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June 19, 2004



Open thread

This is kind of a test, since we don't have a discussion forum option anymore. So here's a open thread where you can leave questions and what not. I'll leave a link to this thread on the sidebar above "Recent Entries."

Posted by razib at 10:10 PM | | TrackBack


Paging Spencer Wells, Part II (sort of)

A few weeks ago, I asked where Spencer Wells might be. Matt Pope emails me again:


Dear Razib,

I had a post on your site not too long ago about contacting Spencer Wells, and I recently was called on the phone by a guy who viewed that post. He is working on a documentary for PBS on Clovis sites, and was looking to get in touch with Dr Wells. The only problem is that I erased his message before I was able to phone him back and give him the information he's looking for.

You're not in contact with this guy are you? If so, could you send me any contact details you might have?


So "Clovis sites" guy, call Matt again. And no, I'm not a messaging service, at this rate, I might have to start a "Dear Spencer" blog. Also, check out Matt's site. Rather interesting.

Posted by razib at 09:52 PM | | TrackBack


Using the tools of the opponent

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a strong aversion Islam. My rather sharp reaction to the article that I commented on below which highlights a possible interweaving of the British state with Islam is due to what I perceive as the discouragements toward apostasy implicit within the proposals suggested. But, during my recent trip to Bangladesh, I found that my most religiously orthodox relatives were the easiest to reason with during disagreements. Frankly, this surprised me.

The key to understanding this is that much of the "traditionalism" that I object to (or dissent from on a personal level) in Bangladeshi society is implicit. Because of its implicitness, dissenting from or examining the customs and traditions of old is a very difficult proposition, the upholders of custom & tradition are not prepared to, and likely can not, elaborate the reasons behind their beliefs. In contrast, the Muslim religious reformers in Bangladeshi societies often hew to explicit axioms which serve as the basis for their conception of a "perfect" society. Because I was dissimulating, and hid my atheism, it was an easy trick to selectively pick hadiths that my uncles mentioned, and turn them around to justify my positions which tended to express a stance that exhalted individual choice and preference (I just had to make sure I nested that choice within the constraint of the will of Allah).

The only caveat that I would like to reiterate is that my uncles are highly educated, and so amenable to rationalized and axiomatically grounded arguments. I am not so sure that all Muslim reformists have this viewpoint, though I suspect that many of the leaders do. Within the more militant segments I suspect though that a different, more unbalanced personality type, tends to rise to leadership positions.

In any case, I will offer the tentative idea that perhaps we must expect many Muslim societies to make a transition through some form of "fundamentalism" to prime them for an axiomatically oriented liberalism (the axioms being undergirded by an organic skeleton formed during the transitory period). That is, though many "traditional" societies in the Third World are more tolerant and pluralistic on the whole than Islamist societies, their openness is illusory and not manifest on the individual level. The "fundamentalist" stage might be conceived of as a transitional state that reduces the organic social structures that block the emergence of a liberal democratic individualist society (think of Europe during the age of the Wars of Religion).

Addendum: One must note that the democratic societies of the Far East, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, have not gone through such a "fundamentalist" state, but at least in the case of Japan (the society that has been democratic the longest), it seems that a genuine liberal democratic individualist spirit in the Western sense has not emerged. Rather, a different, more communal form of liberal democracy reigns.

Clarification: I used the term "fundamentalist" above. I hate to get too picky about semantic issues, but I guess I should define exactly what I mean. One of my uncles is very active in the Tabligh movement, while another is an imam who is associated with it. Here is what you need to know:


Tabligh an arabic word that means to reach out, to make known or to publicise. To make Islam's message known to people is called tabligh. Tabligh movement tries to inspire everybody to do virtuous acts, and refrain from doing misdeeds and to call others to follow the true path of Islam. Allah has sent prophets in different times for tabligh and in the absence of prophets, the responsibility is believed to have been devolved upon the tabligh.

The activities of Tabligh Jam'at began in Delhi in 1920 at the initiative of Maulana Mohammad Ilyas (1885-1944). Today the tabligh movement has transcended the borders of the subcontinent and taken the shape of an international organisation. Ever since its inception, the movement has been working for strengthening the belief of Muslims in the fundamentals of Islam and inspiring them to abide by them.


The movement, from what I gather, and from the literature I've seen, tries to stay out of politics (ergo, political violence, etc.). Its focus is on "personal virtue" and making sure Muslims follow the shariah. It is basically a lay movement to reform Islam in the subcontinent. In addition to the 5 pillars of Islam, the movement has 6 principles that its followers adhere to. In general, it is a "rational" movement in that books are central to the propogation, and once you can wrap yourself around one of its principles, you can convince them of anything (my experience) so long as it doesn't contravene Islam. A good analogy is probably with Christian revival movements that try to "purify" the practice and belief of people who are already within the fold.

Posted by razib at 04:44 PM | | TrackBack

June 18, 2004



Love, chemistry, capitalism and socialism

Carl Zimmer and Randall Parker are both talking about love & chemistry (and evolution & monogamy) over at their blogs, check out their posts (follow the links). Also check out Imbler Volokh's genius-on-the-street perspective on mating & dating issues here, here and here. So why do women focus on being sexy so much? Well, the fact that America is a serially monogamous society where there tends to be a "male shortage" as women push past 30 (there are more men than women in age cohorts past 28, the pairing of older men with younger women accentuates the imbalance as far as mating goes).

All this goes to show that there are important biological and individual considerations to take into account when it comes to mating and dating. Systems like "arranged marriage" are not romantic precisely because they are hyper-rational, taking into account data about potentional partners in a very empirical fashion, sometimes resembling command-style economics. When I was in Bangladesh, there was a young woman my mother wanted me to marry who seemed rather uninterested in her university coursework, and my uncle stated, "I know she is genetically intelligent, her father and her uncles are all rather intelligent and professional oriented." This sort of gleaning of data of the extended family tree is common. Not that this sort of thing doesn't go on in conventional (from the American perspective) mating & dating scenarios, but I tend to perceive the system as somewhat ass-backwards in that inter-personal compatibility is assumed to follow after inter-familial compatibility is ascertained. How's that for kin selection? In some ways, assortive mating is extremely strong in arranged marriage systems, but sometimes I wonder if parents also make sure that their "wild" child pairs up with a more conformist and stable individual when possible, nudging atypical personalities toward a more conventional social channel. In contrast, we've all seen the assortment of like-with-like in American society, as deviants have formed their own subcultures of freaks, geaks and all those goths.

So here's an analogy for you: arranged marriage is like socialism or corporatism, Western style marriage is more like the free market mediated by individual preferences. Which would you bet on? I guess that depends on what you think a "good end" is.

Posted by razib at 10:15 PM | | TrackBack


Thank Allah for separation of Church & State!!!

I know many conservatives complain that "separation of church & state" is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, and I also know historically that a moderate level of state establishment of denominations persisted in places like New England deep into the 19th century, but articles like this from England point us to how fortuitous some American legal traditions have been in dealing within the brave new world of "multiculturalism." The article is published in The Guardian, so it's not a right-wing tabloid. Here are some "recommendations" made by a group of Muslim intellectuals & educators:


  • "compulsory religious education from 14 to 16, a new A-level in Islamic studies and a teacher of Islam in all Muslim-majority state schools for Muslim pupils who withdraw from religious education."
  • "all majority Muslim schools should provide a teacher of Islam for students who withdraw from collective worship"
  • "Insensitivities included organising cooking and dancing classes involving Muslim children during Ramadan"
  • "The study also proposes schools should adapt physical education changing facilities, such as communal showers, to comply with privacy codes, and consider prayer rooms for pupils over the age of 10"
  • "It calls for a reversal of the trend towards mixed-sex schooling, saying many parents would prefer their children educated separately at secondary level. "

I am bolding the last part about mixed-gender education for a very important reason. I believe that some level of gender mixing is crucial for the continuance of liberal democracy. I haven't fleshed out my thoughts totally on this issue, and have been predated by centuries of debate about the "civilizing impact of women" on the male gender, but my experiences in segregated gender societies where men and women do not talk to each other in a socially intimate manner suggests to me that something is missing in these societies (from the perspective of liberal democrats!).

I am not here suggesting that what we need is even full-bore equity feminism, though that is my preference. The level of gender mixing common in the early 20th century West would suffice. I would would like to reiterate my position that there is something deeply "natural" about gender segregation and "oppression" of females in complex societies, it is a stable equilibrium, so to speak. In other words, patriarchy is inevitable. I would be comfortable with all that stuff about Allah, and prayer and what not, as long as genders kept mixing, beause I believe that this social interaction is a very important exercise in moderating the tendencies of both sexes.

In many places in Europe, like England or the Netherlands, where there is more funding of religiously sanctioned activities and facilities than in the United States, they will be faced with issues of how to be balanced in their treatment of various faiths in the context of new pluralism. Frankly, I have always found the feminism card handy in preventing the multicultural tendencies of anyone I'm talking to from getting the upper hand, but recently, it hasn't been as powerful, as people are more likely to respond, "well, that's there culture" [fill in the blank about treating women like chattel].

So again, separation of church & state, three cheers!. Now, how about separation of race & state? Separation of ethnicity & state?

Addendum: Guest blogger Randy McDonald has spoken of how only 10% of American Muslims attend mosque regularly. Assuming that this is projectable to Europe, that 10% is the portion likely to be politically active, ergo, take control of government monies that might be directed toward the "Muslim community".

Posted by razib at 09:01 PM | | TrackBack


Selective sweeps Out-of-Africa

Here's a paper titled Genome Scans of DNA Variability in Humans Reveal Evidence for Selective Sweeps Outside of Africa (via Dienekes), something I've been hearing about for a year or so now from various people. The abstract notes: "A disproportionate number of these loci exhibited reduced levels of relative variability in non-African populations alone, suggesting that recent episodes of positive selection have been more prevalent outside of sub-Saharan Africa." In contrast, some have suggested that the prevalence of pale skin outside of Africa is evidence of relaxed selection.

Posted by razib at 08:23 PM | | TrackBack


The Asian smart fraction

Griffe is arguing that overall IQ score overpredicts East Asian GDP because their verbal IQ is lower. The standard caveats on Lynn's data-sets apply. Also, a few other question marks:

1) Griffe looks at Ph.D.'s awarded to Asian Americans, and notes more in science and engineering, and fewer in other fields. He also notes the lower rate of passage of the bar among Asian Americans (after offering cautions about the clustering of various Asian groups together). My personal anecdotal impression is that the representation in fields like law among Asian American is directly proportional to the average length of residence of the immigrant group in the United States. That is, Japanese Americans are more well represented among lawyers than South Asian Americans or Taiwanese Americans because they are long term residents of the United States who are fully acculturated and have a full command of the all the basic idioms from a young age because of their parental & peer (native American) environment. In contrast, fields like engineering or medicine are more technical, so cultural fluency is less relevant.

2) Griffe offers a hypothesis about how Northeast Asians attained higher visuo-spatial IQs because of their hunter-gather environment. I have been skeptical of the idea that the IQs of modern day populations have origins at such a far remove from the present epoch before, so I won't repeat myself, but I find it curious that Northeast Asians excel in technical professionals when historically their cultures lionized literary intellectuals (more so Chinese and Koreans than the Japanese). That is, Confucian Mandarins attained their high status through passing examinations that were focused on interpretations of elements of the literary canon. Though the Chinese were a numerate people, my personal impression from reading history of science is that they were mathematically unoriginal in comparison to the Indians or Greeks, though their engineering feats have been noted. Richard Nisbett's Geography of Thought offers a tentative socio-cultural hypothesis for why East Asians do well on the visuo-spatial section of IQ tests (see my post).

3) I could bring up many quibbles with the specifics, but Griffe implies that the low verbal IQ (relatively) makes East Asians underperforming capitalists, but this only seems to apply in their homelands, as Chinese do well in southeast Asia, and in the United States, Korean shop-keepers abound (who are stereotypically not big talkers). Rather than verbal IQ, there seems to be strong socio-cultural constraints that prevent East Asian economies from going into over-drive generally (and there are always the specifics like Hong Kong, Singapore or Japan which might be pointers to the fully realized future).

It seems to me, assuming much of what Griffe says is accurate (and I think I have signalled my skepticism on the specifics), a society with both the technically proficient and verbally adept is optimal for the material well-being of all. In any case, I think the verbal IQ gap is small enough that Griffe's case is much weaker here than it was when he was analyzing Jews.

Posted by razib at 03:27 PM | | TrackBack

June 17, 2004



More shallow Media reporting

Koin 6 News up here in Portland, OR just reported on a story of adult strangers targeting teens for sex. While this is nothing new in our country, the news people decided to make an unusual turn that if they had taken to completion would have been interesting and controversial.

Towards the end of the story they interviewed a teen, who grew up overseas and is just now in America, about how she feels. She stated to the reporter that "in Israel I don't feel threatened by strangers"

Now, anyone who reads this blog would have spoken up immediately and said; well the stronger cultural ties inside Israel would dissuade the individual from those deviant acts or the fact that the Israeli population comes predominately from a high IQ group (Jews) would indicate that individuals would be able to understand the consequences of their actions. But no, we get a story scaring the public of how more "dangerous" America is.

No wonder they are setting this movie in Portland.

Posted by scottm at 11:30 PM | | TrackBack


Racist bobbies

Here is an article from the The Economist on the "whole racist cops in Britain" issue. Full article below.

The Macpherson millstone
Jun 17th 2004
From The Economist print edition


Efforts to combat racism in the police are failing. Time for a rethink

THE existence of institutional racism is so widely accepted these days that the concept has been institutionalised. The police first admitted the charge in 1999, following a damning report by Sir William Macpherson, a retired High Court judge. Sir William's definition—“the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin”—is plastered on the walls of training centres and regularly drummed into new recruits. As an interim report published this week by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) reveals, though, it hasn't done them much good.

Before 1999, most coppers associated racism with a few “bad apples”—malicious officers who simply needed to be plucked out of the barrel. Sir William's report encouraged them to see it as an unconscious prejudice infecting the whole organisation. That is probably more realistic, which is not to say more useful. “Institutional racism makes sense if you have a PhD,” says one senior officer. It does not, however, make sense if you are trying to reform an intransigent outfit like the police.

There are plenty of signs that, after several years of enlightened theory and much effort, the police have been unable to change their discriminatory ways. Between 1999, when the Macpherson report was published, and 2002-03, street searches of blacks and Asians in London increased by 89%, while only 22% more whites were searched. More vivid proof came from a BBC documentary in October, which exposed racism of the white-hooded type among police trainees and led to the current investigation.

As the CRE's report notes, one new attempt to screen out the unwittingly prejudiced seems to have had the unfortunate effect of reinforcing discrimination against ethnic minorities. Applicants to the police are now subjected to role-playing exercises and interviews designed to uncover their prejudices. If they fail, they are out. Nobody can explain why, but whites do best on the test (see chart): just 23% failed in the past year, compared with 34% of black applicants and 45% of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.

Why have attempts to change police culture been so unsuccessful, even counterproductive? The problem seems to be that officers cannot understand how they can be collectively racist without being individually racist. Valerie Vaughan-Dick, who oversees the police's race and diversity training, reports that many trainees interpret institutional racism as “a slur on the whole police service”. Confronted by the concept in the classroom, they simply cross their arms and keep quiet, knowing that they will soon be back in the station house, where different notions apply.

More sympathetic souls, meanwhile, find themselves at a loss for what to do. The bad apples theory may have been naive, but at least it pointed to a solution. It is much harder to know how to combat institutional racism. As a result, those who wish to do nothing tend to prevail. The paralysing effect of the label is so powerful, says Trevor Phillips, head of the CRE, that it has become a useful defence against reform: “People have used the concept of institutional racism as a means of preventing further inquiry.”

This is true not just of the police. In the past two years, the “institutionally racist” label has been pinned to outfits as diverse as the NHS, the Football Association, and the theatre industry. As with the police, the accusation has been met with a mixture of derision and a throwing up of hands. Time for a new concept.

Posted by razib at 11:27 PM | | TrackBack


Doing good for those who don't need it

The Economist has a strinkingly biased (anti-affirmative action) article (full article below) out that reviews Thomas Sowell's new book, Affirmative Action Around The World, and another publication from an obscure academic that is more pro-affirmative action. The money shot is this:


Though such policies are supposed to help the poor, their beneficiaries tend to be quite well-off. The truly poor rarely apply to enter university or bid for public-works contracts, and so cannot take advantage of quotas. The better-off quickly learn how to play the system.

When you delineate a "disadvantaged group," you almost always include within this set those who are not particularly disadvantaged, because of the natural imperfections that go along with any typology. It seems that this subset is the one that most benefits from affirmative action programs, and further soldifies their status within the class-caste system. "Systems" by their nature are more easily manipulated and exploited by those who need the system the least. This does not apply only to affirmative action. Foreign aid to Bangladesh invariably is used by the "talented tenth" (or "lucky tenth") to perpetuate their structural advantages over the "bottom" 90%. Sometimes you can live with these imperfections, Mahathir Mohammed, architect of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in Malaysia, which shifted some of the wealth of the country from the Chinese to the Malays, has admitted that only a minority of well connected Malays have benefited from it, but he states that it is crucial that the common Malay see plutocrat Malays to buttress their own self-worth. I will not dismiss these sort of calculations out of hand, but to me, this is the reality of the world, let's stop this talk of "justice," as all these policies have become immutable parts of the legal cosmos of the societies that implement them (Mahathir now complains of the parasitism of the Malay middle and upper class).

Affirmative action

Advantages for the advantaged
Jun 17th 2004
From The Economist print edition

Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study
By Thomas Sowell

Yale University Press; 256 pages; $28

Buy it at
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

Affirmative Action is Dead; Long Live Affirmative Action
By Faye J. Crosby

Yale University Press; 352 pages; $30

Buy it at
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

HERE are two books on “affirmative action” from the same publisher. One is by a black man, the other by a white woman. Thomas Sowell's “Affirmative Action Around the World” is a delight: terse, well argued and utterly convincing. The best one can say about Faye Crosby's “Affirmative Action is Dead; Long Live Affirmative Action” is that it is less badly written than the average academic tome.

Mr Sowell takes the reader on a fascinating tour of the ways in which the preferential treatment of chosen groups has been applied in India, Malaysia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and the United States. Some groups singled out for a leg-up are minorities whose members have suffered discrimination in the past, such as American blacks or India's untouchables. To atone for the injustices inflicted on their forefathers, these groups have been granted favours, such as preferential access to universities or jobs. Other groups favoured in similar ways have never been discriminated against, but nonetheless do worse at school and in business than their neighbours. Examples include Malays in Malaysia, who earn less and learn less than their Chinese compatriots, and the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, who have long lagged behind the Tamils.

Mr Sowell's insight is that regardless of the supposed moral basis for preferential policies, the results are often remarkably similar. Though such policies are supposed to help the poor, their beneficiaries tend to be quite well-off. The truly poor rarely apply to enter university or bid for public-works contracts, and so cannot take advantage of quotas. The better-off quickly learn how to play the system.

Once affirmative-action policies are instituted, their proponents tend to credit them with all subsequent advances by the intended beneficiaries. Mr Sowell shows that this is bunk. Malays, for example, have done better in Singapore, where they do not receive preferences, than in Malaysia, where they do. And in America, blacks were working their way out of poverty at a faster rate before affirmative action was introduced than after. Supposedly pro-black policies have in some ways made it harder for blacks to find jobs. “The ease with which discrimination charges can be made,” writes Mr Sowell, provides an incentive “for businesses to locate away from concentrations of blacks.”

Mr Sowell's book is brief, but crammed with striking anecdotes and statistics. He tells of the family of recent Cuban immigrants with a $500m fortune who won American government contracts set aside for disadvantaged minorities, and of how preferential policies in Nigeria and Sri Lanka caused ethnic polarisation and, eventually, civil war. He shows how lowering the bar for certain groups dulls their incentives to excel. He quotes, for example, the architect of Malaysia's preferential policies, the former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamed, who laments that his fellow Malays now regard university places as a right, and so neglect their studies.

Ms Crosby's book is longer but covers less ground. She writes as if America were the only country in the world, and the Californian campus consensus the only set of opinions a reasonable person could hold. “Thoughtful scholars”, she tells us, “wonder why affirmative action has not elicited unwavering support” among Americans. They should read Mr Sowell's book and find out why.
Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study.
By Thomas Sowell.
Yale University Press; 256 pages; $28

Posted by razib at 09:13 PM | | TrackBack


Interracial relations increasing in Canada?

Statscan has a press release out that documents the rise in interracial relationships in Canada over the past 10 years. Seeing as how the "visible minority" segment of the Canadian population is small (13%), this shouldn't be that surprising, but, considering that it is concentrated in the major urban areas where segregation has been an issue, it is a good sign of integration. Some highlights:


Of these couples, 53% consisted of a woman who was a visible minority and a man who was not, and 47% the reverse.

Japanese were the most likely visible minority group to marry or live common-law with a non-Japanese person. The second and third most common groups were Latin Americans and Blacks.

Among the least likely to form a partnership outside their group were South Asians and Chinese.
...
People in mixed unions tend to be younger and foreign-born, live in large urban areas and have a higher education.


Via the Mixed Blog.

Posted by razib at 08:52 PM | | TrackBack


Fact checking his ass

A piece which fact-checks David Brooks, author of Bobos in Paradise and On Paradise Drive, about his assertions about "divided America," is I think a bit unfair in its harshness (the author's puncturing of Brooks' generalizations were not statistically robust enough for me to justify the sneering), but overall he makes the point that confirming stereotypes with research and analysis that is validated by their fit to those stereotypes seems a bit circular. I don't read many of Brooks' columns (this is the one element of mainstream media that I think blogs have superseded), but I have read his longer pieces and Bobos, and it seems to me that his "optimistic conservatism" founders on the reality that in many ways conservatives are losing the culture wars. Like Dinesh D'Souza in What's So Great About America, it seems to me that a certain brand of Right-leaning intellectual wants to conflate the victory of capitalism with the victory of conservatism (analogous to those on the Left who view the tendency toward social tolerance that seems dominant among the youth as a sign that the next generation would lean toward government mandated redistributative justice).

Posted by razib at 02:43 PM | | TrackBack

June 16, 2004



Republican Scientists?

This poll by Hart Research Associates (found via FOXNews) indicates that while college students overall favor Kerry to Bush (42% to 30%) science and math majors favor Bush over Kerry (35% to 31%). Now, while this is simply a slight lead for Bush, I have to wonder what would make this one group prefer Bush. Is it that science majors are trained to test their beliefs? Is it that humanity majors are more attached to ideology? Or is it something else? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Posted by scottm at 10:35 PM | | TrackBack


The fleeing social capital of Bangladesh

A quick look at the economic statistics of Bangladesh will tell you that it isn't the most prosperous of nations. A comparison to Malaysia is positively embarrassing. I bring this up because a cousin of mine asserted that many people in Bangladesh believed they needed their own Mahathir Mohammed to whip their country into shape. I pointed out though that Bangladesh does not have a productive and industrious minority that it can bleed to further the quality of life of the majority.

But this was not totally true 50 years ago. Just as individual humans display variance in abilities and inclinations, so do groups. For example, the taboos and restrictions placed upon Orthodox Jews by their religious beliefs created a situation where many became jewelers (the same can be said of Indian Jains). In 1947, eastern Bengal (what is today Bangladesh) was professionally and economically dominated by a minority group, Hindus. Today, Hindus form about ~10% of Bangladesh's population (down from 30% 50 years ago), and it is likely that this proportion will keep dropping in the near future.

The Hindu domination of the professions and trade was so great that 1947, marked by the partition that resulted in East Bengal becoming part of Pakistan, resulted in the decapitation of the educated elite of what would become Bangladesh, as prosperous Hindus streamed toward Calcutta (unrelated point, a large portion of the remnant Muslim intellectual class was killed by the Pakistanis during the 1971 rebellion). My father has noted when he was a student at Dhaka University about half the students in his classes were Hindu (Hindus were probably around 20% of the students in his age cohort). Additionally, a cousin of mine told my father that a famous business district in his home town, once dominated by Hindus, is now dominated by Muslims.

One uncle of mine has tied the public squalor dominant in much of Bangladesh to the decline in the Hindu population (his ideas are presented in a series of books, so I can repeat them easily). His reasons are two fold:

1) Since Hindus formed much of the "advanced" segment of the populace, their decline could only but result in a regression.

2) Hinduism by its nature, in contrast with Islam, fosters national pride and this-world-ness.

Point one seems trivially obvious, but point two is more contentious. From what I know of Bengali Muslims, I would say there is a tension in their mental life between being Bengali and being Muslim. I have noted before that my uncles who are the most thoroughgoing fundamentalists are the most open to rejecting traditional modes of Bengali life (whether that be arranged marriage or abandoning use of the language abroad). Bengali Muslims in many ways live a dual mental existence, on the one hand, proud of Hindu Bengali thinkers like Tagore, but on the other hand, enthusiastic members of the Dar-al-Islam. This sort of national schizophrenia can not but have serious consequences for nation building. In contrast, Hindus have no problem embracing Bengali culture, as by and large they are the creators of this culture, and Hinduism is open to regional variations and ways.

In addition, my uncle has tied the emigration of Hindus from certain deltic areas to erosion, arguing that Hindus have a mystical attachment to the land, while Muslims are more likely to think in the short term. I am inclined to dismiss such thinking out of hand, but, I do recall that one story that my father likes to tell is of the Bengali Muslim who goes to a Hindu area, and sits on a rock, at which point the local villagers attack him. The joke is this: they worship the rock! This sort of dismissal of nature worship is fine and good, but I can not but help think that without this sort of mentality the environmental situation in much of India would be even worse than it is, and the situation in Bangaldesh suffers from the lack of spiritual significance Muslim Bengalis see in their environment (American South Asians who are Hindu also have displayed and environmental awareness that I have found positively shocking for those who have immigrated from materially deprived Third World nations-the same sentiments are totally absent among immigrant Muslim South Asians).

Of course, Bangladesh has many Muslim professionals and business-people, aren't they as good as the Hindus? The economic statistics above speak for themselves. I don't doubt that many Muslims are sincere, but it may take generations for social capital to accumulate. The transfer of business to native Africans after the expulsion of Gujarati traders in the 1970s in Uganda is a reductio ad absurdum of the process that I'm referring to, that is, the emigration of a Hindu businessman with decades of international contacts is not going to be balanced by the emergence of a local entrepeneur in his place who takes over his property (often acquired through connections). The flight of the Hindus has resulted in more poverty for the people of Bangladesh.

So why do they flee? There are two primary causes:

1) external
2) internal

The external pull is Calcutta, or more broadly speaking, Hindu Bengali regions just across the border. Calcutta is the cultural mecca of Bengalis, as well as the commercial capital of eastern India. In West Bengal Hindus can live in an area where their temples are revered, and the old traditions of Bengali culture do not have to co-exist in a constant state of tension with the pull of international Islam. The fact is the only difference between a Hindu Bangladeshi and a Hindu West Bengali India is A) a difference of paper nationality B) locale. The latter might matter a lot to many individuals, as families might have resided in the same village or city for generations. But migration is part of human history, and after multiple generations, I find it implausible that a given Hindu family will not flee to the more congenial lands of India when given the chance.

The other push is internal. Bangladeshi Muslims obviously discriminate against Hindus (and then there are the occasionally violent outbursts). Knowing that Hindus are over-represented in urban areas, and disproportionately educated, I got the impression that they were rather non-existent in public life. Hindus are marked out by their names (which are Bengali rather than "Muslim," that is, Turkic, Persian or Arabic), and I noted that of the 17 bank directors at a local financial institution since 1871, all were Muslim. Though Bangaldesh is not an Islamic fundamentalist nation, expressions of Islamic brotherhood permeate everyday life. The newcasts end with "Allah Hafez." My cousin who is at the officer training school has to say "Salam, Sir." How would a Hindu offier-to-be deal with this? Well, I suspect they wouldn't think of joining the army. It seems that Hindu social networks are closed off from Muslim ones, if my family is any judge (note that the importance of family in delineating social networks makes this so). Bangladesh is a nation of Muslims, and it is clear that any non-Muslims have to deal with the reality that nods to Islam will soak their daily life.

So you get the tendency of Muslims who complain that their nation is filled will illiterate beggars, who simultaneously drive out a religious minority of co-ethnics who bring a fair amount of social capital to the table. These sort of paradoxes abound in Bangladeshi life (another common one is to bemoan nepotism while socializing only with your family).

The terrible economic situation in Bangladesh results in migration to India of Muslims. They go not for liberty, but for economic opportunity that is lacking in their homeland. So, the flight of the Hindus to India, which is a partial cause of the deprived economic situation in Bangladesh, results in Muslims fleeing to India!

Back to Malaysia. Thank god for the Malays that:

1) China is further away from Malaysia than West Bengal is from Bangladesh.
2) China has been a basket-case for much of the 20th century. Discouraging back-migration.
3) The Malay attempts at chauvanism have been mild enough to prevent the Chinese from fleeing.

As it is, the Malaysian state expelled Singapore in the 1960s to get rid of the spectre of Chinese demographic dominance, at the cost of losing a strategic port that brough a lot of economic benefits to the union.

Posted by razib at 06:08 PM | | TrackBack


We need a word

It occurs to me that we have a well-established word for hatred or fear of foreigners or of foreign countries (xenophobia), but we have no corresponding term for hatred of one's own country or fellow-citizens.

No doubt hatred of other countries is more common than hatred of one's own, but the latter phenomenon is common enough to deserve a name. It is particularly common among left-liberal 'intellectuals' in Britain and the USA, though in Britain it also has a more subtle variety in the form of Europhilia (think of Chris Patten or Ken Clarke): the belief that Britain is so hopeless at everything that we might as well just give ourselves up to Europe.

Anyway, can anyone think of a good word for it? By analogy with xenophobia, the best term might be politiphobia (literally, fear of fellow-citizens), but this would be liable to be confused with fear (or hatred) of politics or politicians, which is quite another matter. Another possibility would be patriophobia (fear/hatred of one's own country), but pedants will object to the combination of Greek and Latin roots. Homophobia (fear of the same) would avoid this objection, but has already acquired another meaning. Anti-patriot would be a good Latin form, but tends to suggest hostility to patriots, not hostility to one's country.

Of course, one could use the good old term traitor, but that might be a bit over the top.

Any thoughts from our erudite readers?

Posted by David B at 12:43 PM | | TrackBack


Race, Sex and the Police

The report on ‘racism’ in the British Police by the Commission for Racial Equality has now been released and is available here.

The report in the Sunday Times which I mentioned earlier turns out to be (characteristically) somewhat exaggerated. The psychometric tests designed to ‘weed out’ racists do not ‘only pick out blacks and asians’ (as suggested) but they do reject a higher proportion of blacks and asians than whites.

The recruitment process is intended to assess seven ‘competencies’, including ‘respect for race and diversity’. Candidates must obtain at least 50% marks overall, and not less than 44% in any of the seven competencies, except ‘respect for race and diversity’, where anything less than 50% is unacceptable. (Well, of course, ‘respect for race and diversity’ is more important than, say, being able to catch criminals.)

Alas, it turns out that under this part of the assessment process 42% of Chinese applicants are rejected, 34% of blacks, and 32% of Asians (i.e. mainly of Indian and Pakistani origin), against only 23% of whites.

The CRE are deeply concerned by this finding, and propose to carry out further research into the reasons for the disparity in rejection rates. It is worth noting that the ‘diversity’ criterion covers sex, sexual orientation, disability, etc, as well as race, so it is possible that non-white applicants are being caught out over sexist or homophobic attitudes, which are not unknown among ethnic minorities in Britain. (That's a bit of litotes for you.)

[PS: apologies if this gets posted twice. It hasn't appeared on the site after about 10 hours, so I'm pressing the button again.]

Posted by David B at 03:55 AM | | TrackBack

June 15, 2004



You adorable little c***

Humorous story out of Colorado University. It seems that CU presideNT Elizabeth Hoffman thinks the c-word can be used as a term of endearment.

Cross posted at my blog.

Posted by scottm at 05:06 PM | | TrackBack

June 14, 2004



On the fertility of greatness

My previous post praising celibacy seemed to have hit a mild nerve. Unfortunately, no one offered much evidence (including me) on what the average fertility of great scientists and artists have been measured over time. In the spirit of some data collection, I will attempt to find the number of children of the various Fields Medal winners since 1936 and post it later in this week. If someone knows of studies that have for example:


  • Surveyed the average number of children of the typical N.A.S. member.
  • Surveyed the average number of children of a Nobel Winners.
  • Or surveyed the average number of children of "Great Thinkers."

Pass it on. I have only a finite amount of time, so I'm going to concentrate on the Fields Medal since it is given to mathematicians who seem to have attained a level of greatness, and that seems the most "g-loaded" field out there. I want to reiterate that I would be happy to see a positive correlation between intellectual achievement and fecundity. Before I move on, I would like to stipulate a few points:

  • I am speaking on the level of populations, so though I expect the fecundity of great scientists to be mildly depressed, I am not asserting that it will be 0, nor am I denying that there will be internal variance so that many will have a great number of children (in other words, I am speaking statistically, not deterministically, that is, more free time increases the chances for stumbling upon insights, rather than guaranteeing them, or being a necessary condition [see the life of Isaac Newton]).
  • I am not also not denying there might be a positive correlation within the population of "great scientists" between fecundity and eminence if one supposes that perhaps more mediocre scientists have to put in more time into their work to achieve the same level of reknown. Without data, we can spin many theories and offer various propositions.
  • As for how this pattern might have persisted over the generations, I offered the idea of inclusive fitness popularized by W.D. Hamilton, where a great intellectual might help in the careers of his siblings and neices and nephews, so aiding in the spread of his genes indirectly.
  • One idea that came to me when thinking of this in the context of inclusive fitness is that if assortive mating has increased to the point where "great scientists" tend to breed only with each other and their own families, forming their own subpopulation, so their own siblings are also scientists and assorted thinkers, perhaps this process may longer be at work as the fertility of this whole subpopulation is in a downard spiral. In other words, more and more great scientists might have no siblings to aid (ergo, no neices and nephews) or siblings who are less brilliant and spending all their extra time publishing so as to attain tenure (ergo, no neices and nephews).

Addendum: My real point in the previous post was to highlight the importance of a niche for childless celibates in a society to promote those who produce goods & services that 1) glorify their own reptuation 2) and so glorify the society in which they reside. I did not mean to imply that all great scientists or artists had to be childless.

Posted by razib at 07:20 PM | | TrackBack


The many faces of George W. Bush

If you listen to some on the Right, George W. Bush is a liberal in Republican clothing. If you listen to some of the Left, he is the most reactionary president in the history of the United States. What gives? I think the key is the variance of George W. Bush's policy prescriptions and beliefs. The mean of George W. Bush's political positions might put him somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum, but he tends to espouse positions comfortably on both the Left & the Right (thanks to his tendency to follow his "gut" and stick to this decisions). In contrast, George H. W. Bush, the current president's father, probably fell in the middle of the political spectrum by espousing mostly moderate policies, so he did not suffer from attacks in the same way from both flanks (though moderation in itself draws a fair amount of fire).

Update: Yeah, you're all right, I'm wrong. Sorry :)

Posted by razib at 05:59 PM | | TrackBack


Funday Times

This week's London Sunday Times (13 June) claims that the UK's Commision for Racial Equality is threatening to take legal action against various British Police authorities for 'flouting race laws'.

The CRE has carried out an inquiry into alleged 'abuses' by the Police. Among the findings of the inquiry are that:

"A national psychometric test devised to weed out potentially racist officers was found to pick out only blacks and Asians".

This is the funniest thing I have read all week.

Or have I just got a warped sense of humour?

Posted by David B at 02:46 AM | | TrackBack

June 13, 2004



More nonsense from President Bush

From a commencement speech President Bush gave (free reg. req'd):

Our greatest failures as a nation have come when we lost sight of our compassionate ideals...Our greatest strength as a nation is that we bravely face our flaws and do our best to make things right. Our greatest successes as a nation have come when we broadened the circle of protection and inclusion. And this work is not finished. We will press on until every person shares in the promise of our country.

I also found this statement quite alarming and ignorant [edit: I have lengthened this quotation to include greater context]:

So in Africa and elsewhere, we are leading the fight against AIDS and other diseases. Where there is famine, our country provides food. Where there is desperate poverty, our country provides developmental aid. Where there is natural disaster, even in hostile nations, America is eager to help. And where there is tyranny, America works and sacrifices for peace and freedom. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world; it is the almighty God's gift to all humanity.

If the "liberty we prize" is "God's gift to all humanity," why has the vast majority of humanity been denied it throughout human history? Just a few hundred (and maybe a lot less) years ago everyone in the world lived under what most Americans today would consider tyrannical governments.

For more on Bush's multiculturalist, big government, and invite the world/invade the world ideology, read this article by Steve Sailer.

Also, Steve, Lawrence Auster, and Abiola on why George W. Bush is no Reagan.

Addendum

Godless also wrote an excellent post about the more radical "invade the world/invite the world" neocons back in January.

Posted by bb at 12:38 PM | | TrackBack


Flyby + 4 years

Cassini-Huygens just flew by Phoebe. That might not mean much to many readers, but those who kept track of the Galileo Mission are going to get to see even more spectacular fireworks as Cassini-Huygens explores the Saturn system over the next 4 years (been long enough coming!). Of course, the big event will be the dropping of the probe to Titan late in the year. Let's hope there aren't any malfunctions....




Posted by razib at 06:59 AM | | TrackBack


A question of relativity

Cosma Shilazi notes:


By modern standards, the religious situation in al-Andalus was one of serious and systematic violation of basic human rights; which is not to say that it wasn’t, for much of its history, the most tolerant part of Europe!

Using Muslim Spain or the early Ottoman period as explicit models of toleration is problematic in that they don't hold a candle to modern Western conceptions of pluralism. On the other hand, what extra utility does it gain us to note that they were relatively tolerant in the context of their times? The simple message of tolerance, pluralism and freedom needs no historical buttressing in my mind, in large part because history from the time of Sumer has been all about oppression, war and intolerance. Going back to the context of Muslims, the "Golden Age" syndrome seems particularly pernicious, as many Reformist Muslims make an argument for Islam's feminist credentials based on comparisons with 6th century pagan Arab culture, or, more cleverly, the property rights of 19th century British women. There is a simple answer to these arguments: that was then, this is now, what have you done lately?

Posted by razib at 01:21 AM | | TrackBack


Thumbs up to these genes!
Posted by razib at 12:55 AM | | TrackBack