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December 13, 2003



A lighter shade of brown....

Manish Vij keeps up on all things brown (desi) so I don't have to....

Posted by razib at 07:34 PM | | TrackBack


Small Problem

Following the overwhelming popularity (joke!) of a couple of geometrical puzzles posted by Ole and myself, here's another one.

Ivor Grattan-Guinness's Fontana History of the Mathematical Sciences, p. 566, mentions a neat little theorem in Euclidean geometry.

Draw a square, ABCD. On one of the sides, AB, construct a right-angled triangle AFB, with the hypoteneuse on AB, the vertex at F outside the square, and the angle AFB a right angle. Now bisect the right angle, and extend the bisecting line across the square.

The theorem states that the bisecting line also bisects the square, i.e. divides it into two portions equal in area.

As G-G says, it is a 'lovely' theorem, and remarkably it doesn't seem to have been stated before the 1840s.

But - alas - G-G doesn't give any indication of a proof.

So can you prove it, by elementary Euclidean geometry? (No need to go right back to the axioms, but state any intermediate propositions, e.g. 'angles at base of an isosceles triangle are equal').

I will post my own proof in a few days' time. Given the simplicity of the theorem, I thought it would be easy to prove. But I didn't find it that easy, and my proof is quite complicated. Hopefully someone will find a simpler one.

Posted by David B at 04:18 AM | | TrackBack


African AIDS

Interesting article in this week's Spectator (UK) by Rian Malan, headed 'Africa isn't dying of AIDS'. Here's a link.

The gist of it is that estimates of the incidence of HIV infection and deaths from AIDS in Africa are grossly exaggerated. They are not based on actual observed infection rates among representative samples, but on elaborate computer models which incorporate dubious assumptions. When the predictions are checked against hard data (such as infection rates among South African prison inmates), the predictions turn out to be wildly wrong. But the 'AIDS etablishment' has a vested interest in promoting exaggerated estimates.

I have no idea if this is true, but Malan presents a good case and he is not one of the 'HIV doesn't cause AIDS' nutters. It reminds me a bit of the mad-cow fiasco in the UK. A few years ago the 'experts' were predicting that hundreds of thousands of people might die of the human form of mad-cow disease (variant CJD). But actual deaths seem to have peaked at around 25 a year, and the 'experts' have quietly scaled down their estimates of total deaths to maybe a few thousand - and even this is probably still an exaggeration.

Posted by David B at 03:38 AM | | TrackBack


Anatolia again....
Posted by razib at 02:42 AM | | TrackBack


Nationcraft as Mythcraft

George Will once wrote a book titled “Statecraft as Soulcraft.” For many years historians have known that the modern handmaid of the state, the nation, is mythcraft. In the past ten years genetics has begun to highlight very sharp divergences from national myths and even linguistic and historical analyses (the latter often influenced by and used by the mythicists).

In the previous post on the origin of the Japanese I noted quizzically that the Yayoi people who were the primary determinants of Japanese identity originated in the Korean peninsula, but Japanese and Korean seem to be more disparate than languages separated by 2,000 years of history should be (compare the many vulgar Latin, Romance, languages or the tongues of northern India that emerged out of vulgar Prakits). Abiola Lapite notes that this should not surprise us that greatly, after all, neighboring languages in Africa (or Papua New Guinea, or Amazonia, or the Caucasus) can have no genetic relationship of recent origin.

I think that it is a reasonable explanation of the facts that the Japanese language (and the Yayoi people) are descended from a southern “Korean” ethnic group which differed linguistically from that of the primary Korean nation (see the thread in the previous post for links to the fully-fleshed theory as described in a book). But, it must be noted that more than science or history are involved, the self-conception of both the Japanese and Korean people need revision, and that self-conception is at the root of both their nationalisms.

It is fashionable to say today that the Japanese are derived from the Koreans, making the enmity and prejudice between the two groups peculiar[1]. I have heard Koreans dismiss the Japanese as a derivative people, Korean substrate leavened with Ainu. In fact, many Japanese I have met will freely admit Ainu ancestry, but seemed surprised when I asserted the Korean origin of their people. The facts outlined as below, and inferred from the divergence between Korean and Japanese today, are more complex than the standard revisionist narrative.

The Koreans themselves, often asserting that they are the world’s most homogenous people, the spiritual heirs of their mythical founder Tangun, are the end-product of a history of cultural assimilation and transformation. It seems that the Japanese are the cultural (and genetic) descendents of a people who were outside the main line of Korean development. The Korea of today was shaped by the Silla, Goryeo and later Choson periods. Today’s homogenous Korea is the byproduct of two thousand years of assimilation, the Japanese being a colony of the long lost “non-Korean” Koreans. The conflation between geography, history and culture have confused the situation to the point where the construction of a simple historical myth is more a work of fiction than a fantastical rendering of the past.

The process of assimilation and absorption of smaller groups, and the smearing away of linguistic and cultural diversity, has affected different parts of the world to various degrees.

For instance:

Europe is today mostly an “Indo-European” continent. Basque seems likely to have local roots, and the Baltic tongues of Finland and Estonia may as well. The Caucasian languages like Georgian are peripheral to Europe, but they too are likely “indigenous.” But this was not always so. It seems likely that the “Iberians” of southern Spain spoke a non-Indo-European language, as did the Etruscans (who might have been of Anatolian origin), not to mention peoples who might-or-might-not have been Indo-European before written history (Picts? The people of Stonehenge?).

China proper is today dominated by “Chinese,” one written language and a multiplicity of “dialects.” But the presence of hundreds of small “national minorities” in the highlands of southern China, and the historically attested origin of both the Thai (Dai) and Vietnamese peoples in southern “China” are a testament to the power of Han demographic expansion. Less than one thousand years ago the modern Chinese province of Yunnan was the center of a powerful Thai polity that fell to the Mongols.

India is often depicted as a civilization of innumerable babblings. And compared to China and Europe the linguistic diversity is greater. There are more scripts and many hundreds of small tribal dialects, but still two great linguistic families (Indo-Aryan and Dravidian, along with a few minor ones). About a dozen languages encompass more than 90% of the population.

In contrast, the New World, Papua New Guinea, parts of Africa[2] and the Caucasus reflect a much higher degree of linguistic diversity. Geography (mountainous refugium) and history (lack of centralized states) combine to preserve diversity in some parts of the world.

Within the more homogenous regions the echoes of ancients languages remain. English words like “boat” seem to be non-Indo-European, while philologists have spied the influence of a lost local substrate in both India and southern China.

Looking to the genetic evidence it becomes even more befuddled. The Japanese are a hybrid people. Instead of being a “special” race set apart they a rather conventional mix of Eurasian stocks[3]. In the early 20th century, when language was seen as good indicator of racial affinity[4] Finns were often thought of as Mongoloid, but genetic evidence shows a strong relationship with both the Swedes to their west and the Latvians and Lithuanians to their south. In fact, to the confusion of all, the Latvians and Lithuanians share with Finns and Estonians certain halplogroups that are absent from the peoples of central Europe[5]. The fact that Lithuanians exhibit the presence of haplogroups more characteristic of Finns and absent in Poles, with whom they have had a close political and cultural relationship for the past 600 years (and speak a similar Indo-European language), was something I turned into a whole post.

There are many other results that confound expectations. The sum affect is to give birth to a thousand questions, conjectures and hypotheses asking to be falsified or given further credence. For those interested in the movements of peoples and the history outside the bounds of the written word, these are exciting times.

But for others the proliferation of methods and the data generated cause problems. There are two groups who fear the current trend toward looking to genes to supplement historical and linguistic patterns.

First, there are the National Essentialists. These are people who are nationalists at the least, and racialists at the most. Historical questions are crucial to the identities of these people. They come in all sorts. From Native Americans that reject the Siberian origin of their peoples on the grounds of spiritual chauvinism to upper caste Indians who react with fury when told that they are genetically closer to their black-skinned Dalit neighbors than other “Aryans.” Genetics tends to throw the “Great Chain of Being” of these people out of kilter since they invest so much in the current state of knowledge, reverse engineering the facts to show their own heritage to be the most prestigious. If they hold that “group A” brought civilization to the world, and it turns out they are a member of “group B,” it takes great effort to reinterpret the facts so that group B are the jewels of God’s creation. Rather, instead of throwing out years of self-serving “scholarship,” this group will reject the genetic evidence as long as possible. The deductive moral-nationalist systems of these people demand a deterministic science that tells them beyond a shadow of a doubt what “kind” they are. But much of genetics is statistical, and can be interpreted in a variety of ways, often implying mixture and indeterminate ancestry. The gaps in the knowledge give them ground to reject the most obvious interpretations, but also makes it difficult to create a system of values predicated on Truths when Truths are subject to revision and skepticism.

Second, there are the National Idealists. The statistical nature of genetics gives them the room to reject all assertions of the movement of genes and people. Though a given set of results is provisional and subject to revision, they tend to deny the results a priori (or evince a divine skepticism) because they prefer to think that culture, ideas, are the prime movers, not peoples. They would say that the Japanese became Japanese by the replacement of Jomon by Yayoi culture. They would be cautious about accepting evidence that might imply that group A marginalized group B, killed group B, and so forth. Rather, they prefer the death of ideas, the extinction of languages, than the bloody (and not so bloody) replacement of one people for another. It is not only the movement of peoples that concerns them, genetic evidence that points to the prevalence of polygyny (PDF) or patrifocality undermines their attempts to rewrite the historical record on human nature to suit their “vision.”

Both groups are concerned with norms and re-creating idealized utopias. Their values might be different, one group worships the primacy of Blood and another idolizes the power of the Idea, but their enemy is the same, facts, reality, tightly constructed deductive models buttressed by empirical evidence, subject to provision, de-sacralized and reduced to the bare necessities that science demands, but no more[6]. They stand united as romantics against the unfeeling march of science and scholarship. Without the aid of natural science the human sciences have traditionally been hijacked and used as tools in the furtherance of ideological crusades[7]. But now that natural science has joined the fray (the scientists have the “back” of empirically oriented scholars and the reverse), the ideologues are terrified, their utopian visions always threatened by the encroachment of reality. The scholarship is strengthened and more difficult to dismiss when buttressed by genetics or skeletal morphology (augmented by computation).

Yes Virginia, there are people out there that live in terror of facts.

fn1. Remember the controversy when the Emperor of Japan admitted his Korean ancestry?

fn2. I believe that the Jomon people had more “beach comber” southern wave Out-of-Africa migrants while the Yayoi were probably more of the “central Asian” lineage. See Journey of Man.

fn3. Cavalli-Sforza did show that phylogenetic linguistic trees showed a surprising congruency with his phylogenies based on classical markers. See The History and Geography of Human Genes.

fn4. The Bantu language are actually very similar and reflect radiative expansion from the eastern part of West Africa in the past few thousand years. See Guns, Germs and Steel.

fn5. Look up TAT-C in PubMed.

fn6. When scientists that work in this field are interviewed by the press the are often cajoled or encouraged to offer “sexy” dollops of information that re-enforce or undermine the “standard” models of national mythology. A standard question would be, “Did the Aryans invade India?” And a standard honest response would be, “Uh, that depends….” What sells copy tends to win out though....

fn7. With the introduction of computers to ameliorate some of the subjectivity in comparing skulls and other fossilized remains some of the more non-scientific abuses of physical anthropology that occurred in the first half of the 20th century are not being re-introduced. In fact, the morphological evidence now seems to usually be in line with the genetic evidence.

Posted by razib at 01:40 AM | | TrackBack


Best film I've seen all year

The Station Agent. Go see it!

Posted by razib at 12:40 AM | | TrackBack

December 11, 2003



Japanese origins....

Dienekes links to an abstract calculating that the peoples of Japan are a hybrid population that has issued out of mixtures between the Jomon and Yayoi. Roughly speaking the latter are the most recent arrivals (from Korea, circa 0-500 C.E.), bringing the general cultural core of "Japaneseness," while the Jomon heritage is to be found in remnants among the peoples of Okinawa and the Ainu of Hokkaido[1].

The study linked estimates that moden Japanese are on average about 25% Jomon and 75% Yayoi as far as genes are concerned. This is in line with most other studies and was the ratio given in Bryan Sykes' Seven Daughters of Eve. The Ainu and Okinawans are admixed as well, but are more Jomon than Yayoi. The Ainu have sometimes been depicted as "Caucasoid," the pictures here to me indicate they look more "Native American." Clearly they are an ancient Eurasian population that does not exhibit to the same extent the stereotypical features of East Asians, the epicanthic eye-fold (I read once that the Ainu referred to each other as "Men of the same socket"), lack of body hair (ergo, "Hairy Ainu") and low-relief face. It is from the Ainu that the Japanese derive some of their phenotypic diversity, for certainly many Japanese are indistinguishable from Koreans or Chinese, but many also have larger noses and are more hirsute than continental East Asians.

Finally, I wonder if the Yayoi are from Korea why is the Japanese language not more obviously like Korean? I can speak Bengali, and the similaries between it and English (or the Romance languages) are obvious in many words, and the separation between Bengali & the European languages is at least 5,000 years, and more likely 8,000-9,000 years (if the new data is confirmed). The separation between Korean and Japanese should only be 2,000 to 3,000 years. One possible explanation is that before Chinese influence and the rise of the Korean culture in the light of history the peninsula was inhabited by many more diverse ethno-linguistic groups, and the Japanese are derived from one of the groups that were eventually assimilated into Korean culture.

fn1. I am skeptical of the idea of one Jomon language or culture. Certainly if evidence from the New World or much of highland southeast Asia is a clue the Jomon people were culturally and genetically diverse.

Posted by razib at 11:42 PM | | TrackBack


As the Franks do....

Religious attire is a big deal in France now. Here is the deal:

France has a super-high barrier of separation between Church and State, and public displays of religiosity are generally frowned upon and sometimes legally proscribed (though there are exceptions, read the articles linked above).

Here are some more details that are adding fuel to the fire:


  • Some French Muslim men are refusing their wives to be treated by female doctors
  • Some French Muslims want public pools segregated so that men and women swim during different times
  • Some French Muslim males refuse to take oral exams from female teachers
  • etc. etc. etc.

But, many (most?) French "Muslims" are as secular as French "Catholics." Many women of Muslim origin are agitating against the social acceptability of Old Country norms. Some French feminists, such as the notoriously sluttish Catherine Millet, are also speaking up. To add some star power Isabelle Adjani, whose father is Algerian-Turkish, also has backed the militant secularism of the French state.

Fact: 5-10% of French are of Muslim origins. They are also grossly underpresented in civic life. Additionally, they tend be of lower skill set and educational qualifications.

Fact: Many French, perhaps up to 50%, are the descendents of immigrants from other Catholic European countries (pre-1800 French are "Root French").

Jim Woodhill likes to speak of unleashing "Weapons of Cultural Mass Destruction." Well, it seems that the "depilated pudenda's" of Western women are not destroying the medieval values of some Muslims....

God(s) have mercy upon the French, because their own Muslims won't....

Posted by razib at 11:17 PM | | TrackBack


Do people think in binary?

Human beings have a problem "recognizing" numbers of objects much beyond half a dozen, at which point they start "counting." One, two and three seem almost primally hard-wired into the human conception of numeracy[1]. I have spoken several times about the problem of human typologies, where people tend to enforce you into their own conceptions.

One of the most common examples is of the Left vs. Right dichotomy. As a libertarian most often I am classed as a "conservative" (an appellation which I accept now more or less)-but some conservatives will label me a "liberal." It would often occur in college that I would mention I was a libertarian, and later someone to refer to me as a conservative, and I would correct them, and they would look at me confused and assert, "Yeah, a conservative."

Racially this happens in the United States when people speak of race. Until recently the discourse has been in terms of black and white. Back in 2000 when Bill Bradley was making race a central issue in his campaign a Latino reporter asked him on a West coast swing where his own group fell into Bradley's plans. The candidate was confused and didn't have any proper response. For him, America was still in black or white.

I could go on. But it was triggered in this train of thought by responses to the God's Chosen post.

1) Someone asks if the Jews of Kaifeng are Sephardic or Ashkenazi
2) Godless and I answer they're neither, I make a citation of their Persian origins, and jaimie elaborates on this point.
3) Someone again asks if they are Sephardic or Ashkenazi (said person who even cited evidence they are neither)
4) Again, there is a restatement there are other types of Jews

To non-Jews in the West, the Sephardic/Ashkenazi dichotomy is so iconic that groups like Yemenis and Bukharans are reinterpreted in this system with caveats. It is in fact a rather peculiar situation.

This binary mode of thinking is pretty frustrating, but it obviously has deep roots. There are The People and The Others. Among The People there are many kinds with all sorts of differences. The Others on the other hand are an amorphous group who are hard to distinguish.

Short illustrative historical vignette: When the Chinese arrived in Calicut on the southern Indian Malabar coast in the early 15th century, they noted two religions:


  • Muslims (who were merchants)
  • "Buddhists" (who were the ruling class and the peasants)

A few decades later, the Portuguese noted two different religions Malabar as well:

  • Muslims (who were merchants)
  • "Christians" (who were the ruling class and the peasants)

The point? There are Christians in the Malabar region, but the Europeans were not familiar with Hindus, so they assumed that Muslims == Buddhists. Some would argue that the very idea of Hinduism as a religious confession (rather than just the indigenous traditions of India) arose in response to the expansion of Islam, just as "Shinto" became an identifiable religion after the arrival of Buddhism.

fn1. See The Number Sense & The Math Gene.

Posted by razib at 05:10 PM | | TrackBack


IQ and the Wealth of Nations

In a series of recent posts - A, B, C and D - I questioned whether differences in IQ between nations necessarily had a genetic basis. Dienekes also has some excellent posts on the subject (November 28 onwards).

I promised not to return to the subject. I am now breaking that promise, but there are extenuating circumstances.

In comments on my last post, it was claimed that I was wasting everyone’s time by discussing the subject without first reading the book IQ and the Wealth of Nations (Praeger, 2002), by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen, because (a) I shouldn’t write long criticisms of the book without reading it, and (b) the book already contained answers to all the points I was making.

Objection (a) is wide of the mark, as my posts didn’t even mention the book, as distinct from the data on Richard Lynn’s website. But I took objection (b) to heart. I would hate to waste people’s time, not least my own. And if the book does answer my concerns, I would like to know how.

Unfortunately the book is not easily available in the UK, but a reader alerted me to a reference library copy (thanks, Nigel), so last week I trekked off to the library, placed my request, and waited anxiously for the book to emerge from the bowels of the library (possibly an apt metaphor).

What new evidence would there be? What devastating answers would I find to the points I had raised?

And the answer is.....

Zero. Zilch. Zip. Nada. Diddly-squat.

The book takes no firm position on the extent to which the IQ differences between nations are genetically based.

This is not to say that there is no mention of the subject. An early section covers ‘The Heritability of Intelligence’. This describes three methods of estimating heritability (MZA, MZ/DZ, and adoptive-parent/offspring), and concludes (page 25): “We have seen in this section that the three methods for estimating the heritability of intelligence yield closely similar conclusions and that the figure is around .80 or 80 percent. [DB: this is rather high, but I won’t go into that now]. The precise magnitude of the heritability of intelligence does not matter for the purposes of the arguments developed in this book. The significance of the high heritability of intelligence is that it implies that the differences in intelligence between the peoples of different nations are likely to have a genetic basis”.

The unsophisticated reader might take this as meaning that 80 percent of all the individual differences in IQ across the world have a genetic basis, or perhaps that 80 percent of the differences in mean IQ between nations are likely to be genetic. Of course, it means nothing of the kind. Strictly speaking, an estimate of heritability within one population implies nothing whatever about the heritability within any other (non-overlapping) population, still less about the differences between populations. Heritability of 100 percent within a population would be quite compatible with heritability of zero between populations. The most one can legitimately say is that if the genetic and environmental differences between populations are of the same kind as the differences within them, then a high heritability of IQ within populations somewhat increases the probability that the IQ differences between them are partly genetic. (‘Probability’ is used here in a loose, non-quantitative sense equivalent to ‘plausibility’.) The actual amount of any genetic influence would need to be investigated in each case. Presumably L & V would agree with all this, as it is standard genetic doctrine. It is a pity that they do not explain it more clearly for the benefit of their (direct and indirect) readers, some of whom may be very unsophisticated indeed.

L & V return to the subject towards the end of the book. In a section headed ‘Genetic basis of national differences in intelligence’ they say (page 193) “We believe that national differences in intelligence have a substantial genetic basis. Differences in national IQs have evolved over many thousands of years as a result of adaptations of human populations to local geographical and climatic conditions. We do not know to what extent differences in national IQs are genetically determined, but it is quite probable that they are at least partly genetic... [italics added] It is improbable that the genetic components of intelligence would have remained the same in all populations through tens of thousands of years, when so many other characteristics of the populations vary as a consequence of natural selection”. So far so good. I said much the same in my post B. The only point I would take issue with is the word ‘substantial’, which implies a claim about the relative size of genetic effects that needs to be demonstrated. The only direct evidence L & V offer on this point is a casual, undocumented, and oversimplified assertion about the effects of trans-racial adoption.

But in any event, L & V do not claim that differences in national IQ are wholly genetic. In a section on ‘Nutrition’ , they say (page 184-7): “No general consensus exists on what the environmental factors are that determine intelligence... We believe there is strong evidence that one of the major biological factors affecting intelligence is the nutritional quality of the diets of pregnant women, and the nutrition obtained by the fetus, and by babies, young children and adolescents; this affects the growth of the brain, which in turn, affects intelligence... the secular [i.e. long-term] rises in intelligence that occurred in Western populations during the twentieth century are largely attributable to improvements in nutrition... There were substantial improvements in the quality of nutrition of the populations of the western nations during the twentieth century that were responsible for increases in average height of about one standard deviation. The increases in intelligence have been of about the same order... There is little doubt that the extensive poor quality of nutrition in economically underdeveloped countries has an adverse effect on the intelligence of the populations... There is a growing consensus among experts in this field that poor nutrition is a significant factor responsible for low intelligence in poor countries.”

This is a substantial concession to the effects of environment. (See also the section on ‘Positive Feedback Effects’, p. 56.) If it is admitted that both genes and environment affect the differences in national IQs, then the question is how much, not whether, each contributes. L & V implicitly recognise that at least one standard deviation of difference in IQ may be due to environmental differences between populations. One standard deviation of IQ is 15 IQ points. The total cumulative increase in IQ scores (the Flynn Effect) has probably been rather more (I may post separately on this subject). Lynn has elsewhere recognised this, but claimed that part of the observed increase in scores is ‘spurious’: “The IQ gains on the Wechsler tests, amounting to approximately 3 IQ points per decade, should be regarded as genuine increases of intelligence, but the larger gains obtained by 18-year-old military conscripts on the Raven Progressive Matrices... are largely spurious. They are best interpreted as schooling effects.” (Lynn in U. Neisser (ed.), The Rising Curve, 1998, p. 212. Cf. L & V’s comments on schooling effects at pp. 188-9 of their book.)

Be that as it may, the cumulative increase in observed IQ scores, due to environmental differences of some kind, has in some cases been over 20 points. But most of the IQ differences between nations fall within a range of 20 IQ points, and therefore within the potential scope of environmenal influence. While part of these differences may have a genetic basis, we cannot determine, merely from the IQ data themselves, the size or even (in some cases) the direction, of any genetic differences. For example, L & V give the mean IQ of India as 81, and of the USA as 98 (against a UK mean of 100). But, even assuming that the IQ data are technically sound, we cannot say, from the data alone, whether in environments of equal quality the IQ of Indians would be lower than, equal to, or higher than that of Americans. In fact, the educational and economic performance of Indian migrants to the UK and the USA suggests that their ‘genetic’ IQ is relatively high. This could perhaps be accounted for by selective migration, but this is a hypothesis to be tested, not a mantra to be chanted.

The comments above are not intended as a comprehensive review of L & V’s book. L & V’s main purpose is not to argue about nature and nurture, but to demonstrate a correlation between IQ and economic performance. I think they are successful in doing this (I could quibble about many details, but won’t do that here). It is an important issue, and they deserve credit for raising it.

Posted by David B at 08:06 AM | | TrackBack

December 10, 2003



God's Chosen

Letter From Gotham ruminates on Jews & anti-Semitism.

Posted by razib at 11:50 PM | | TrackBack


Men @ play & pure science

On my post Ms. Math Amy Greenwood comments:



My general feeling is that women tend to be a bit more pragmatic about education than men. I have no data to support this except anectodal observations.


For me, math and physics are only marginally interesting at best.... until I need to build something, at which point math and physics are absolutely fascinating. Similarly, I had no interest in statistics until I needed it.

I think this is true to some extent. On the other hand, if women were so broadly pragmatic I would expect more to be in the Engineering Department and fewer in English Literature.

Pragmatism is important, but I think sometimes rhetorically our society de-emphasizes silly play and fanciful curiousity too much (I speak as one who engages in both more than most would prefer). My experience with women & software is that they are highly pragmatic. Pieces that talk about "outreach" to women so that they get involved in I.T. tend to emphasize the importance of making ends clear. The reason to me is that fewer women will play with a novel hard-ware configuration or try out a new computer language (say like Perl in the late 1980s) just for the hell of it.

Engineering and affinal fields often require years of abstract "play" with what might seem marginalia and not relevant to the practical end-point of making useful products. By the time a kid is 18, many boys (generally the nerdy kind) have been "playing" with computers, math and abstract and "useless" objects and perfecting skills that serve them well in fields like engineering, aside from natural cultural and possibly evolutionary advantages in the visuo-spatial realm and the items that are associated with said skill[1].

Shifting from gender, historically the Chinese have been very oriented toward pragmatic social ends. Their scholar class had little interest in pure science or abstraction for abstraction's sake (take that to the monastaries or forests), but rather perfected the human sciences of governance and administration. Among the many philosophical schools of pre-Imperial China (circa 6th century B.C.E.) the "logicians" had little status, but rather those who emphasized literature, the arts and cultural skills seized the high ground. The Chinese of course had engineering, but it was more of a trial-and-error sort rooted in individual genius or massive state mobilization in the face of short-term needs.

Concurrently in the West, the pre-Socratics who theorized about the natural realm were superseded by more ethically oriented systems of thought (Stoics, Epicureanism, etc.) that seemed to have more utility in the New Order of Hellinistic despotisms and later the Pax Romana. The less practical systems, like Neo-Platonism, did not concern themselves with abstracting on the natural realm, but the inner self and the world of "ideas," which in a fashion was more pragmatic as it furthered self-cultivation and importantly was easy to debase into magics.

My general point, playing with the world, playing with math, playing with machines, are not immediately practical. Socializing and cultivating a network of personal associates is. But the former build skills and habits that are important to the formation of science and the continuance of innovation. The Chinese for 2,000 years siphoned their best and brightest into practical endeavors and never developed a systematic pure science. Today, some classes oriented toward training female I.T. professionals emphasize slapping together pre-existing modules of code into a fully functional piece of software, so that these girls can see the more immediate results of their work. But this short-circuits the processes of low-level abstraction and cognition that are crucial for genuine innovation in this area (yes, many developers do nothing much most of the time but slap together modules, widgets, etc., but they have usually gone through the process of low-level coding so they know what's going on "under the hood").

Give a man a tool and he make what his ancestors made. Encourage a man to make tools and you give him infinite possibilities....

Update: Here is an article that indicates values, not aptitude, influence male gravitation toward mathematics and female aversion to such fields. Here is a telling quotation (and a response to Curt's economistic perspective, though I think Curt does have a point):


In 2002, women made up 43 percent of the incoming U-M Medical School class, but were just 14 percent of doctoral students in the College of Engineering.

Also, here is a citation of an early 1990s study of math SAT scores of males and females:


above 500 ratio 2/1

above 600 ratio 4/1

above 700 ratio 13/1

Also, here is a site with links to articles on mathematically gifted youth. Some of them deal with gender related issues.

fn1. Women are on average more socially adept than men and focus on verbal academics. So they have skills that lend themselves to fields like public relations or trial law.

Posted by razib at 02:55 PM | | TrackBack

December 09, 2003



Who is the fairest of them all?

Before I settled into my obstinate agnosticism about what "look" was optimal for the idealized human female, I once had a dispute with godless about the blonde vs. Asian attractiveness issue. This was back in the spring of 2002 when we had our own blogs. In any case, I found this site (a porn version of Amazon.com). It has the 50 most requested porn stars of all time and 25 most requested porn stars of the week (in the context of that site & its likely mostly American client base). It is a list that is somewhat "top heavy" with the bottle-blonde-bimbo look. On the other hand, the top request is the Eurasian Tera Patrick (Thai and English), and a few Asian and Eurasian actresses are always on the list (Jenna Jameson is a surprising #2). Additionally, there were quite a few more brunettes that I was expecting. Unlike lists compiled by celebrity magazines of the "most beautiful" people in the world, where politics plays a big role, this list as all about the shortest path between A & B....

Update: Matthew Yglesias is talking about porn too.

Update II: One main dispute in the thread spawned by this post has been how ubiquitous porn is in the lives of the male gender. "R" points us to this article in CNN that offers:

...Nielsen/NetRatings, which estimated that 34 million visited porn sites in August -- about one in four Internet users in the United States.

The average user is "looking at 121 pages, going back six times and spending an hour and seven minutes every month looking at adult-related material," Kaldor said.



Posted by razib at 09:11 PM | | TrackBack


Ms. Math

My friend "b" and later godless both expressed surprise that 29% of people who received Ph.D.'s in mathematics this year were female. This is peculiar in that in physics it is only 16.3% and 17.5% in engineering. My survey of the PUTNAM math competition earlier this year hardly yielded any women. What gives? Godless wondered if it was due to math education that this occurred. I am skeptical of this explanation because I believe most of those programs are masters, not doctoral. I decided to survey 3 elite university math departments to see what the pattern among their graduate students were. This is the sex ratio I got....

Harvard:
12 Women
26 Men
12 Unknown (this group is mostly East Asian, I can't tell gender)

MIT:
28 Women
57 Men
16 Unknown

University of Chicago:
27 Women
67 Men
9 Unknown

Excluding the "Unknowns" from the pool (who were probably mostly non-citizen Asians in any case), that gives 31% female graduate students at these universities.

I Instant Messaged "b" this afternoon, and I asked him the following two questions:

1) What was the percentage of girls in your high school calculus class?
2) What was the percentage of girls in your advanced physics class?

Though "b" asserted they were generally duller than the males, he offered that it was around 50% in calculus and 2 out of 7 in the physics class. The latter is a small sample, but my high school physics class was 3 out of about 25 students (these are non-"conceptual" classes I am speaking of). When I was in college I would ask around about this difference between the number of women in advanced mathematics and advanced physics courses, and most people had experienced it.

I suppose you could argue that there is a cultural/sociological explanation for this, sexism, patriarchy and so forth. If that is true, then the women in question are often deeply in denial, because I discussed this issue with mathematically gifted females rather in-depth, and these were not the answers they gave. Lack of interest, other academic priorities, etc. figured highly. My repeated question was this: if you can do calculus, what's stopping you from taking physics??? There wasn't one voice, and truth be told, I gave up trying to find out the reason. The most common response was, "Why should it follow that I take physics if I can do calculus?"

Perhaps it is a cultural bias. I don't know. But...from reading books like Number Sense and The Math Gene, it seems clear that various areas of mathematics, algebra, geometry, numeracy, etc. are dispersed in various parts of the brain. In other words, there is no one "math module". Add to this Greg Cochran's assertion that Jews have greater math but not visuo-spatial skills, and the peculiar representation of women in the mathematically oriented sciences might seem less strange. Perhaps math isn't so hard, but physics is. In other words, though the smaller variance in female general intelligence might be a strong factor in their numerical decline up the mathematical hill in the natural sciences, the bounce back up in pure mathematics after physics (going from biology->chemistry->physics->math) is because the visuo-spatial element, where males have a strong advantage, becomes less important.

Of course, this is rank speculation, and the connection of visuo-spatial abilities and mathematical ability is something that is asserted by many mathematicians when they explain how they do what they do. Camille Paglia could be right, guys have to pee standing up and calculate the trajectory of their urine stream, so they have an early head-start in mechanics....

Posted by razib at 07:14 PM | | TrackBack


More analysis of doctorates

I decided to combine tables 6 & 9 from the report noted in the previous post (as it was PDF I assume many readers didn't follow the link). These tables deal with:

1) The percentage of women in a given subfield (all)
2) The percentage of each race/ethnic group in a given subfield (U.S. citizens only)

With the proviso above that one data set includes non-citizens while the other does not, here is the correlation between sex (female) and each race in terms of their representation in the various fields:

-0.67 Asian
0.59 Black
0.32 Hispanic
0.36 Indian
-0.20 White
0.07 Other

You can double check me by downloading the excel file yourself. The only major thing that surprised me was that there are very few women in History (40%) compared to English, etc. (59%).

Field

% of Women (all

U.S. citizens who declared their race/ethnic group

Asian

Black

Hispanic

Indian

White

Other

All

Physics & astronomy

16.3%

48

18

21

2

513

10

612

Chemistry

33.6%

73

41

35

5

950

11

1115

Earth, atmospheric, & marine sciences

31.4%

10

5

13

0

422

9

459

Mathematics

28.9%

19

13

11

3

352

7

405

Computer science

20.8%

50

17

13

1

267

2

350

Engineering

17.5%

248

77

86

7

1392

22

1832

Biological sciences

44.7%

372

112

157

12

3023

47

3723

Health sciences

68.2%

55

66

29

3

940

12

1105

Agricultural sciences

30.8%

12

9

17

2

373

3

416

Psychology

66.8%

104

164

179

15

2186

36

2684

Anthropology

58.4%

10

21

22

6

306

8

373

Economics

27.7%

24

12

12

0

279

1

328

Political science/international relates

41.6%

16

36

27

2

412

5

498

Sociology

61.1%

17

41

21

7

334

10

430

Other social sciences

46.1%

23

41

20

2

406

6

498

History

39.9%

25

40

34

3

732

9

843

English language & literature

58.9%

25

45

28

5

688

17

808

Foreign language & literature

60.4%

13

10

82

2

311

1

419

Other humanities

49.0%

74

70

70

12

1718

43

1987

Teacher education

69.7%

4

21

9

3

167

1

205

Teacher fields

63.8%

9

50

20

2

407

7

495

Other eduation

66.3%

85

593

280

41

3416

60

4475

Business & management

38.2%

27

54

21

4

472

6

584

Communications

58.6%

5

30

10

0

219

6

270

Other professional fields

50.3%

16

57

15

7

424

4

523

Other fields

65.3%

0

1

1

0

11

0

13

Physics & astronomy

7.8%

2.9%

3.4%

0.3%

83.8%

1.6%

Chemistry

6.5%

3.7%

3.1%

0.4%

85.2%

1.0%

Earth, atmospheric, & marine sciences

2.2%

1.1%

2.8%

0.0%

91.9%

2.0%

Mathematics

4.7%

3.2%

2.7%

0.7%

86.9%

1.7%

Computer science

14.3%

4.9%

3.7%

0.3%

76.3%

0.6%

Engineering

13.5%

4.2%

4.7%

0.4%

76.0%

1.2%

Biological sciences

10.0%

3.0%

4.2%

0.3%

81.2%

1.3%

Health sciences

5.0%

6.0%

2.6%

0.3%

85.1%

1.1%

Agricultural sciences

2.9%

2.2%

4.1%

0.5%

89.7%

0.7%

Psychology

3.9%

6.1%

6.7%

0.6%

81.4%

1.3%

Anthropology

2.7%

5.6%

5.9%

1.6%

82.0%

2.1%

Economics

7.3%

3.7%

3.7%

0.0%

85.1%

0.3%

Political science/international relates

3.2%

7.2%

5.4%

0.4%

82.7%

1.0%

Sociology

4.0%

9.5%

4.9%

1.6%

77.7%

2.3%

Other social sciences

4.6%

8.2%

4.0%

0.4%

81.5%

1.2%

History

3.0%

4.7%

4.0%

0.4%

86.8%

1.1%

English language & literature

3.1%

5.6%

3.5%

0.6%

85.1%

2.1%

Foreign language & literature

3.1%

2.4%

19.6%

0.5%

74.2%

0.2%

Other humanities

3.7%

3.5%

3.5%

0.6%

86.5%

2.2%

Teacher education

2.0%

10.2%

4.4%

1.5%

81.5%

0.5%

Teacher fields

1.8%

10.1%

4.0%

0.4%

82.2%

1.4%

Other eduation

1.9%

13.3%

6.3%

0.9%

76.3%

1.3%

Business & management

4.6%

9.2%

3.6%

0.7%

80.8%

1.0%

Communications

1.9%

11.1%

3.7%

0.0%

81.1%

2.2%

Other professional fields

3.1%

10.9%

2.9%

1.3%

81.1%

0.8%

Other fields

0.0%

7.7%

7.7%

0.0%

84.6%

0.0%

Posted by razib at 03:46 PM | | TrackBack


Majority of doctorates given to Americans received by women

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports Women Take Lead in Number of U.S. Doctorates Awarded, as Total Falls Again. Here is the full report (PDF).

The female percentage by field:
66% in Education
55% in Social Sciences
50% in the Humanities
48% in Life Sciences
46% in Business & Professional
27% in Physical Sciences
18% in Engineering

There is always talk about how we need "more women in science." Well, that should be qualified as physical science & engineering. Additionally, let's see if the mainstream press starts to report about the initiatives of outreach toward males in Education and Social Science....

Posted by razib at 12:14 AM | | TrackBack

December 08, 2003



Let me induce...deduce...hypothesize...theorize....(?)

Here are the current results from the poll for GNXP readers:

100 people knew the definition for both deduction & induction.
4 people knew only induction.
10 people knew only deduction.
7 people knew neither induction or deduction.

Hunch: In the general population, there will be a higher proportion of people who will know the definition for deduction than for induction.

Post in the near future: In Praise of Patterns.

A mild suggestion for readers: an introductory survey of set theory and probability (which godless alluded to in the previous post) serves one well in making heads or tails in these discussions (the venn diagram for the above results is pretty obvious).

Posted by razib at 12:01 PM | | TrackBack

December 07, 2003



ISIR

Just got back from the ISIR Conference, which was phenomenal. Arthur Jensen was interviewed, and (to say the least) he had lead a very interesting life.

Thought some of you might be interested that I talked with Frank Miele and found out he has a new book co-authored with Vincent Sarich about race, unsurprisingly entitled Race: The Reality of Human Differences. He told me it should be out in a few weeks, although probably not for the hollidays.

Posted by A. Beaujean at 11:14 PM | | TrackBack


Standing athwart moral decay

A guest blogger at Muslim Under Progress criticizes the Muslim community's trend to the Left, noting that on moral issues it is the Right that shares values with Muslims. There is a special focus on the issue of gays.

  • This sort of post from someone that is quite obviously not a fundamentalist should convince homosexuals (and others on the cultural Left) of the folly of multiculturalism. New immigrants will not be allies in the quest for individual liberation.
  • The poster wonders if incest will be accepted in a generation. I might respond that conservative Christians see in Muslims a culture that promotes and accepts incest already. They might not call it incest, but homosexuals don't call their behavior "sin" either.
  • Homosexuality might be an issue where Muslims and conservative Christians can make common cause. But there are plenty of differences. Conservative Christians in the United States for instance have no nostalgia for slavery or polygamy, and no matter what the moderates say, these issues are not resolved in the context of Muslim culture, rather, it is the hand of Westernization that is making them unacceptable. In fact, conservatives often assert that polygamy is the next step after homosexual marriage is accepted.
  • Also, though Muslims might take a dim view of homosexual practice (my parents think they should be killed, moderates that they are), it seems to me that the sexual puritanism of Muslim culture promotes homosexual activity to some extent in the same fashion that enforced gender segregation in prison gives rise to that sort of behavior. Of course temporary marriage is a "practical" way to allow men to have sexual "outlets."
  • The above link mentions that sexual instincts are very strong. So you have practices which conservative Christians would say is licentious in Islam, temporary marriage and polygamy, that are concessions to human nature. What if there is more definitive evidence that homosexuality is biologically rooted? What sort of practical accommodations will Muslims make?
My main general point is that I find Muslim Under Progress a fascinating blog, as it shares enough axioms with the Westernized mindset that you can understand what they are trying to talk about. Fatwa Online as a contrast is about as comprehensible to me as the canonical debates about the number of angels on the head of a pin-they might be seem important in the context of a certain world-view, but are ridiculous if you step outside out of it. Nevertheless, the chasm in outlooks is still evident. In this post, the author talks about incest, obviously meaning brother-sister or parent-child variety, but if you looked at it from the perspective of a Westerner, a north Indian Hindu or a Korean, Muslims tend to condone incest in most of their cultures. I found Thebit's Islamic Human Rights series interesting, but it also scared the shit out of me, because frankly from where I stand many Muslim thinkers are pretty scary on this issue and I wonder if the likes of Thebit have much influence on the rank-and-file.

Traditional Judaism, whether it be the rabbinical kind or the revisionist mysticism/cultism around Hasidism, is not appropriate for a modern society (Israel needs tax-paying secular and more conventionally religious Jews to support their wacko pre-modern segment of society). I'm sorry, but most forms of "modernist" Islam aren't suitable either. We don't need people to chip away at this idol, I pray that some Muslims will start taking the hammer straight at the foundations....

Posted by razib at 09:48 PM | | TrackBack


What's in a name

While I'm blogging, I have a few surname related questions.

Why is "Wilson" so much more common than "Wills," but "Williams" is so much more common than "Williamson"?

And why is "Charles" such an uncommon surname? It is south of 3,000 in rank!

Here is the 1990 CENSUS tabulation of surnames. A survey about the general pattens in American surnames. And of course, the origins of the 100 most common surnames.

Posted by razib at 08:50 PM | | TrackBack


Can you tell me if I'm black or Asian?

So the previous thread doesn't get off track, on whether Tiger Woods looks more "black" or "Asian." I think in the American context he does look black. But there is a great deal of overlap between human races in phenotype. For instance.

Here is a picture of Tiger Woods.

Here is one of a dark-skinned Cambodian girl.

Here is a picture of Nelson Mandela.

Here is a picture of the former president of Indonesia.

Here is a picture of the current president of Indonesia.

Here is a picture of the current president of Bangladesh.

You get the picture.

Posted by razib at 08:34 PM | | TrackBack


Butcher of blondes

Abiola comments on the murder of a British hostess by a Japanese tycoon and launches a broad-side at Steve Sailer's Is Love Colorblind article. As I've noted before, this is a topic where everyone has their own opinion, and of course, their opinion is the conventional perspective of the whole human race, but I thought I'd point to Abiola's piece, since this is a topic of some interest even if I'm not brave enough to really take any particular position. But, I will say this, years ago I saw a documentary on the divide between light-skinned blacks and dark-skinned blacks on PBS. One of the individuals, a dark-skinned woman who was attractive, if not smoking, commented, "Doesn't matter if they're fat, pimpled or have an ugly face, as long as they're light-skinned." I suspect some brunettes could paraphrase that, but switch it to "as long as they're blonde."

Posted by razib at 06:41 PM | | TrackBack