978, that super-hero is way too sheik....
fn1. Marlon Brando was born in Nebraska, highly suspicious given Smallville's midwestern locale, don't you think? It's all falling into place....
August 25, 2003
Proposition vs. non-Proposition
A little web-debate is going on between the Claremont Institute and VDARE. Nicholas Antongiavanni gives VDARE some advice, VDARE responds and Antongiavanni responds to the response. This is the sort of debate "Westerners" would have, wrangling over first principles or lack thereof....
As I see that UK immigration policy is discussed below, here is a useful source of information: Migration Watch is an independent think tank run by a former diplomat and a professor of demography at Oxford. It frequently criticises Government policy and statistics, which means the Government smears it as 'right wing, racist, blah blah blah...', but the Goverment usually has to admit in the end that MW's figures are right. Although naturally MW is mainly concerned with the UK, some of the issues and arguments are relevant elsewhere.
August 24, 2003
The Geography of Thought
I just read Richard Nisbett's The Geography of Thought. You can read a summary of the book here as a press release from the University of Michigan. The critiques that some of the readers over at Amazon make about the book are spot-on, Nisbett has a collection of studies that he bandies about, which reinforces stereotypes and preconceptions about "Asian thinking" vs. "Western thinking."
...and so forth. This is a recapitulation of tried & true generalizations. But I think Nisbett does us a service by showing that psychological tests have indicated quite clearly that these trends are true.
For instance, give a Westerner a series of questions, and they will tend to answer them in a way that it is clear that they have a sense of the whole so that contradiction is minimized. In contrast, Easterners will assent to contradictory assertions far more easily. Now, this could go either way, depending on how you interpret it! Here Westerners are being "holistic," but in a way where they perform a sort of back-reduction, creating a construct that can be reduced to the parts. Easterners accept the individual statements and don't mind that the whole might be a bit out-of-kilter if critiqued with reason, because they accept the whole as existing without a need for justification. There are myriad examples he gives where this is obvious in everyday situations constricted in the laboratory setting, so I won't recapitulate them.
Nisbett's general point is correct, but his specific grander assertions, that there is something deep within the structures of individuals that is shaped by their cultural background seems to fall flat on its face. He shows quite clearly that there are individuals who have bicultural backgrounds who not only often fall in the middle, many of these individuals switch world-views when given contextual cues that this is a "Western" or "Eastern" situation. Nisbett brings this up to rebut any charges of genetic determinism, but his conclusion, that the "Western" or "Eastern" orientation, though ubiquitous in a given context, are easy to transform and shift, makes his thesis rather mundane.
Additionally, Nisbett has a strong bias against genetic factors, as evidenced by the reviews which indicate this is a book that challenges Pinker's The Blank Slate. He tends to ignore genetic explanations, largely because his mind is made up, for instance, he notes that Anglo-Indians fall between Indians & English in terms of their "West" vs. "East" orientation-which could be taken as a point in favor of some genetic factor. Nisbett doesn't address it because he obviously doesn't think that holds any weight, and most of his evidence does lean against that, but the fact that he neglects to counter that option shows what his biases are.
As a psychologist, I assume Nisbett knows of the work of Jerome Kagan, which shows quite clearly that different races have somewhat shifted levels of extroversion from infancy. I don't know where this would fit in in with Nisbett's theories, but it seems likely that a given cultural matrix would shape individuals over generations by selecting for a certain personality type that is congenial to succeeding when certain social assumptions are ubiquitous. A good test would be Asian children adopted by white Americans and raised in The United States.
Also, some of blurbs for Nisbett's book ignores that his dichotomy between "West" and "East" is somewhat artificial. Though Nisbett roots Western individualism with the precedent of the ancient Greeks, continental Europeans tend to fall in between the "East" and the Anglo-Saxon-Scandinavian (ASS) world in terms of their orientation, sometimes having values closer to the ASS (in comparison to East Asia), sometimes not. Nisbett states clearly that East Asia is far more typical of the world in terms of its values than the reverse, that "The West," encapsulated in ASS, is actually an anomaly.
It is interesting then that Nisbett sees the root of this anomaly in ancient Greece, a culture that today has less truck with sophistic debates in the marketplace of ideas than modern America (until recently Greece made it illegal to switch religions-I don't know if that's still in force). Kevin MacDonald et al. have a different explanation for the ASS anomaly, evolution. They assert that northern Europeans developed a K selected strategy that minimized in-group coherence and lacked xenophobia toward the out-group. Much of the laundry list of "Western traits" show up in Kevin MacDonald's work. So who is correct? Well, I think Nisbett's use of the ancient Greek exemplar answers the question, cultures change, and current stereotypes do not always project well back to the past.
For instance, look at one of my favorite examples, Germany. In 1750 Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia, spoke French in his court because the Germans were a fractious and uncultured people (less so the Austrians, who though have always been more cosmopolitan than the north Germans as they ruled many Slavic people and a strong role in northern Italian politics). And yet 100 years later Germany was a cultural maelstrom, preeminent in the sciences, a beacon of light in the arts and the center of world philosophy, from Kant to Hegel. Similarly between 800 BCE & & 400 BCE Athens went from being an unknown semi-literate trading town living in the shadow of its Mycenaean past to the most cultural vibrant star in the firmament. Times change, and the self-perception and stereotypes change, during the Wars of Religion you would have been laughed at if you had spoken of "German efficiency." (oh, and Germans are less "Western" that the ASS groups and closer to the rest of Continental Europe)
I don't reject the importance of genetic capital in the development of culture, but attempting to unravel confounding factors is very difficult, and rather than make the attempt many give up and re-write the past or re-cast the present to fit into a more static and simpler conception of the world. For this reason the northern Europeans from 1800 onward created vast theories explaining away their barbarous past and lack of achievement in comparison to the peoples of southern Europe and beyond. In contrast, modern day Islamists always point the past glories and dismiss the modern day squalor of the House of Islam by appealing to conspiracy theories. The truth is cultures & contexts change, but people do not want to admit that the static nature of their own personalities over their lifetime does not imply that culture is individual writ large.
Now, on the point of difficulty unraveling causes and factors in any given phenomena, Nisbett has an interesting point to make on this. The Chinese tendency to accept compromise, to see the truth in every point, and accept that some things are just beyond rational modeling, has been very detrimental to any stab toward a true science. The European tendency to be dogmatic about rational points and attack and tear down contradictions until a coherent model emerges is much more fruitful in the context of scientific progress-Europeans have made many mistakes (phlogistan? ether?), but for every hundred errors one discovers a gem of truth. In contrast the Chinese seemed to accept that the natural world as capricious because humans could not conceive of all under heaven and that the focus should be on social harmony, something which intelligent apes have a much better grasp of. Just because it is difficult does not mean that one should give up the quest, that is the Western view, and the view of those of us who accept that evolutionary psychology might be a bullshit factory, but it is the only game in town and gives us a better grasp of the understanding of human nature than just cordoning off certain avenues of research because they are difficult and prone to error.
Speaking of intelligent apes, Nisbett takes a parting shot and Murray & Hernstein near the end of the book, throwing cold water on the idea of psychometry. Nisbett points out that Westerners are trained from childhood to categorize and see patterns extrapolating from the traits of any given object. In contrast, Easterners see relationships, purposes, and the situational context. Nisbett illustrates two "culture fair" tests-one based on recognizing geometric patterns, and another assembling the geometric patterns into a greater whole, the former was a strength of Westerners, the latter of Easterners. "How can we test abstraction" seems to ask Nisbett when people think in such different manners. Well, Nisbett answers his own question, Asian-Americans can assimilate Western modes of thinking, and he gives examples of the reverse situation where whites can think like the East. Though somewhat different, these tests are still abstract, and Nisbett states in the book people can be trained to think differently rather quickly. Nisbett also doesn't seem to answer the question of why Asian-Americans, early 20th Chinese & Japanese who weren't as selection-biased as modern immigrants, do so well on Western oriented IQ tests. The easiest answer seems to be that they had no problem re-orienting their thinking because "Western" or "Eastern" conceptions of the universe are not highly contingent the structure of one's brain, but rather on preferences dictated by culture & personality.
Nisbett's book is worth a read, at least if you are a business-person or a marketer, but he really does not present any new axiomatic constructs that shift anyone's paradigm. This is a good read, though I suggest you skim over the sections that don't deal directly with studies, as they tend to be speculative and bleed into philosophy rather than social science.
fn1. Nisbett uses such terminology to contrast East & West, though of course not in a racial/genetic context, but MacDonald is correct as a matter of fact to contrast the lack of in-group coherence of Western man in comparison to other groups.
fn2. There is a 100,000 year gap between the emergence of material culture as we know it and anatomically modern man. I suspect that the brain grew in this period due to selective pressures to socialize, something which does not leave evidence for the palaeoanthroplogists to root through.
fn3. By this, I mean that if Chinese are on average more shy than Europeans, the former would have a greater susceptibility and propensity for a culture that values interpersonal harmony and focus on situation, context and a lack of emphasis on adversarial debate.
I will have to read the book to render my verdict, but this sort of rationalization seems inconsistent to me. How many times is Nisbett's interpretation tendentious like this? Seems like a just-so story, though I do feel there is a kernel of truth there. Also, does the "East" mean Chinese/Japanese/Korean, or does it mean "anything east of the Middle East"?
MacDonald is correct as a matter of fact to contrast the lack of in-group coherence of Western man in comparison to other groups.
MacDonald tries to have it both ways, actually. The thesis of his book is that American Jews were responsible for antiracist ideology and its consequences (civil rights, nonwhite immigration, and so on). He portrays this altruistic ideology as an unnatural transplant...but then turns around and depicts Western man as an innately tragic individualist. Needless to say, these views are inconsistent: either altruism was forced on the West, or they were innately altruistic. In my opinion, in-group coherence among Europeans only really evaporated after 1945, for obvious reasons. My thoughts on MacDonald are here.
Also, it's worth noting that semi-Western India has substantial internal self criticism, where anti-Hindu rhetoric on the Indian left is very comparable to anti-Christian rhetoric on the Western left:
Other prominent left-wing India haters include Praful Bidwai and Dilip D'Souza, the latter of whom actually called for an invasion of India.
You won't be surprised to know that Roy is friends with Noam Chomsky. What's the point? Economically speaking, India's GDP-per-capita is nowhere near the West despite notable growth in recent years. But politically speaking, lefty self-criticism is alive and well. If you believe that Western self-criticism is inherently a racial thing rather than a cultural thing, this is an interesting phenomenon.
I suspect that leftist anti-nationalist speakers are probably vocal in the advanced East Asian democracies (Taiwan, Japan, South Korea), but I'm not as familiar with the media in those countries. Comments from readers with further examples of non-Western self-criticism would be appreciated.
fn4. The "obvious reasons" being the awfully destructive effects of Hitler's Germany upon most of Europe, which made many people receptive to the idea that racism, war, and hatred were correlated. There were important egalitarian gentile movements before this time, most notably emancipation of the American slaves, women's suffrage, and Bismarck's welfare state...but open advocacy of white racial supremacy, "white interests", and racially based immigration policy was common place until just a few decades back.
fn5. NOT to be confused with American right-winger Dinesh D'Souza! ;)
Update from Razib: Nisbett's book is good for this one reason-it reiterates just how special the Anglosphere is! The book is based on a duality between East (China, Japan & Korea) and the West (the Anglosphere), but Nisbett does state that the East has a psychological make-up that is far more typical of humanity. Even Continental Europe, fellow white members of Christendom, are somewhere between the East and the Anglosphere + Scandinavia (ASS), rather than shifted toward their racial & cultural kin. The traits of the Anglosphere are obvious in their formal & public manifestations, liberty & individual rights, strong contracts and little clannishness, etc. But Nisbett's book shows how psychological traits on the individual level is just as unique as the superstructure of law & institutions that characterize government and civil society in the ASS cultures (ergo, no one is falling into social preconceptions shaped by conscious propoganda).
Nick Wade surveys the theory that humans are evolving now, contrary to the conventional assertion that culture, not biology, is driving the transformation of our species....
Here something that I am surprised that Wade included in the article:
Does anyone really buy this? Yes, the Flynn Effect is undeniable, but assuming the premises, that intelligence is heritable to some extent, that socioeconomic status (SES) has some relationship to innate intellectual capacities and low SES status has a positive correlation with fecundity-it doesn't take a rocket scientist to connect the dots. Oh, and by the way, I have heard several liberal friends who are in graduate studies in the biological sciences who express concern with the the dysgenic trends of our species, so it isn't only people "on the street" that wonder about this, when you get biologists off the record I suspect you hear a different tune.... (The collected papers of eminent evolutionary biologist W.D. Hamilton for instance is a case in point-there is quite a bit of embarrassing material for potentional pangyrists & friends)