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September 11, 2004
The Smoking Kern?
From Hugh Hewitt's quote of Robert Cartwright, computer scientist and typography expert at Rice University:
The typed text in the "Killian memos" is kerned (check out letter combinations like "fo" and "fe"), but the Composer text is clearly not. Kerning is a computationally complex task beyond the capacity of any mechanical typewriter--even one as expensive and elaborate as the IBM Selectric Composer. Moreover, the proportional spacing in the sample text is rather crude (look at the typesetting of "11" for example) which is the best that a mechanical typewriter--even one as complex as the Composer--can do.
CBS pdf of the May 19 memo.
Zoom in on the "fo":
Is this the smoking kern? More on kerning:
Judge for yourself.
(btw, this is GC. I removed myself from the MT control panel because I wanted to take some time off from blogging, so I had to post under a co-blogger's account. However, this scandal broke just then and I thought this was worth posting.)
Like CBS, the original document was tilted to the left. I did my best to correct for it and added some horizontal guides:
It does seem as if the f is excluding volume above the o, even taking the rotation of the original document into account.
Interesting article in today's London Times on the background to the Chechnya dispute, by the philosopher and commentator A. C. Grayling. It's one of the very few pieces I've seen even to mention that Russia wants control of Chechnya in order to control Caspian oil supplies (though oddly he doesn't mention that Chechnya itself is a significant oil producer).
For full text (from Times Online) see the continuation.
September 11, 2004
The reason of things
Exactly seven years before this week of endless Beslan funerals — on September 9, 1997 — an agreement was signed between Russia and Chechnya allowing oil to flow to the Russian port of Novorossiisk on the Black Sea. It officially ended the first Chechen war, and gave the key to why the conflict had happened. Some commentators claimed at the time that world thirst for oil had been instrumental in bringing relative calm not just to Chechnya but also to the whole region. Into this volatile terrain were pouring hordes of businessmen and criminals, scarcely distinguishable from each other, eager to profit from Caspian oil, Turkmenistan gas, Uzbekistan cotton and Kirgiz gold.
Peace had come, the commentators continued, because the region offered such rich opportunities that war could no longer be tolerated.
To say that this uncontrolled dash for the region’s resources had brought peace was like saying that a fire had been extinguished by dousing it with petrol. As American and European interests in the region burgeoned, Russia strove to maintain its grip on those parts of the original Soviet possessions which had not escaped into independence. In particular, the Chechen oil pipeline — the only one taking Caspian oil to the Black Sea — was vital, so in December 1994 the Russian army responded to Grozny’s efforts at independence by invading, to assert Moscow’s control over the pipeline and, therefore, the region’s economy.
The frightful war that followed, its re-ignition in 1999, the excoriating terrorism that has spiralled from it, might have been predicted from a single fact alone: the maze of animosities that history and religion have between them bred, from the old Ottoman borders in the Transcaucasus to the pass of Jiayuguan at the western end of China’s Great Wall. It would take an epic to do it justice, embracing as it must the Ottoman genocide of the Armenians in 1915 — in which over a million and a half were murdered — and then, working eastwards in space and back through time, to the destroyer Genghis Khan, who put whole cities to the sword.
For a flavour — a mere taste — of the complexities, note this: the Georgians are Caucasians and speak a South Caucasian language, but the Ossetians are Indo-Europeans, descended from the Alans and related to Persians. The Ossetians practise Islam, Christianity and paganism, and are involved in territorial disputes with Georgians and the Ingush. Ossetians are allied with Russia, Georgians are not. Most Georgians are Orthodox Christians, although some minorities in Georgia are Muslim.
And so on. This passage comes from an internet letter disputing a version of Caucasian history in which the collaboration of Chechens with Hitler against Stalin (Hobson’s choice!) is offered as justification for Russian attitudes to Chechnya. According to the letter writer, the author of the anti-Chechen history does not understand the subtleties of ethnic and religious diversity in the region. How many outsiders, on this evidence, can? Anyway, the point is that such diversity, once released from the grip of an overarching police state, inevitably causes friction and fragmentation. It would happen without the evil allure of oil, but oil makes everything vastly worse, because into the local quarrels come dollar- laden foreigners, buying and bribing in their desperation for the Earth’s black blood. Control of the pipelines, accordingly, becomes a reason for mass murder. If oil did not matter, some other prompt for fighting would be needed; but — just perhaps — none might be found.
All this partly explains the background to the Beslan tragedy. It does not, for absolutely nothing can, excuse it.
Celebrity baby boom
A lot of people are concerned about the low birth rates in western societies today.
In several posts I have argued that this concern is exaggerated. Here I pointed out that current birth rates are out of evolutionary equilibrium, and we should expect them to rise again, and here I reported some evidence that this may be beginning to happen.
On a lighter note, I think I also mentioned somewhere that there seemed to be a lot of young female celebrities having babies recently. Since then I’ve noticed several magazine headlines and articles about the ’celebrity baby boom’, so it seems to be more than just my imagination………...
I haven’t done any systematic research on the subject, but here is a list of some of the leading actresses and fashion models having babies over the last few years (one baby each unless otherwise stated):
Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman (2), Reese Witherspoon (2), Denise Richards, Kate Hudson, Cate Blanchett (2) Julia Roberts (pregnant with twins), Laura Dern (pregnant with her 2nd), Liv Tyler (pregnant), Catherine Zeta-Jones (2), Jennifer Connelly (2), Mira Sorvino (reportedly pregnant), Kate Winslet (2), Thandie Newton, Samantha Morton, Kate Beckinsale.
Claudia Schiffer (pregnant with her 2nd), Kate Moss, Christy Turlington, Elle McPherson (2), Helena Christensen, Stella Tenant (2), Jasmine Guinness, Nikki Taylor (had twins before her career was cut short by a car crash), Stephanie Seymour (pregnant with her 4th), Kirsty Hume, Kristen McNemany, Carolyn Murphy, Amber Valetta, Trish Goff, Angela Lindvall, Natalia Vodianova.
I think it would have been very unusual in the 70s or 80s for a young actress as successful as Reese Witherspoon or Uma Thurman to have two babies at their age. The opportunity cost of each baby must be high, as it takes at least 6 months out of the actress’s working schedule. That means missing out on at least one major movie role, and probably over a million dollars in lifetime earnings.
Admittedly some of the models (e.g. Christy Turlington and Elle McPherson) had passed their peak (and in Christy’s case semi-retired) before having a baby, but this can’t be said of e.g. Angie Lindvall or Natalia Vodianova. Having a baby is even more costly for a model than for an actress, as models have a shorter peak career and are more dependent on keeping a perfect figure.
I’m not claiming any deep significance for celebrities as such, but the celebrity baby boom may be part of a shift in attitudes in society generally away from total career-orientation. And celebrities must have some impact as role-models: when other young women see Gwyneth Paltrow or Kate Hudson carrying their babies everywhere, and gushing about the joys of motherhood, it is bound to affect them to some extent, if only to reassure them that wanting babies is not ’uncool’.
Indians aren't Aryans (or Dravidians)?
There is a important new paper (you can view the full PDF if you follow the link) out that surveys the genetics of South Asians viewed from the angle of mtDNA, that is, the direct female lineage. If you follow this stuff, you won't be surprised to find out that the authors conclude that "Since the initial peopling of South and West Asia by anatomically modern humans, when this region may well have provided the initial settlers who colonized much of the rest of Eurasia, the gene flow in and out of India of the maternally transmitted mtDNA has been surprisingly limited." Why surprising you say? Well, about 3/4 of South Asians speak Indo-Aryan languages which have an affinity with other branches of the Indo-European family, and likely derive from the environs of the eastern Black Sea. The "conventional model" was that such a linguistic dominance implied a volkswanderung where the fair skinned Aryans enslaved the dark skinned natives (Dasas), and the broad spectrum of coloration that expresses itself in some concordance with caste was the result of intermarriage between the two groups.
The problem with the model in light of the data above is that most of the South Asian mtDNA pool seems to have diverged from the lineages of Iran before 10,000 years ago, with many coalescence times on the order of 30,000-50,000 years. Philological analysis makes South Asia an implausible ur-heimat for Proto-Indo-European (PIE), so that seems to scratch out the possiblity of a volkswanderung outward. But even a possible expansion of "Dravidian" farmers during the Neolithic from the Middle East (some linguists postulate an affinity between Dravidian and an ancient language of Southwestern Iran, Elamite) seems to have been moderate in its impact.
The work of Toomas Kivisild, one of the primary authors of this paper, is the linchpin of the argument presented by Stephen Oppenheimer in The Real Eve that India is the mother of all Eurasian lineages. Oppenheimer's argument demands very little mixing between subpopulations since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM).
I did note that Oppenheimer seemed to ignore research headed by Spencer Wells which pointed to a strong exogenous element in the Indian genetic structure that displays a Northwest-Southeast cline. Additionally, he did not publish late enough to read a more recent paper that makes the argument for the expansion of a supermale lineage in Northern India 3,500 years ago. These papers focused on the Y chromosome, which seems to show more signatures of the "invasion" and "immigration" that is characteristic of histories of the subcontinent, but seeing as this is the male lineage and disruptive migrations are likely "male mediated," this would not be surprising. Unlike the mtDNA papers, there are those who dispute the exogenous origins of the haplogroups in question, so I tend to think that a predominantly indigenous (that is, lineages extent in South Asia prior to 10,000 years ago) narrative is more probable (that is, the case for mtDNA being indigenous is stronger than that of the Y being exogenous).
Addendum: The authors note that Cochin Jews carry mtDNA lines that are predominantly Indian. Unpublished data indicates that the Bene Israel Jews of India have a high frequency of the Cohen modal haplotype, that is, they share ancestry with other Jewish groups. Traditionally the Cochin Jews have been more Jewishly aware than the Bene Israel and maintained their contacts with the world Jewry, so I would be surprised if their Y line was non-Jewish where the more outwardly non-Jewish Bene Israel retain the Cohen signature.
September 10, 2004
I thought readers would be curious as to the "top 10" clicks-throughs on this site:
The Red Queen : Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature
Now, all of those books except one (to my mind) are either:
1) widely cited on this blog through links in the entries (like The Mating Mind).
The great exception to me is Survival of the Prettiest : The Science of Beauty. This book is consistently one of the top click-throughs. Why? I would assume that the topic is appealing to people, even in the context of book lovers, looks & sex are still a priority.
The Left's latest assault on Darwinism
Joan Roughgarden, author of Evolution's Rainbow, was recently interviewed over at the left-wing Alternet website about her latest idea: that Darwin's theory of sexual selection was wrong. Why does she believe this? Read, and laugh...
First off, let us begin by her answer to Alternet's question as to why she first started to question the "traditional view of homosexuality in nature" (the article defines this as the "idea that since homosexuality is not a reproductive strategy, according to Darwin it's an aberration that should die off").
Ok... I won't even touch that. She goes on to say that she considers the whole "good-gene idea to be suspect" and how "scientists have been trying to prove this idea experimentally, and it never bears out." I'd like to see where she gets her data for these statements. However, this is where things begin to get weird.
According to modern figures, yes, in some countries, a "typical couple has sex once a week for 50 years." However, it was not always this way. She seems to be completely ignoring the fact that today, there are many, many methods of contraception that have been developed which prevent pregnancy so that people can have sex (to fulfill their ingrained sexual desires to reproduce) without having to worry about pregnancy. Hundreds of years ago there were methods of contraception, as well, but, of course, they were not nearly as widely used as contraceptives are today. She's basically applying modern statistics to all of human history. There aren't six billion people in the world today because people only have two children in their lifetimes. This is a major fallacy.
OK, sex may have multiple functions. This is a legitimate idea. However, just because it might have multiple functions does not mean that it does not also have a primary function, ie, reproduction. Unfortunately, she doesn't say this. Instead, she develops a whole new theory as to why sex exists.
I'll admit, I'm not a biologist. I'm a political scientist who is absolutely fascinated with various aspects of evolution and evolutionary psychology. However, it doesn't take a genius to see all the problems with this statement.
The bonobo is the Left's favorite primate. Unlike warmongering chimps, bonobos "make love, not war." They are peaceful, don't fight amongst themselves, cooperate with each other, and are always doing something sexual. Many believe that because humans most likely evolved from from an ancestor, not yet found, like chimps instead of bonobos, we also evolved with the chimp's violent tendencies. "If only we could be more like bonobos!" the Left says. I'm ranting here, I know, but I constantly hear this.
Back to the subject at hand, I don't have a clue where she got the idea that sex provides greater "access to food that the animals need to survive." And back to the bonobos, she says, "genital contact is how they say hello; it's how they communicate." Oh yes, if only we were more like those peace-loving bonobos, we could go around and touch each other's genitals instead of speaking to each other, and we can all be sexually liberated!
I can see a sexual harassment lawsuit already.
Eh, I'm ranting here. She then proceeds to take it upon herself to rename sexual selection:
The problem here is that she didn't create a theory to fit the data. By her own statement, she started with an assumption that she developed at a gay pride parade and it appears that she looked at data selectively to develop a theory that matches her assumptions. This is where we get to the true reasons as to why she thinks this is important.
I'll definitely have to look this book up. If that's all the book is about and doesn't have dozens of citations to studies to back up her theories, then she has little credibility. Until then, I can't pass much judgement about the content of the book.
Most importantly, however, I think this highlights something of equal importance. From what I can tell, what Joan is doing is conducting a wholescale revision of Darwinist theory, for the simple reason that many things about it are against her principles. Stephen Jay Gould tried to do this in order to convert the theory to support his Marxist principles. I hope we are not again seeing another chapter of this.
Sorry about the long post, and feel free to post lots and lots of comments.
September 08, 2004
Millions In Los Angeles County Struggle To Read, Write English
I wasn't going to blog on this story since the information seemed pretty obvious to me (i.e. "you mean L.A. with it's high Mexican illegal alien population also has a high iliteracy rate? Say it ain't so!") But this line caught my attention;
A majority of adults who enrolled in literacy programs wanted to learn skills needed for their jobs or to find work. But only about 30 percent of the programs were tailored for workforce needs, the survey found.
But the article does not focus on this, and when I clicked on the Work for literacy website, I found their mission statement,
The L.A. Workforce Literacy Project is a regional partnership to link and expand adult literacy training in L.A., and promote the advancement of "workforce literacy"--the English, math, and computer skills needed to succeed in today's economy.
and I began to suspect that their goals are too lofty, that they are going for full literacy and job training for a low level white collar job when most of their potential students merely want to: read a bus schedual, fill out a government services form, or read directions to their next day job.
Maybe I'm too cynical, but that's how I see it.
Update I guess I should have been more specific. I agree with the commenters that the programs should be tailored to the individual and their needs. They should concentrate first on a minimal program in English writing and reading so they can get a steady job and hold it down. Then after they have that job and more time, teach them basic arithmetic to balance their checkbooks and double-check their paycheck. Finally, if they are up to it and need it, they should teach the "advanced" topics of Computer use and High School level English, though I doubt many would want to go that far.
More on French Headscarves
The subject of the assimilation of the most recent wave of immigrants to France--largely Muslim, these mostly drawn from former French colonies in North Africa--has been a subject frequently debated on GNXP, as a subject worthy of interest on its own terms and as a bellwether for events elsewhere. Reading the Toronto Globe and Mail and other news sources, it's been interesting to note how much of a non-issue the event has been.
For a variety of reasons, most of which I've written about on my livejournal, French officials, the French public, and an apparently large majority of French Muslim women support the ban on headscarves in the French public school system as a way to try to deal with conservative misogyny in their communities. As I've written, it's the least bad manner; certainly, it's better than deciding that they should accustom themselves to second-class status because they're Muslim.
There are fears that it could prove counterproductive, mind, at least for a minority. Recently, Philippe Le Billon, assistant professor of geography at the University of British Columbia, wrote in an opinion piece his fear that the ban on headscarves
could prove counterproductive, resulting in some Muslim girls being banned from attending school -- precisely the kind of exclusion the French government says its law is designed to prevent. It will also reinforce socially conservative, gender-based discrimination within Muslim communities.
And the actual results?
About 100 French Muslim girls have refused to take off their headscarves in school despite a government ban on "conspicuous" religious insignia in state schools, Education Minister Francois Fillon said Wednesday.
This, mind, out of a total population of 12 million students, of which perhaps 15% are likely of nominally Muslim background given demographic patterns. Many of the young French Muslim women who did wear the hijab did so more as a brief challenge to authority than out of profound religious belief, as Doug Saunders, writing for the Globe and Mail, discovered:
"I'm not doing this as a protest, and in fact I do think I'll stop wearing the hijab on Monday," she said, using the Arabic name for the head scarf. "I'm mostly just confused -- my family and my faith want me to cover my hair, but my nation wants me to keep it uncovered. I'd like to be French and Muslim, but I'd rather be French. Maybe I'll wear a colourful bandana, which doesn't break the law."
So. The young generation of French Muslims--certainly women--see themselves as more French than Muslim; or, perhaps more appropriately, see their religious background as secondary to their national background. This doesn't exactly indicate a failure of the French melting pot.
I fear we'll have to wait a while for la République islamique de la France.
The Market State (Science and Government, Part I)
Note to readers: This is the first part of a three part series where I offer my thoughts about how best to achieve the one thing I believe America needs; a cutting edge, fully fleshed-out biotech/tech industry.
Over at TechCentralStation, Gregory Scoblete has an article up concerning Bush’s new social policy described in his acceptance speech last Thursday. In it he first lays out the philosophical differences between the new plan, the welfare state, and small government;
The Nation State was defined and legitimated, in part, by its ability to ensure the material well being of its citizens. In contrast, the Market State earns its legitimacy by providing the opportunity to its citizens to advance their own well being. The Nation State is characterized by top-down, government centric solutions like the welfare state, that make absolute guarantees about the material outcome of its charges. The Market State simply says: we'll guarantee a set of basic tools and an open playing field, but after that, you're on your own to make of it what you will.
He then goes on to describe the three duties of the new market state;
1) Giving all citizens a “leg-up” at the beginning of life;
Even the President's proposed spending initiatives -- increased money to education, to child heath care, and to junior colleges - had one consistent, Market State theme: the State is responsible for laying the foundation for your well-being but ultimate success is up to you.
2) But as the quote says, the rest is up to you;
Bush's domestic agenda, allowing younger workers to direct the investment (of their own money) in Social Security, of portable pensions to follow a mobile work force, and reforming a cumbersome tax code, is specifically aimed at devolving responsibility for individual welfare from the State to the individual. He touts it as an "ownership society" but it could just as easily be called an "opportunity society" - under Bush's vision, the government promises that all citizens will have the opportunity to advance themselves, regardless of station. That is a distinctly different promise than the traditional Nation State compact that guarantees your welfare by redirecting wealth from one population segment to another.
3) So the Federal Government can focus on it’s real duty, defense;
Now, the first criticism that I have about this plan is that it really only addresses defense and covering the costs by shifting the responsibility of many social programs onto the individual. What it does not address, something I will address more specifically in my follow-up post titled “the Signapore model” is how the government can assure prosperity by encouraging a leadership in what I have already labeled a cutting edge, fully fleshed-out biotech/tech industry.
My second criticism would be that it gives no plan on how to reform the failing K-12 system. The likely fixes would of course be steering those less intelligent or less motivated students into various vocational training tracks and for allowing competition in various public/private schools.
P.S. I know that Paleos and libertarians will decry and have decried the expansion of government described in both Bush's speech and this article, but they don't have much to fear, since this is a direct call for the dismantling of the present welfare state. Also pragmatism argues that the best policy is not an ideologically pure form of government, but allowing a little of the evil that is socialist government.
Science and Government Intro
Today I am going to start a four part series called "Science and Government" where I lay out what I see as how best to reform our society to fulfill the role of government in the 21st century.
We all know that we live in a "changing economy", we were originally founded as an agrarian society but that is no longer viable for most workers due to advanced farming techniques (only 4% work in agriculture today vs. 90% in the 18th century). In the 19th century we changed over to a manufacturing base, that is no longer good for workers due to outsourcing. Even today data-processing and programming jobs are no longer secure.
In my series I will try to address how we can reform government to fulfill its true duty to citizens while keeping costs down and encouraging growth through a fully fleshed-out, cutting edge science and technology sector.
My First Article, "The Market State" will deal with how we can shatter the Welfare state and replace it with a state that defends your security and gives you an initial boost.
Second, in "The Signapore Model", I will deal with how the government can follow their example to keep our economy prosperous, sound, and competetive.
Third, in "Who's best for Science", I will offer my views of which presidential candidate is most likely to set up such a system.
Finally, in "Problems and Solutions", I will show the objections to these reforms and try to offer answers to best deal with them.
(Some) Iranians don't know jack about Iran
Slate has a journal entry up by an Iranian writer (at least origin) who seems to want to illuminate the complexity of this multifaceted nation for the ignorant masses of the semi-intellectual types who read webzines (like me). I posted a while ago that Iranians aren't Arabs (a common idiocy that shows up in middlebrow journals like The New York Times), but there are other details about the country that might be to relevant to mention to people who want to know its place in the world, especially since a faction of American policy makers are itching to invade this axel of evil. The author asserts that:
I won't emphasize the reality that the Zoroastrianism of the Achamaenid (Cyrus, Darius & Xerxes et al.) and semi-Hellenistic Parthian dynasties was tepid at best (the Armenian branch of the Parthian royal house, the Arascids, converted to Christianity when the opportunity presented itself after the fall of the senior line). It was during the Sassanid period, ~250 to 650, that state supported Zoroastrianism was a crucial feature of the Iranian monarchy.
But the more important point is to clear up the misconception that Iran has been a Shiite community/state since the advent of Islam. No, in fact, the relative uniformity of Shiism throughout the lands of greater Persia is the product of the force of will of the Safavid dynasty of the 16th century. The Safavids had their origin in a Turkic dervish order. Before this period, Iran had a succession of non-Persian ruling dynasties that switched between religions, some Shia, some Sunni, and even a Mongol pagan interlude (which also saw switching between Shia and Sunni)! (the Pahlavi ruling dynasty of the 20th century was the first Persian ruling house of all Iran since the fall of the Sassanids in 650)
The writer above seems to want to sell Westerners a simple and easy to digest myth (or, he believes the myth himself), but we should be well aware of the real complexity of the Iranian "nation," a synthesis of Persian and Turkic elements, as well as a long history of religious change and transformation. I don't know if this sort of preoccupation with piddling details matters operationally in the context of decisions that the American state might make in regards to Iran, but Iraq should have taught us the lesson that it can't hurt to have accurate facts on hand.
Jim Yardley, "Racial 'Handicaps' and a Great Sprint Forward", The New York Times, 2004 September 8.
While Chinese are ''suited'' to sports like Ping-Pong, badminton and gymnastics that require agility and technique, the newspaper noted, purely athletic events are different. Chinese had ''congenital shortcomings" and "genetic differences" that created disadvantages against black and white athletes.The Finns have a word that translates literally as "ass-legged" [If any Finnish readers could give us the original Finnish or expound further on this word, it would be appreciated.] to describe those with short legs, i.e. those whose ass is literally close to their feet.
Most Chinese are ass-legged.
You'd better believe this puts them at a disadvantage in running events, both long-distance and sprinting (though may well have made it easier for Mr. Liu to clear hurdles cleanly).
And unlike Michael Johnson, Chinese torsos don't make up for what Chinese legs lack in height. Yao Ming dispelling stereotypes doesn't do a damn thing to change that. *grumblegrumble*
Also, whether studies ever bear out the idea that the Chinese are at a congenital disadvantage in track & field or not, the frankness and forthrightness with which the Chinese, and Asians in general, approach race is refreshing compared with the apprehension and anxiety with which Westerners usually do.
I wish I were a little bit taller
Well Gmail continues to give me invites (I've given out over 20 invites so far) and I presently have three. So if you want one send an email to my address at
I'll try to focus on regular readers and posters.
Gmail invites gone
Update from Razib: I used one of Scott's invites to create a general GNXP inbox. It is above godless & my contact links, please use that as the first option from now on if you have a link forward, comment about the blog, etc.
I have a few. Email me at thrasymachus_at_gmail_dot_com
Update from GC:
I have quite a few too. Email me at godlesscapitalist_at_gmail_dot_com.
Where I went
In the interests of navel gazing, here is my updated "visited states" map, below (not counting airports)....
What has Mycenae to do with Athens?
A few weeks ago I expressed skepticism at the idea that the Mycenaean/Minoan civilization of the Bronze Age Aegean had much to do with Classical Greece. First, I should admit that I am a big admirer of David Gress' From Plato to Nato, which argues that the West is a synthesis of 3,000 years of history, starting with Classical Greece, filtered through pagan Rome, reshaped by Christianity and crystallized in the Middle Ages under the influence of Germanic barbarians. Gress argues that modern American historiography was reworked by Will Durant & other 20th century liberal intellectuals to emphasize the heritage of Classical Greece, especially democratic Athens, consciously neglecting the Roman, Germanic and especially Christian elements of the Western synthesis.
And yet, without Classical Greece, there would be no Rome (as we know it), no Christianity (as we know it), ergo, none of the pomp and pageantry of the medieval period. But where did Classical Greece come from? I concede that genetically, linguistically and in to a large extent culturally the Achaeans of Perseus were the Hellenes of Pericles. But, if you read books like Victor Davis Hanson's The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece, you get the feeling that the culture of Greece in that period was something new, something special. While the Athens of the 5th century was recognizable, the people who produced The Death Mask of Agamemnon seem to be fundamentally alien, other.
Of course, this was not just the period when "The West" was being born. Thousands of miles to the east, Indian religion was being transformed from Vedic Aryan polytheism into Puranic Hinduism & Buddhism, and Confucius and his disciples were laying the groundwork for the basis of Chinese culture as we know it. One could argue that this period, the so called Axial Age (~600), should be the true turning point for any "Common Era" for humankind.
The handicap & the helping hand
Back in 1996 when the "Microbial Mars Rock" came to light I asked my physics professor at the time (whose wife was a former JPL scientist) what he thought of the findings. He told me that all his friends in the space science community found it very plausible, and I swear I saw a twinkle in his eye. Later I read that scientists at conferences would assail skeptics with hostile questions whenever this topic came up. The implication was clear: many space scientists had a bias in that they wanted there to be evidence of life on Mars, that is, Life-on-Mars was their pet hypothesis. I don't know if this was true, I didn't see any broad-based survey which indicated that space scientists had ceded professional skepticism in this particular area of extraordinary claims, but it illustrates a general principle: some ideas and models are more congenial to a given audience than others.
For example, while The Big Bang Theory is accepted as rather robust model today, for decades there was scientific resistance because it seemed to open the door to cosmological proofs for the existence of God (recall that Einstein inserted the original Cosmological Constant because of an implied expansion of the universe). It did not help that one of the proponents of an expanding universe was a Catholic priest! In any case, after the discovery of the Cosmic Background Radiation only a few diehards adhered to the Steady State Hypothesis, science had had its day, no matter the implication for theology.
But just as the scientific community was skeptical of The Big Bang Theory because of its theological implications, the general public seemed to be mildly enthusiastic. In the United States glossy magazines often like to highlight the model as the centerpiece for their yearly God & Science issue (with the usual subheading that implies that the arrow of science points squarely to the God Hypothesis).
Reigning orthodoxies are the mountains which new ideas must climb over. This is clearly an issue when someone from this blog brings up the idea of inter-group differences, that is, Human Biodiversity, the assumed truth tends to run along the line that 'race does not exist,' and only uneducated toothless rubes would contradict it. This means that those of us who are open to this avenue of inquiry must be above reproach, and we expect a rather steady stream of abuse and invective from the other side, because they command the heights.
In contrast, the situation with evolutionary psychology, depending on the context, is the reverse. The public yearns for biological explanations of human universals, and though dissenters might have won the battle in the academy, the war of public opinion has turned against them. So when speaking of EP (evolutionary psychology) the 'other side' tends to be, in my opinion, more defensive. This can sometimes result in intellectual laziness on the part of those who advocate evolution, biology broadly speaking, as a filter through which human action must be sifted.
Apropos of this very point, a few weeks ago I read the book Mother Nature, and the author repeated the fact that women (and her relations) tend to reassure the putative father that the baby looks like him. The implication is that they are making sure that the father does not doubt paternity. What I found interesting though was the author's reference of a paper which suggests that babies tend to resemble their fathers more than mothers. That is, there is more incentive to resemble fathers in terms of "baby fitness" (a father's paternity is "theory") than a mother (a mother's maternity is certain). All is good, and I thought the two points, the ultimate & the proximate, dovetailed rather well.
Then I did some googling...and I found this paper which not only did not reproduce the result above, but offers a powerful theoretical objection: if a child resembles the biological father, the risk is increased if it is placed in the presence of a male who has been cuckholded, that is, if the putative father is not the biological father, then it is likely that he will be able to more easily detect the mother's deception. The lesson is that when it comes to human evolution and behavior, we are all narcissists, literally self-interested, and we have to prod ourselves to keep digging and reexamine our assumptions . And further digging found this paper which concluded that males are more likely to want to "adopt" a baby face morphed from their own features than women (implication: men like babies that look like themselves). Reality, nature, exists, and the data is out there, we simply have to parse it, tease it apart and reconstitute it in a way that allows it to express its native structure. This requires patience and subduing our natural enthusiasm. It also means that we should not veer to the opposite extreme and declare the task foolish and not worth attempting.
Related: Looking up information on paternity, I stumbled on to this research, and will copy the key findings (if you follow the link, rescale to 300% for better viewing of the PDF):
The above data suggests that:
 I have sometimes wondered about the situation of a black man who migrates and is accepted into a white tribe. If he marries into this tribe, infidelity is obviously something that is a risky proposition for him. On the other hand, his partner is also taking a large risk if she engages in infidelity. In the case where an individual is a "rare phenotype," incorrect recognition, that is, a false positive or a rejection of a valid hypothesis (in the context of paternity) would be unlikely since one's own offspring would be variant. In the context of humans, with our tit-for-tat morality and common, though not universal, infidelity taboos, the "dad" strategy would be best for an individual who is a newcomer to a given culture/tribe and exhibits a different phenotype. The negative consequences of the wives of social peers birthing children than are clearly those of an alien male are clear, while the ability to keep track of one's own reproductive success with nearly perfect accuarcy is a boon.
September 07, 2004
Bringing the Jobs Home: How the Left Created the Outsourcing Crisis--And How We Can Fix It by Todd G. Buchholz. I've seen this guy on both C-SPAN booknotes and the Cable news circuit, and I can tell that this guy really knows his stuff and can communicate it in a very clear and concise way. His basic argument in the book is that various institutions or policies in the U.S. (civil law system, pro-union immigration rules, the tax system, and the Social Security system) have caused two outcomes that have damaged the American economy: to make the American worker too expensive, and to encourage foreign born graduate students (educated at our universities) to start the businesses overseas.
He also brings up the glaring contrast, which I have been commenting on for years, between our embarrassing K-12 school system and our higher education system which is the best in the world. He is not afraid to name the causes even, he points out that competition and failure are an active part of higher education, while the K-12 system has been taken over by the interests of minority activists and the teachers union.
Pick it up and read it if you see it.
Some IQ Tests
An interesting site on Uncommonly Difficult IQ Tests. I took the Word Classification Test because it seemed the easiest to do online, although it does seem to be the least valid for testing actual IQ. I scored 163 out of 200 on it. (Am I the only one who has noticed that Swedish speakers of English as a second language always tend to blow us native speakers out of the water on these glorified vocabulary quizzes?)
Anyway, the articles listed in the links section seem interesting. I'll point out The Outsiders by Grady Towers as a good read. I might have something to say about it later.
I just want to point out, in case there had been some confusion, that the number score from the Word Classification Test is not meant to suggest an IQ. It is the number of questions you get right out of 200 total.
Another report from the Times (London):
Aboriginals 'got to America first'
By Mark Henderson and Nigel Hawkes
If proved by DNA evidence, the theory will shatter longestablished beliefs about the southerly migration of people who entered America across the Bering Strait, found it empty and occupied it.
On this theory rests the authority of Native Americans (previously known as Red Indians) to have been the first true Americans. They would be relegated to the ranks of also-rans, beaten to the New World by Aboriginals in boats.
To a European, this may seem like an academic argument, but to Americans it is a philosophical question about identity, Silvia Gonzales, of Liverpool John Moores University, told the Science Festival in Exeter yesterday.
Her claims are based on skeletons found in the Baja California Peninsula of Mexico that have skulls quite unlike the broad Mongolian features of Native Americans. These narrow-skulled people have more in common with southern Asians, Aboriginal Australians and people of the South Pacific Rim.
The bones, stored at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, have been carbon-dated and one is 12,700 years old, which places it several thousand years before the arrival of people from the North. “We think there were several migration waves into the Americas at different times by different human groups,” Dr Gonzales said. “The timing, route and point of origin of the first colonisation of the Americas remains a most contentious topic in human evolution.”
But comparisons based on skull shape are not considered conclusive by anthropologists, so a team of Mexican and British scientists, backed by the Natural Environment Research Council, has also attempted to extract DNA from the bones. Dr Gonzales declined yesterday to say exactly what the results were, as they need to be checked, but indicated that they were consistent with an Australian origin.
She believes that they arrived by boat, settled in what is now Mexico and at other points along the Pacific coast, and survived for thousands of years. The first Spanish colonists and missionaries described the people they found in the area, the Pericue, as slim hunter-gatherers. They lacked much culture, but did have burial customs in which bodies were laid out in the sun before being painted with ochre and buried.
The Spanish collected the people into missions, where they died out in the 18th century.
September 06, 2004
Where do you get your news on Iraq? I am starting to get the feeling that I would like to develop a really good picture of what is actually going on there. The daily news is almost pointless for that. What is a good online resource for Iraq information?
Dyslexia Across Culture
Dyslexia is a problem affecting different brain regions in different cultures.
Well, not quite. Chinese dyslexics have problems of their own.
The NSU article headlines with the culture thing, but the problem is actually one of phonetic scripts versus ideographic scripts. It takes a different skill set to learn Chinese or Japanese (the world's most god-awful written language bar none*) than it does English. The researchers know that, of course, which is why they compared Chinese with English.
*Any adult learners of the Japanese written language (Chinese too, probably) might be interested in this fellow's mnemonic approach. I can testify that it is quite useful.
HBD does Sweden - Part II
The march of the concept of Human Biological Diversity into the mainstream continues. As Steve Sailer has noted, the clarity of group differences in sports have required a high level of Political Correctness in order to keep people from observing the obvious. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is in the world of sports, where the differences stand out the most that the anti-HBD cordon sanitaire comes crumbling down first.
In a recent science column (on the Op-Ed page!) in Sweden’s premier broadsheet “Dagens Nyheter”, Jenny Jewert explains why various population groups succeed so exceptionally well in certain sports:
No, the reasons are to be found in biology. The Kenyans have lighter calves and a higher concentration of an enzyme, that causes lactic acid to accumulate slower in the muscles, compared to runners from other parts of the world. The west Africans have a larger share of “fast” muscle fibres and a constitution that is tailor-made for explosive sports. Researchers are Convinced that there is a genetic background for these physiological differences.
The catalyst for this sea change is, not surprisingly, research into the genetic basis of sporting success. It will be interesting to see how long it takes before research into more complex and less observable traits reach a similar stage. Nonetheless, the conquest of the bastion of sports is an important step on the road to mainstream acceptance for HBD. The power of allegory and example is large in public and private discussion; having a widely accepted and clear example of HBD in action will be very useful in winning acceptance for HBD in other areas.
Innate sense of beauty
The Times (London) today has a news report on some forthcoming research findings on new-born babies' perception of beauty. Here's the report from the Times Online service:
Babies can spot pretty face right from birth
Research at Exeter University has found that newborn babies show a marked preference for people with features that are conventionally judged as handsome by adults.
“Attractiveness is not simply in the eye of the beholder, it is in the brains of newborn infants, right from the moment of birth,” said Alan Slater, a developmental psychologist who led the study. “This view contradicts views arguing that the newborn infant enters the world as a tabula rasa — a blank slate on which experience will write.”
Dr Slater will present the results this week at the British Assocation Festival of Science at Exeter University.
Though infants cannot tell scientists that they prefer this face or that, a large volume of research has shown that their attention is much more easily captured by images they find pleasing or interesting.
In the new study, Dr Slater’s team used this effect to test whether newborns with little or no experience of the world shared their elders’ assumptions about facial beauty. The researchers took hundreds of pictures of female members of the public, and asked adult volunteers to rate their attractiveness on a scale of one to five.
Dr Slater then paired particularly beautiful faces, with an average score of close to five, with particularly unattractive ones scoring close to one. Care was taken to match qualities such as hair colour and length that might otherwise interfere with the experiment. Almost 100 newborn babies, with an average age of two days, were then shown these paired images.
About 80per cent of the time the babies looked exclusively or mainly at the face judged “prettier”. The effect was also seen when the experiment was repeated with male faces and faces from many different ethnic groups.
Dr Slater said: “A lot of it is hard-wired, and you can’t get away from that hard-wiring.”
There are two probable evolutionary explanations for the phenomenon. First, facial symmetry — which is strongly linked to beauty across cultures — may be an “honest” signal of good genes, good health and an absence of parasitic diseases.
We may be primed to recognise this as a way of selecting sexual partners with the best breeding prospects. Second, the preference could be a by-product of an evolved mental capacity to recognise faces from birth. It is thought that babies fit faces to some sort of average facial template.
The print version of the article goes on to mention similar findings in relation to music: babies 'are partial to the melodic strains of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, but cannot stand the same piece when it is played backwards'.
Maybe someone should try them on Schoenberg!
September 05, 2004
Reversion to Zoroastrianism? [fingers crossed]
Dogs and cats living together! A mainstream Western paper has published an article that acknowledges the Islamic record of ethnic cleansing! (hat tip: Mirabilis.ca)
Jehangir Pocha, "Shrinking population threatens an ancient faith", The Boston Globe, 2004 September 5.And from the liberal Boston Globe no less!
Tarikh-i Bukhara, c. 944.Longstanding antipathy to John Kerry notwithstanding