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October 23, 2004
What the ladies like....
The post on Turkey & religiosity meandered off into a strange direction: about how much the ladies like guys that treat them like crap. A few years ago I was a total jackass to this girl who I was kind of seeing in Portland. I didn't call her back, I cancelled dates 5 minutes ahead of time (and she would later see me hanging out with friends when I had given her a lame excuse). But she kept coming back over and over and over....
Anyway, women in moments of bitterness can understand the "all men are pigs" assertion, but many men can also relate to "all women love pigs." These generalizations are only means or modes at best, there is obviously a lot of variation. Nevertheless, something Kurt said about how East Asian women not having the same attraction to the brusque jerk as other groups made me wonder, is this true? It is a truism....
Months back a friend emailed me the following:
OK, this is all stereotype, and I have had several close female friends of Asian extraction who have dated big macho assholes. But I already offered the caveat about the reality of human variation. I do recall reading years ago that while in the West the "tall dark and handsome" male has often been lionized (think sun-blackened Herakles) in China the fair-skinned scholar has been the ideal. Obviously cultural traditions about the ideal mate might vary. Constant cultural biases can exert a selective pressure that might shift the modal phenotype, or the ESS ("cads" vs. "dads"). I am skeptical about the constant cultural bias part, as I suspect environmental shifts over the generations in any given region would nullify possible population differences (though I would assert that the culture of China has been more consistent in its general character over the past 2,000 years than most other regions). Now, let's move beyond anecdote, anyone have any studies or research that might be able to tease out the confounding facotrs? Jason has blogged about the possible innate relative shyness of Asian children, and I have pointed out that there is some evidence that Northern Europeans also tend to have introverted personalities because of genetic/biochemical factors. That by itself would lend support to a thesis that these are not going to be "cad" cultures (or, the cads have for some reason not been able to spread either or both their values and genetic propensities).
Addendum: Traditionally Southern Europeans are characterized as having more outgoing personalities than Northern Europeans. Could this be evidence of a cads vs. dads strategy where the southerners are cads and northerners dads? I am skeptical of this as the ultimate reason for the proximate difference. According to M.G. Bulger in The biology of twinning in man (1970) Northern Europeans have higher dizygotic twinning rates than Southern Europeans, as I assume that dads tend to want to practice a K strategy (few offspring, high investment).
Why I voted for the re-election of President Bush
Many of you have asked in the comments sections and such as to why I voted for President Bush. I have finally uploaded a Q&A dialogue that should pretty much answer your questions in regards to this.
You can read it here or click on the extended entry...
As many of you know, and some don't, I sent in an absentee ballot three weeks ago with my vote for President Bush on it. Many have asked me why I am supporting President Bush... his domestic policies are abysmal, and he has supposedly led us into a war at "the wrong place and the wrong time," to put it in the words of John Kerry. So, let me answer some questions that have been asked of me, and I think this will give a good explanation as to why I voted for Bush.
Q: As a self-described "libertarian conservative," how can you vote for a president who has raised federal spending more in two years than Clinton did in eight?
For example: the No Child Left Behind education bill (more on this later). In it are great conservative proposals, such as conducting mandatory testing programs to increase school accountability and voucher programs so that lower income families can get their children out of failing public schools. However, the GOP does not have enough seats in either the House or the Senate to simply pass these proposals, so they had to compromise with the Democrats on the issue. As a result, Congress had to put in a 75% increase in federal education spending in order to pass the bill. Of course, all of this extra spending could have been avoided had President Clinton signed the Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment when it came to his desk when he was in office...
Currently, the federal budget is $2.4 trillion, up 29% from 2001, or about $69,000 per second. However, I have always felt that the size of the government should be measured based on a comparison with our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Currently, the federal government consumes 20% of our total GDP of over $12 trillion, and that number is due to decline based on next year's budget projections, bringing it down to 19.8% of GDP. When you compare that to the European economies, where in most countries government spending exceeds 40% of GDP and in some countries, such as France, where it exceeds 50%, you see that we are doing much better as far as spending is concerned than one would think without the comparison.
On this aspect, President Bush can be forgiven, as long as he continues some of the things outlined below...
Q: But isn't much of that new spending related to defense?
A: This is a common Republican fallacy. Yes, President Bush has undertaken a [much needed] increase in defense spending from $282 billion in 2000 (Clinton didn't understand the concept espoused by Robert Heinlein: "The most expensive thing in the world is a second-best military establishment, good but not good enough to win.") to $417 billion in 2004. However, that makes up less than 23% of the total spending increases undertaken between 2000 and 2004.
Most of the increased spending was on non-defense related items, such as [for 2003] a 19.2% increase in the Energy budget, 17.8% in International Affairs, 6.9% in Natural Resources and Environment, 7.9% in Science, Space, and Technology, 4.3% in Agriculture, 16.1% in Transportation, 31.8% in Community and Regional Development, 26.8% in Education, Social Services, Training, and Employment, 36.8% in Health, 10.3% in Income Security, and 29.1% in General Government spending.
Kerry supporters do not want you to see those numbers. If Bush was practicing "Reaganomics," he would have, like Reagan, cut spending in at least 7 of those 11 categories and vetoed numerous bills, which he has not done. In fact, not a single bill passed by Congress has been vetoed by the President.
Reagan must be rolling in his grave... like Reagan, I support cutting non-defense related government spending. However, Kerry supports over $2.1 trillion in new spending! And that's just from campaign promises... imagine how many new increases he will propose once in office!
Q: President Bush is running a huge deficit! How can you support a president running a deficit in excess of 3% of GDP?
A: I've already explained above why spending is out of control, but I think I should make a good point. The greatest and most glorified Democrat, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, ran a deficit in excess of 30% of GDP. In order to reach that point, you'd have to continue the president's current spending policies for about 70 more years under the worst economic circumstances where you see large decrease in productivity, according to The Economist magazine. Democrats who criticize Republicans on this issue should look in the mirror.
Q: You're for a smaller government, so why don't you support John Kerry? As the 1990s demonstrated, a divided government with a Democratic president and a Republican congress will lead to more controlled spending policies.
If this were peacetime, I could possibly support Kerry for this single reason, however not during a period of war.
Q: President Bush's policies are making the U.S. less economically competitive in the world... are they not?
Only the Republican Party is willing to continue lowering the corporate tax rate and eventually making it a flat tax. In this instance, the President+6,000 rule comes into play. One must remember that when they vote for a presidential candidate, that candidate will appoint over 6,000 individuals, mostly from their party, to fill various positions within the government. The Republican Party is the only major party that supports flat tax rates, which means it is far more likely that they will appoint corporate tax cutters than the Democrats.
Q: President Bush has consistently opposed immigration reform and securing our southern border! How can you support a candidate that supports amnesty for illegal aliens?
A: It is not true that President Bush supports amnesty for illegal aliens. It is true, however, that Kerry does. I am strongly opposed to illegal immigration and amnesty for illegal aliens. Yes, I agree with Kerry that our government needs to crack down on businesses that illegally employ illegal aliens, however, that's about all that I agree with him about. At the Democratic primary debate earlier this year, Kerry said, "I supported and was prepared to vote for amnesty from 1986. And it is essential to have immigration reform. Anyone who has been in this country for five or six years, who's paid their taxes, who has stayed out of trouble, ought to be able to translate into an American citizenship immediately, not waiting." So, basically, under Kerry's plan anybody who has been here illegally for over five years automatically gets citizenship. No education programs, no cultural assimilation programs, no language programs, no cracking down on illegals crossing the border, etc.
What Bush proposed was a temporary worker program that allows Mexican workers to more easily get the documents necessary to come to the US to work a few months out of the year, and then be required to leave. Of course, the [incorrect] assumption here is that the US needs cheap labor in order to continue to perform well economically. However, the plan got absolutely nowhere because it was opposed by the Republican Party, who labeled it, incorrectly, as an amnesty program.
In fact, whenever the government offers some type of amnesty plan, the border is flooded with illegal aliens who immediately try to get in wanting to get here before an amnesty plan passes. We all know about the various amnesty plans floated by Democratic candidates and senators, plus Bush's temporary worker plan, that were floated in late 2003. To see this flooding in response to these plans in action, look at a quote from a Department of Homeland Security report:
"The U.S. Border Patrol made 135,468 apprehensions along the southwest border during April 2004, an 80 percent increase when compared to April 2003. Voluntary returns [of Mexican nationals to Mexico] conducted by Border Patrol agents increased by 79 percent from a year ago to 125,561. For the first seven months of fiscal year 2004, apprehensions were up 31 percent and voluntary returns were up 28 percent compared to the same period in fiscal year 2003."
And we're not even talking about the estimated 16-20 million illegals that are in the US, according to a recent Time cover story, or the estimates by immigration restrictionist groups, such as FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform), who estimate that there are 8-12 million illegals in the US. Something must be done about this...
So, this is where our President+6,000 Rule comes into play. The Democratic Party cannot be trusted on this issue, since almost all of the party supports amnesty programs and more lax immigration laws and border enforcement. However, the Republican Party is supported almost unanimously by immigration restrictionist organizations, and the majority of the party and party supporters support securing the southern border and cracking down on illegal aliens. There is nobody like that in the Democratic Party, and their party base is strongly in support of amnesty for illegal aliens and increased immigration from the south, many for the simple reason that with more minorities in the country, it will be much easier for them to play the race-card and defeat the GOP in elections. Therefore, the Republican Party deserves support on this issue, and any attempts by the president or Congress to support some kind of amnesty program should be challenged within Republican Party ranks.
Q: As a supporter of a "woman's right to choose" whether or not to have an abortion, how can you support a candidate who supports banning abortion?
Now, I do support a ban on third-trimester abortions, the so-called "partial-birth abortion ban." The reason I supported this is because at around that time, with the proper treatment, the fetus has matured to such a point that it can survive outside the womb. I think that it is morally wrong to destroy it at this point, except in the case where the mother's life is threatened. I also believe that this ban will force prospective mothers to decide to get an abortion earlier, instead of waiting until the last minute to decide. And that's not even mentioning that more than 80% of the American public supports this legislation, so it is a mainstream issue with broad public support.
Generally, I believe that the federal government has absolutely no business as to what a woman does with her body. That's between her and her religion. I generally do not believe that it is a national issue, and believe that it should be up to the states to legislate the laws concerning this subject. And I am opposed to a total ban on abortion and parental notification laws. I am also entirely opposed to calls by the Democratic Party to make abortion free at the point of use, paid for at the expense of the taxpayer.
I do not like discussing this topic.
Q: How can you support voucher programs for schools? That's taking away money from public schools!
A: This argument is extremely easy to counter, however ideologues in the Democratic Party generally smear those who support vouchers including members of their own party, such as Joseph Lieberman. It is a complete and utter lie that vouchers take money "out of our public schools." The duty of our schools is to provide our children with the attention and environment necessary for them to get a good education and when the schools fail to provide that, they have failed their consumers: the taxpayer.
To put it simply, public schools are producers who provide a product and a service: education to our children. By paying with taxes, we are consumers, paying these schools to produce a good end product. When those schools fail our children, we should have the right to take that money out of the public schools and take it and our children to a school where they will produce a better end product, much to the pleasure of us consumers. It is not the government's money that is going to public schools; it is OUR money, and when those public schools FAIL, we should have the right to take that money out and take it to a producer who will provide the better end product. If eventually so much money is being pulled out of that school that the school collapses, so be it. It has failed to provide a good product, and thus deserves to perish.
This is simple market ethics. Suppose the government takes your money and gives the money to a corporation. This corporation, however, does not produce good and long lasting products, and whether you use it or not, you are forced to support this corporation. One day, you have to use this corporation's products, and they fail. However, you can go to the corporation next door that produces far better products that last. However, the government tells you that you must pay for those products out of your own pocket, and you must still pay your money to the government to prop up the corporation producing the bad products, or else it will collapse. How would you feel about that?
By all rights, the corporation producing the bad products should collapse and, generally, in the private sector this is exactly what happens. Why should it be any different when it comes to schools? By introducing this system of choice, it will force schools to develop mechanisms to produce the best products, or else they will, rightly, collapse. This is a very good incentive to perform. If this results in the collapse of the public school system and the complete and total funding of private schools by taxpayer money, so be it.
We spend more money per student on education than every other country in the world, except for two: Switzerland and Austria. Over $7,700 per student. In the United Kingdom, they are privatizing schools left and right. In Sweden, they have the most extensive voucher program in the world. In Sweden, if a private school is performing better than a public school, you can take [most of] that money out of the public school and walk right over and enroll your child in a private school, with almost full public support. Of course, liberals don't want to tell you about such things... we won't even talk about how the Swedes are "privatizing" their social security programs by allowing personal savings accounts; at least not now. If the most extensive [Western] welfare state in the world does it, that should tell you something about how well it works.
Eventually I would like to work towards a system in which schools are not given any money directly. Each child should be given a voucher for a certain amount of money, say $7,500, that can be used only on education. From there, the parents and the child can choose what school they want that child to go to, and they can look into a Consumer Reports like catalog of listings of schools and how well they perform in comparison to others, at which point they can take that voucher over to that school and enroll their child. Then schools would survive based on how well they perform and funding would be controlled entirely by the consumers, not by the government.
The only grouping in the Democratic Party that supports vouchers are the New Democrats headed up by the Democratic Leadership Council and the Progressive Policy Institute. And, at the moment, they represent a very small minority of Democrats. I want pragmatism, not ideology. If a bunch of Swedish socialists can do it, why can't the Democrats? Is it maybe because the Democrats are becoming more socialist than the European socialists, and that the European socialists are becoming more capitalist than the Democrats? Hmmmmm.... I can't help but wonder.
Q: How can you not support Kerry's plan to provide health insurance to those who need it?
A: First of all, I oppose universal health care, for reasons laid out extremely well by other Republicans that a simple Google search on the internet will lead you to. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year on Medicare. I personally believe that for that same amount of spending and with the proper reforms, we can ensure that each and every American has health insurance. I generally oppose both party's policies when it comes to healthcare, especially in light of the fact that I personally believe that you can ensure that every American has healthcare without increasing spending, but that's another thought, and plan, entirely.
But people who support his plan ignore something. He promised to pass it, when in reality, he can't. The Republicans control both the House and the Senate, and many Democrats within both also oppose the plan, so the best outcome is that it will be mercilessly crushed liked Hillarycare was in 1994 and will lead to an increased Republican majority in both legislatures. It's a promise that Kerry cannot possibly keep.
Q: But don't you support President Bush's prescription drugs plan that passed through Congress?
What I didn't support is the cost of it. Originally estimated to cost $400 billion over 10 years, the cost has ballooned to $550 billion. Of course, in a world of lesser evils, this bill was much better than the proposed Democratic version of the bill, which started at a cost of $800 billion over 10 years and didn't have the provisions for the creation of Medical Savings Accounts.
This is not something we need in a time where we're building huge deficits, so, to put it simply, I think the president's version of the bill was better, but I still oppose both. The Medical Savings Accounts are nice, though.
Q: Kerry supports ratifying the Kyoto global warming treaty. Don't you oppose global warming?
A: The scientific arguments against the Kyoto Treaty are long and tedious, so I won't go into them. However, I will say that this is yet another promise that Kerry cannot keep. Like me, most of the nation and almost all of the government opposes the treaty for the simple reason that the regulatory structure that it imposes will greatly hurt our economy. Both parties oppose it, and it will not be ratified. As evidence for this, on July 5, 1997, the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, with 65 bipartisan sponsors in the Senate, stating that the Senate opposes ratification of the treaty, passed 95-0 in the Senate. Not only that, for those who say that he never flip-flops, Kerry voted for the resolution. It has absolutely no chance of ever being ratified in the US, so it is a non-issue.
Q: Kerry opposes outsourcing and many free-trade provisions. Don't you?
No, I am a firm supporter of free trade. Again, this is long and tedious, so I will defer to Bruce Lindsey's essay, "10 Truths About Trade," in the July 2004 issue of Reason magazine.
On another note, Kerry wants to renegotiate NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), stop CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement, an addition to NAFTA that includes most of Central America) from being enacted, and renegotiate the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas, an agreement encompassing every country in the entire Western Hemisphere, from Alaska to Chile). I strongly support the FTAA for geopolitical reasons. First of all, it will open all of Central and South America to American exports, helping them to industrialize and modernize their economies, not to mention cutting costs of production for many consumer products and thus cutting the retail costs. This will raise national GDPs and stem the growth of black market related sectors.
Primarily, however, the creation of the FTAA will create a $17 trillion trade area, which we can use to directly counter the European Union, thus giving us more economic influence both in the Americas and in the world. The US economy already makes up over 35% of total world GDP, and this will make us even more competitive. And that's not even mentioning how much it could help build public support for the US within the hemisphere. Also, it will give us access to more cheap labor, which means it will force China to reform economically in order to maintain their current growth rates, thus promoting a capitalist revolution there. Did I mention it will give us direct access to lots and lots of oil?
And one more thing. Why come to the US when you can get a fairly good job at home? It'll help stem the tide of illegal immigration. It's a wonderful idea, and I don't want Kerry screwing it up.
Q: Kerry supports modernizing the military and increasing troop strength. Don't you support that?
As for Kerry supporting increasing the amount of special operations forces that we have, it's easier said than done. However, the military is already doing everything it can. Not just any odd person can become a Navy SEAL or an Airborne Ranger...
Q: But aren't Bush's policies going to result in a need to bring about a draft!?
A: Uh, no. This is a myth propagated by mostly by MTV and Kerry, who want to scare young people into voting for them. The chances of another draft happening is not very likely, especially in the light that in the Army, for example, only about 200,000 of more than 510,000 (the number will soon be increased to 540,000 total) soldiers are deployed. Those extra 310,000 soldiers are being retrained and positions that can more easily be done by civilian contractors are being contracted out. The Army is planning to retrain all soldiers so that first, and before all else, they are infantrymen and know how to use a rifle and fight in combat, like the Marines. This will open hundreds of thousands of soldiers up. With that in mind, the need for a draft is completely unnecessary.
Also, lets not forget that the military is pretty much uniformly opposed to a draft. Draftees simply do not perform as well in combat as fully trained active duty soldiers and always result in higher casualties. We don't need more soldiers. What we need are better trained soldiers and a more efficient military bureaucracy. This rules out a draft.
I might also point out that Kerry supports having all graduating high school students perform a mandatory two years of national service. I don't see how Democrats who are opposed to the draft can support a candidate who supports such a program.
Now, not to be a hypocrite, I must say that I support a program of mandatory national service, however, it is vastly different from anything that any candidate or any party is proposing.
Q: Kerry will rebuild our alliances and that will make us safer.
A: I really don't understand this line of reasoning. According to Kerry, the dozens of countries that support us don't matter, but France does. France, who has worked against the United States for the past 40 years in everything from combating terrorism to managing NATO, does not support this war on terrorism, and probably never will. A change in leadership will not change this fact, especially in the light that France has a huge Muslim population whose birth rates mean they will become a majority in less than 45 years, so they don't want to outrage their Muslim minority. Kerry cites Charles de Gaulle dozens of times in his speeches. Does he forget that in the 1960s, de Gaulle declared that it was aligned with neither the US nor the USSR, and that France's nuclear weapons were pointed at both the US and the USSR? Does he forget that France's prime minister said, "The Iraqi insurgents are our best allies" ? Does he forget that France and Germany have stated over and over again that regardless as to who is president, they will not deploy troops to Iraq? Kerry seems to stop at this and never actually says how he will combat Islamist terrorists. He just says, "I will rebuild our alliances!" There is no reasoning behind it at all.
Not only that, Kerry opposed Bush's military redeployment plan that would create a system allow for our military to mobilize more rapidly and will allow for military people to be with their families more. It would also move our military bases closer to combat areas, allowing for faster deployment times. The military has been wanting to do this for a decade, and Bush has finally decided to do it. Kerry opposes it because he believes it will alienate our allies. How? He doesn't explain that, except he says that we didn't consult with them about it, which is an out and out lie. Everybody knows we're building a huge military base in the Czech Republic and bases in Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania. We'll still have bases in Germany, France, and England, just they will be smaller and will have less personnel stationed there. Also, he opposes it because it will shut down many military bases. What he doesn't understand is that we need to shut down many bases because we don't need them and their upkeep costs are wasting billions upon billions of dollars that can be used for better things.
How can the Army meet its requirements of being able to deploy a brigade anywhere in the world in 96 hours, a division in a week, and four divisions in a month, when Kerry opposes the redeployment plans that would make it possible?
In the redeployment plan, it also shifts the 37,000 US troops that are on the border between North Korea and South Korea further to the south. This is a good idea, since right now all our troops do is serve as a tripwire. With 12,000 North Korean artillery pieces and 1.2 million soldiers just to the north of our forces, the tripwire is nothing but a suicide trap for those 37,000 soldiers. Moving them south is good for our forces there, and puts more responsibility on the South Koreans for their security.
There is one fact about this whole thing: it is just shallow rhetoric that appeal to feeble minded fools who know nothing about diplomacy or national security. I won't even discuss all the flip-flops of Kerry on national security issues. This is already well known, except for those who are such partisans that they don't know what makes a flip or a flop, except for sandals.
Did I mention that for every Kerry supporter in the military, there are four Bush supporters? That should tell you something.
Another aspect of this whole "I will rebuild America's alliances" forgets something very important. Europe's military is between one and two generations behind the US technologically. When we fought in the Balkans together in the 90s, the European militaries did very little of the work for the simple reason that they didn't have the capability to. They couldn't even communicate with US forces because their radios were so old. Having a bunch of extra allies is useless if they can't do anything. By moving much of our forces out of Western Europe, we force them to start spending more on their security and modernizing their militaries, which means they will be much more useful in the future. Right now, the average military spending for Europe is at about 1-2% of GDP, as opposed to about 3.8% for the US. They have been free-riding on us for a long time and now it's time for them to grow up.
Not only that, France and Germany refused to send over any forensics experts to help us unearth the hundreds of thousands of bodies in mass graves in Iraq. Why? Because they think that by unearthing these graves that it may be used against Saddam as evidence and he might be executed. Yes, the current governments of those two countries believe that the life of Saddam Hussein is more important than helping the families of hundreds of thousands of his victims recover their remains and ensure they get a proper burial.
Now, allow me to say a bit about Germany. Germany opposed our war with Iraq because of the current coalition in power, a mixture of Social Democrats and Greens. Their economy is in the pits, and the only way for them to win election last time was for them to run on an anti-American platform that appealed to some of the more leftist individuals. Had they not exploited the circumstances at the moment to electoral advantage, the opposition Christian Democrats and Free Democrats would have won the election, and they would be with us in Iraq at this very moment. In a few years, there will be another election in Germany and if polling data means anything, the Christian Democrats will win by a huge margin. At that point, Germany will become a good ally again.
As for France, their military was chomping at the bit to be deployed to Iraq. So, I don't blame their military, just their government and their bizarre culture.
Q: But isn't America providing 90% of the forces and, as a result, fielding 90% of the casualties?
Q: Kerry would help dismantle Russia's nuclear weapons and conduct the world's largest nuclear counter-proliferation program. How can you oppose that?
And then we get to the North Korean (DPRK) problem. Kerry wants to negotiate in bilateral negotiations with the DPRK. However, he doesn't understand that you can't do this, because we've already tightened all of the screws on the DPRK that we have. The DPRK would be in a superior negotiating position, and would be able to easily blackmail us. You must involve China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia in on the process, as Bush has done. China sells fuel and food to the DPRK. So does Russia. DPRK nuclear weapons threaten Japan, who is working with the US to develop a missile defense system and if the DPRK becomes more threatening towards Japan, such as firing another missile over Japan like they did a few years ago, they may well start building nuclear weapons. China does not want Japan to have nuclear weapons, for obvious reasons, so that gives China incentive to crack down on the DPRK more. This process goes on and on, and Kerry just doesn't seem to understand it at all. You must have multilateral negotiations with them or else we will not have a position from which to negotiate from. It's not surprising that the DPRK has endorsed Kerry for president in light of these facts.
And then Kerry ignores how Bush's counterproliferation programs are working to disarm Libya of its weapons programs. He considers this to be a fluke.
On the issue of Iran, there is only so much one can do about them, short of supporting rebels to invade them or invading them with our own forces. The possibility exists that Israel will destroy the Iranian nuclear program with air strikes, as well. But one must remember, Iran is between a rock and a hard spot on this. Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons, which Iran can use as an excuse to build a weapons program. And lets not forget that Pakistan, full of Sunni Muslims who oppose the Shi'ite Muslims of Iran, also has nuclear weapons, much as a result of India getting nuclear weapons, who developed them in response to China building them (the so-called "domino theory," something Kerry and his advisors reject). Also, the possibility exists that Saudi Arabia, who is staunchly anti-Persian, also has nuclear weapons. The reason I think this is because back in the early 1990s they bought two dozen Chinese CSS-2 ballistic missiles. These missiles are too inaccurate for conventional warheads, so their only use would be for nuclear weapons, which leads my to belief that Saudi Arabia has nukes. The European Union is working on engaging Iran in a similar fashion that the Clinton Administration engaged North Korea back in the 1990s, and we all know how that ended up. The North Koreans were lying to us trying to get time to finish their preparations for building a nuke with which to blackmail us later. Very smart move, and the Iranians are doing the same with Europe.
Neither candidate has a good plan, except Kerry supports the European and Clintonian approach, which is scary as hell.
Some of Bush's advisors have the right idea, though: it is highly likely that the Iranian dissidents will become increasingly stronger now that we have Iran boxed in with forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This gives us great leverage in our negotiating position with Iran and will allow us to force them to give the dissidents more power. If that fails, Iran has a large Kurdish minority. The Kurds are some of the best fighters in the Middle East, modernist, secular, and very, very pro-US. The Kurds would make great proxies that could bring in weapons to Iran and undermine the government. At that point, it doesn't matter if they have nukes or not, because the dissidents (who have broad public support) and the Kurds will be in power, and both are pro-US. A pro-US Iran with nuclear weapons is acceptable and would increase our negotiating position with various Sunni countries and allow us to check Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
On this issue, Bush is obviously the better of the two.
Q: Like Kerry said, how can we support counterproliferation programs when we're developing our own new bunker buster nukes?
Q: Kerry would fix where Bush has messed up in Iraq. Surely you want that?
A: Kerry's four-point plan for fixing Iraq is identical to what Bush is already doing there. Not only that, Kerry has stated that he is interested in pulling out of Iraq within 6-months of being elected, should he get extra help from the allies who supposedly love him (which he won't). This has emboldened the insurgents, who have stepped up attacks dramatically since he said that. This rhetoric isn't realistic and is dangerous to our military personnel there, who are now being attacked by insurgents much more viciously than before since the insurgents want Kerry to win now. As President Putin of Russia said last week, "Any unbiased observer understands that attacks of international terrorist organizations in Iraq, especially nowadays, are targeted not only and not so much against the international coalition as against President Bush . . . International terrorists have set as their goal inflicting the maximum damage to Bush, to prevent his election to a second term . . . If they succeed in doing that, they will celebrate a victory over America and over the entire anti-terror coalition . . . In that case, this would give an additional impulse to international terrorists and to their activities, and could lead to the spread of terrorism to other parts of the world."
I couldn't have said it better. I need not mention that Kerry has consistently opposed the legislation necessary to get our personnel there the money they need since this has been mentioned a lot on the news and in debates.
Another criticism of Kerry is that Bush did not deploy enough troops there. This is a valid criticism, however, it is wrong for Kerry to bring it up since when he was asked if he would provide more troops if the generals there requested them, he answered that he would not. So, it's a strawman that he has set up and a non-issue. President Bush, on the other hand, said that he would provide those personnel should they be requested. The media doesn't understand that how many troops are there does not matter, since lots of personnel running around just means more targets for the terrorists. What matters are tactics...
Q: Bush has opposed the intelligence reform recommended by the 9/11 Commission, hasn't he?
Q: Isn't John Kerry unfit to be commander-in-chief?
A: Yes. What he did in the 1970s, taking part in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, testifying before the Senate in 1971 (in uniform, no less), and meeting with our North Vietnamese enemy in France, borders on treason. He has not once apologized for what he said and what he did. Even Jane Fonda has apologized, but Kerry seems to think that he is above criticism on this issue. All these anti-Kerry Swift Boat groups want is an apology, and he hasn't so much as even come close to that.
Q: The Democratic Party is stronger on defense now than it has ever been before says the chairman, Terry McAuliffe. Isn't it?
A: No. Michael Moore, the anti-American documentary film maker who made a film saying that we invaded Afghanistan in order to build an oil pipeline, claims that Iraq was something resembling a utopia before the US got there, states that the insurgents in Iraq are akin to George Washington, and states that "there is no terrorist threat," was embraced by the leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate, Tom Daschle. Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democratic minority in the House, claims that the best way to fight Islamic terrorists is just like what Kerry wants to do: build alliances. However, she finishes the thought, that Kerry refuses to give further details on, by stating how she would fight the Islamists after she built those alliances: through "education." I kid you not. She said this in November 2002, no less. No wonder the Democrats were crushed in those elections...
And as for Kerry, we all are familiar with the interview with the New York Times Magazine in which he said that Islamist terrorists were, in the 1990s, a "nuisance." Thousands of people died in the 1990s from their attacks. When they came to power in Iran in 1979 (with the support of Jimmy Carter for "human rights" reasons), these "nuisances" killed more people in a week than the previous government had killed in 20 years. These people defeated one of the most powerful armies in the world from the USSR in the 1980s. To think that they were at any point a mere "nuisance" goes to show just how far Kerry is divorced from reality.
Those are the reasons why I voted for the re-election of George W. Bush.
Insane EU regulations
Link from Steve Sailer. You aren't as smart as you think you are.
Wow. Just read it.
Standards of Beauty - Part (...)
I came across this footnote in Burton's translation of the Arabian Nights:
This prominence of the glutaei muscles is always insisted upon, because it is supposed to promise well in a bed-fellow. In Somali-land, where the people are sub-steatopygous, a rich young man, who can afford such luxury, will have the girls drawn up in a line and choose her to wife who projects furthest behind.
October 22, 2004
(some of you might have noticed that Ultradarwinian is now a GNXP subdomain, after his webhost went down I figured that dinosaurs of a feather flock together, so I engaged in a bit of kin selection and offered him refuge here)
Personal genomic sequencing
They are talking about the fact that the human genome is smaller than expected on Science Friday, and one of the guests, I believe Dr. Francis Collins, just asserted that by 2010 or 2015 he expects that an individual could get their full genome sequenced for less than $1000 in less than a week.
All men are not created equal. It is the purpose of the Government to make them so
Is it just me or did Kurt Vonnegut predict the future of "no child left behind" in the short story Harrison Bergeron.
I'm sure all GNXPers will join with me in celebrating a happy 6,000th birthday to the universe.
October 21, 2004
If readers know of similar statistics for Poland or Hungary, I would like to know of them, until then, I am becoming far less persuaded by the arguments of Turco-optimists who believe that Turkey can be fast-tracked to EU membership because the cultural variance is of degree rather than kind. Would be nice to know the trendline too....
The acolytes of Derridaism
Sanskrit Boy pointed me to this page that has collected (as of my last count) 3,100 signatures protesting The New York Times's less than laudatory obit of the late Jaques Derrida. It is a common truism that Derrida had more influence in literary criticism than in mainstream philosophy, but I thought that this was a chance to test these sort of hypotheses. So, I simply cut & pasted the signators, and did a search for how often words came up. Here is what I found....
English - 495
Kerry be dumb?
Steve's article is up: This Just In—Kerry's IQ Likely Lower than Bush's!. It's a long piece, but probably not too surprising for those of us who always wondered why Kerry went from Yale to Boston College.
GNXP Science Fiction
Razib has set up, at my request, a sister blog to GNXP called GNXP Science Fiction (you can either click that link or the one up in the right hand corner). While it is open to all things Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Cult, Horror etc, I would like it to not descend into only posting about your favorite Sci-Fi TV shows or movies. While shilling is OK, I would it like to include analysis of Sci-Fi/Fantasy stories and the genres as a whole. People who want to be contributing authors can contact Razib or me at:
Razib adds: Nerdier more middle-brow Blowhards.
I offer two aphorisms already aware that they are on shaky ground, but I can't resist:
Philosophy: complex answers to simple questions.
Religion: Simple answers to complex questions.
The War Against Science?
I have stated before that I think a naive secularist historiagraphy that manufactures a "War Against Science" is fallacious, that myths like the church's "burning of Galileo" (almost certainly a conflation of the burning of Giordano Bruno, a minor figure who was replaced in the public mind with a major one) issue out of a post-Protestant mindset which utilizes anti-Catholic polemics initially popularized by Reformation thinkers and now expanded to encompass all of Christianity. Ironically, aside from a few hold outs like Bob Jones University, I doubt that most Protestants have much affinity or knowledge of the robust anti-Catholic demonology associated with their traditions. But in any case, the past is not the present. I have hinted before that I believe that some of the theorists of "Intelligent Design" seem intent on undermining science and sparking a war of faith against science.
Here is Philip Johnson, doyen of the Intelligent Design movement, being interviewed about post-modernism:
Johnson in sensible in cautioning against excessive post-modern(ish) thinking (Derridaism for example), and I do believe he his correct that one should examine and expose one's assumptions. His response, interpreted narrowly is not something I would normally object to, the world of values and the world facts should be mixed judiciously, with caution. Nevertheless, I think Johnson and company are playing with fire. They are using post-modernism to win battles, it is part of the sensibility that gives them the commanding heights when they argue for "equal time" in the classroom. Also, I think we can intuit which "ancient traditions of tribes" Johnson wishes to extoll. The irony is that the Christian-monotheistic tradition has often been given credit for the rise of science becauses of its idea of a unitary harmonious universe ordered by a Creator, subject to invariant laws. In any case, I think the important point is not to neglect that Johnson believes that on the whole post-modernism is healthy.
This might not be isolated, though I am not familiar with the current mood in sophisticated Christian philosophical circles. I saw a book at the library titled The Twilight of Atheism. I checked it out, but I haven't had time to read it. I've skimmed enough to pick out some basic errors from the angle of data collection1, but one thing I have noted in several passages, and confirmed by examining the index, the author seems to believe atheism is irrelevant in a post-modern world. The assumption is that post-modernism is basically already triumphant. If anyone has read the book in full they can correct me for missing something, but this is a troubling development, because Christian philosophers often have an indirect influence on the direction of clerical training.2
All I can say is that is that it might be true that the Nothing will swallow up your enemies, but it never stops in its march. Count me as part of the remnant who still hews to the vision of the Enlightenment, and on this count, I stand with many theists like Martin Gardner.
Related: An old post where I examine the intellectual backgrounds of some Intelligent Design theorists.
1- Near the end he asserts of Korea that "49% of the population was Christian" (in the year 2000). Actually, that is 1/2 of the 1/2 of the population that is religiously affiliated is Christian. You can confirm this by checking CIA Factbook. Either he lied to bolster his thesis about the inexorable rise of religion in the post-modern world, or he doesn't have a more than a superficial grasp of worldwide religious change (the 49% figure often shows up in many places, like The World Almanac, because they simply exclude those who don't profess an affiliation from the total).
2- From page 218: "Reacting against the simplistic overstatements of the Enlightenment, postmodernity has stressed the limits to human knowledge, and encouraged a toleration of those who diverge from 'one size fits all' philosophy of modernity. The world in which we live is now is seen as a place in which nothing is certain, nothing guaranteed, and nothing is unquestionably given."
The God Gene....
I read Hamer's book at Powells when I was in Portland recently. It is 250 pages of big print and small pages, so it really is a quick read, and frankly much of it is pretty banal and unsurprising. Hamer & co. are basically offering a specific elaboration on a common drumbeat that has been coming out of "neurotheology" for several years now, that is, certain brain states are associated with spiritual transcendence & those states are partially genetically controlled. The irony of the balsy and sensationalistic title of Hamer's book is that the deeper you get into it the more qualified and cautious he gets. Even in the interview Hamer tries to decouple "spirituality" from "religion." Religion is complex, defining it is pretty hard as the shifting lines of practice and belief are very fluid. I happen to think researchers like Hamer are focusing especially on a peculiar subset of human beings. Those prone to become mystics, prophets or their followers, individuals who play the role of socioreligious catalysts. Neurotheology can not be understood without remembering that normal human variation means that though mysticism is a cross-cultural human universal, it manifests itself in a range of expression within any given population. Religion is like schizophrenia, there are clear genetic factors involved, but those factors are multitudinous, and interact in a dynamic fashion with a host of environmental variables. Within a vast constellation of variable combinations there resides the phenotype bounded by various constraints and delimiters that we call "religion." Rough statistical predictions based on large population samples can be made, but ultimately people are actually looking for individual relevance, ergo, the "bait & switch" tactics of Hamer & his fellow travellers.
Related: Carl Zimmer was unimpressed by this book.
Addendum: Hammer also wrote The Science of Desire: The Gay Gene and the Biology of Behavior. So his modus operandi is pretty set, take a controversial topic, offer a hypersimplistic sensationalistic explanation, and spend the rest of the time backing off and qualifying your claim after you've reeled your audience in.
Addendum II: A negative review from a Christian perspective. I think the author has gotten a little too preoccupied with the title of Hamer's book and bought into the publicity. Neurotheology and its affinal behavioral genetic fields focus on phenomena. The specifics of belief in any particular religion are contingent upon a host of fixed factors, foremost family & history, not genetics (though a predisposition toward fideism for example could be genetic, almost all religions offer fideistic flavors). Of course upstream personality factors with a genetic input could influence how likely one is to change from one's natal religion, but these are all very indirect and not nearly as grandiose as anything Hamer & his critics envisage. Interestingly there is a stream of apologetics which often imply that belief in God is innate ("The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God").
Addendum III: Carl has a follow up blog entry on the Time cover article.
Update: Jin blogs on this topic too.
October 20, 2004
This post over at Panda's Thumb leaves me speechless, Social Darwinism and “The Political Brain”. It starts:
So, the rest of the essay starts out with an assumption that anarchocapitalists ("conservatives") and the "Democratic wing of the Democratic party" ("liberals") are the totality of the political landscape. There are so many bizarro assertions, but the irony is where Matt Young says conservatives don't care about people who aren't close to them, he seems to care little about the ideas of those who are not ideologically in his camp (these typologies must come from a data vacuum). Also, note this howler:
No shit sherlock, if you're a Darwinist you might have heard of kin selection or reciprocal altruism, so no, it's not pathological if by that you mean that things that are adaptive are not usually considered pathological.
This is not to say that biology has nothing to do with political preference, or that the variation in human personality does not have a correlation with political orientation. But if this sort of stuff is going to be talked about, you should show a little more nuance and not set up strawmen like a YEC.
Related: Ron Bailey's pathological conservatism is a pretty good illustration of the logical end point of this sort of thinking.
Addendum: My girlfriend is of the opinion that the above post was a bit boorish and not as even keeled as is my norm. I have to admit that this is probably true, but I didn't have more than 5 minutes to devote to this particular act of deconstruction, but I was appalled that the furtherance of the public knowledge of evolutionary biology was hitched to such a naive and patronizing post. Frankly, it was the exact sort of thing I meant when I talked of scientists often being very stupid when they wander off their reservation, as the post seemed minimally informed by history, political philosophy, psychology or sociology.
On Nazi quotas, affirmative action, and proportionalism...
Right now I'm reading an outstanding book by John Cornwell, Hitler's Scientists: Science, War, and the Devil's Pact. I don't really want to get into the Jew discussion again, but this part about quotas really caught me, and I thought I'd share it with you...
On 25 April 1933, the Nazi government passed with much trumpeting its Law Against Overcrowding of German Schools and Universities, aimed at reducing the number the number of places available for Jewish students. The act laid down a strict quota (1.5 per cent of school and college enrollments) deemed appropriate for the size of the non-Aryan or Jewish population at large.
After a quick search for an online copy of the document, I found one.
The number of non-Aryan Germans, within the meaning of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, of 7 April 1933 (Rgbl I, p 175), who may be admitted to schools, colleges and universities, must not exceed a number proportionate to the Aryan students in each school, college or university compared to the percentage of non-Aryans within the entire German population. This proportion is fixed uniformly for the whole Reich.
Ah, don't you just love the proportionalism Nazis (literally)!? Of course, the clause about the children of veterans was largely ignored, especially in the case of Fritz Haber, a former Jew [who converted to Christianity and wore a Prussian military uniform to work] and a brilliant chemist who literally built the German chemicals industry. The book goes into more detail about the whole idiotic thing.
And on yet another note, does this sound familiar?
Textbooks were rewritten and new curricula devised to inculcate National Socialist ideology with an emphasis on racial doctrines. Teachers were required to join the National Socialist Teachers' League, and as members of the civil service were subject to the anti-Semitic provisions of the Restoration of the Civil Service Act. Teachers critical of the party were dismissed; those who remained were required to be trained in National Socialist principles.
Sounds a bit familiar to the political correctness Nazis nowadays, no? Of course, in the end, the Nazis would pay for their focus on bizarre doctrines instead of individual merit.
The exodus of Jewish scientists was devastating in its consequences for Germany. Some 25 per cent of the pre-1933 physics community was lost to the country, including Einstein, Franck, Gustav Hertz, Schrodinger, Hess, and Debye - all Nobel laureates. Other lost laureates included Stern, Bloch, Born, Wigner, Bethe, Gabor, Hevesy and Herzberg, as well as mathematicians Richard Courant, Hermann Weyl and Emmy Noether. Most of the lost physicists were scientists of high originality and unique experience; they were irreplaceable. Almost half of Germany's theoretical physicists went, and many of its top experts in quantum mechanics and nuclear physics.
I have tried to tell some of the supporters of quotas and affirmative action about this, and they dismiss it out of hand. From a nationalist perspective, a greater mistake could not have been made. I sometimes wonder, considering the amazing stuff the Germans developed during WWII, what they could have come up with had they not expelled and killed some of their greatest minds and devastated their physics departments...
Peter Robinson: Malaysia. One of the more prosperous countries of Southeast Asia, population 23 million. Of those 23 million about half are Malays, a quarter are Chinese, and about 7% are Indians. Care to give us a brief history of the affirmative action programs in Malaysia?
Those who ignore the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.
Kerry & IQ
Diana links to a page that has SAT scores of famous people. But, as the page notes, they are unverified. I find John Kerry's score, 1190, plausible, but some of the others I don't buy. Howard Stern getting an 870 for example. Or Al Franken's 1020, he went to Harvard during the meritocratic tenure (and it seems impplausible that a Minnesota Jew would have connections in any case). Some of the others are confusing to me. Paul Allen is listed at 1600, but why did he go to Washington State University? (he and Gates were both affluent private school kids, and Gates went to Harvard like his SES and scores would indicate)
Steve will have more to say later on Kerry, I predict the guy is a lot dumber on on standardized tests that many liberals would have assumed. Perhaps 1 SD below Gore?
The Plot to Kill Evolution
Godless has said before that the "Intelligent Design" contingent is foolish and wrong. This article in Wired points out that they don't have to be correct, accurate or scientific, they just have to have good lawyers.
As a pre-breeder that plans on using public schools, this scared the heck out of me. :(
If you are a GNXP contributor, and want to divulge who you are voting for and why, go ahead in the extended entry. If you don't have full privs to do that, email me. Limit explanations to 10 words or less! A link to your own site with more explanation is OK. I put mine below (if you are not American, you can say who you are hoping wins).
Razib: Kerry. Vote trading with Aziz + Game Theory -> Gridlock (visions of '94!).
TangoMan: Kerry. Competence trumps delusion. Rationality trumps faith.
Arcane: Bush. He's not Kerry + war must continue + he's stronger on defense.
Thrasymachus: Possibly Bush. He's already made his mess, unlike Kerry.
Jinnderella: Bush. Kerry is outside my kin selection norms, physically + intellectually.
scottm Bush. Kerry scares me. Plus Bush might cause us to consider the fact that the Presidency has too much power, Kerry would just expand the abuse of that power.
Alex: Bush. 1) (hopefully) tax reform 2)
jeet: Kerry. Bush's state-centric approach ignores the transnationalist nature of the terrorist threat we face.
Jason M.: Kerry. Bush's attitude towards science and the environment is appalling. The administration is confused, volatile and unethical.
Ruotsi on parempi kuin Suomi ja koko maailma tietaa, paitsi Suomalaiset!
More on Multiregional Evolution
This didn't really turn out to be a response to razib's post below, so I'm giving it its own topic instead of posting a comment.
Two good papers on Multiregional evolution are Wolpoff's Population Bottlenecks and Pleistocene Human Evolution and Modern Human Ancestry at the Peripheries: A Test of the Replacement Theory.
My conception of Multiregional evolution is this: You have a widespread Homo species that maintains enough genetic interchange to avoid specification except in isolated instances. Combined with that (and this is purely my own speculation) is possibly a universal selective pressure towards larger brain size and a couple of other things. This selective pressure is present due to the new adaptation of long infancy periods. Before that, large brain size was somewhat maladaptive because of the dangers of childbirth.
The main evidence for Multiregional evolution seems to be regional fossil characteristics present in what should be different species. This is interpretive, so there are reasons to be skeptical.
On the other hand, the evidence for Out of Africa is based on genetic models that I have always been a little skeptical of as well. There is a type of model that does not respond well to any added complexity. Unlike razib, I like my beautiful simplicity in fundamental physics – anywhere else and it strikes me as out of place.
The weight of the evidence is behind Out of Africa, I think, but I read whatever I can on the Multiregional theory.
Paradigms (and books) lost....
About six months ago Dr. Henry Harpending expressed to me the opinion in an email that the mtDNA pattern we see (the seed from which genetic Out-of-Africa emerged) is the result of a selective sweep. Since Henry knows this shit, I was pretty troubled. You see, I have half a dozen books on human evolution and cognitive prehistory that I haven't gotten to that are premised on the beautiful simplicity of Out-of-Africa (Damn you Powells!).
A possibility that extremely ancient extra-African genes made their way into modern humans kind of rocks the boat. I know there have been a few genetic studies here and there that stand against Out-of-Africa, and for those "in the know" this might have been on the horizon and not caught them by surprise, but for the interested layperson (like me) it is pretty shocking.
Readers who follow the blog know that I've aired skepticism of the parsimonious appeal of the Great Leap Forward, that supposed cognitive explosion that led to humanity as we know it. If the new research pans out and other studies reproduce it, we might be faced with a phylogenetic as well as palaeoanthropological reworking of the established models. No doubt a Cambrian Explosion of books is just around the corner.
One might wonder if complex and geographically contextualized partial replacement and admixture models become more dominant if the current rhetoric of recent ancestry, ergo, we are all closely related, will fall by the wayside and more space will be given to the idea of interpopulation differences. My honest opinion is that Milford Wolpoff's cant in Race and Human Evolution will be modified, his polemic being that Out-of-Africa + Total replacement implies a genocidal nature for Homo sapiens, while his Multiregionalist model posits more amity and harmonious genetic exchanges between human subpopulations. I await the clever creativity of the sensitivity warriors as they rework partial replacement models into the context of diversity and multisubspecies homonid harmony.
For now, I'll still stick with Out-of-Africa, I'm not going to shift paradigm before the scientists, and I have some books whose subjective value in my eyes would decrease substantially, but my mind is very open to the possibility of change. I will mourn the passing of Out-of-Africa's simplicity if it does pass.
Related: All this is babbling about ancestry and models has to be judged in light of the possible difference between neutral and functional genomic history.
Addendum: I don't think this means we need to go back to the old-style Multiregional conceptions of a worldwide species that stumbles in lockstep toward sapiency. There are, as I suggest above, many points in between old school Multiregionalism and the currently dominant Out-of-Africa + Total replacement model. The Out-of-Africa model was always most well suited to Europe, and Chris Stringer based his ideas on morphological evidence, that is, fossils, which documented the sharp transition between Homo sapiens neanderthalis and Homo sapiens sapiens. In recent years computers have been used to analyze these fossils, so I will hold off on asserting that this sort of assessment is by its nature subjective since my impression is that a great deal of rigor has firmed up the field because of cheap CPU cycles (I have an acquaintance who is a computer science guy working in computational paleontology). But one might conjure up models where Out-of-Africa + Total replacement might hold for region A (Europe) but not for region B (Asia). In The Third Chimpanzee Jared Diamond offers just this model. In Ascent of the Mind William Calvin argued for repeated back-migrations from Eurasia into Africa. The period of the 1980s and 1990s might soon be viewed as a theoretical bottleneck before the diversification of models in this century....
Steven Pinker supports Kerry
"Who's Getting Your Vote?" Reason. 2004 November.That's not all! Pinker voted for Gore in 2000, though "with misgivings".
Let the comments begin!
Addendum from Razib: I chatted with Steven Pinker last spring (thanks to an intro from Steve), and we talked politics for about 2 minutes. I got the impression that he had contempt for the whole repulsive intellectual dishonesty of the process (the way he said "coalitional politics" dripped with disdain).
Also, I was surprised to see that Michael Shermer of Skeptic is a libertarian. I do believe it is true that though seculars tend to be left-liberal, libertarians tend to be seculars (control-f "god" on this page).
October 19, 2004
Bush doubles support from African Americans
New study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies indicates that Bush has doubled his 9% rating from 2000 to 18%. It appears that it involves mainly his stance on social issues and the change is occuring much more likely amongst the 50+ crowd.
So if the life expectency of AA is extended could we see more movement towards the GOP?
Team America clips
African Americans & alcoholism
Greater Hepatic Vulnerability after Alcohol Intake in African Americans Compared with Caucasians: A Population-Based Study (PDF). Here is a popular press summation of the research. In short, the study shows that an enzyme that signals liver damange, gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT), is found to be at higher concentrations among African Americans after drinking than among European Americans (though the basal concentration is also higher to begin with among the former). This particular research need not be definitive, knowledge of the importance of the variation in alcohol dehydrogenase polymorphisms worldwide via its possible correlation with propensities toward alcoholism (read the linked article to get more qualified nuance), suggests that members of many world populations should take with a grain of salt those who naively recommend the healthfullness of drinking in moderation based on the French or Italians. The key is that moderation may be population contextual.
Fat brown cinema
Rezwan has an interesting post about the vulgarization of Bangladeshi cinema:
Kind of funny in light of the fact that in most parts of the world actresses try and stay super thin. One of my cousins married a man whose family has had an involvement in the Bengali film industry for decades. His uncle, a director, was shot in the head by the Pakistani security forces in 1971, while much of his extended family had to go into hiding.1 He told me that one of the reasons that Bangladeshi film sucks so badly is so many of the talented people were killed off, which had a cascade effect because it also denied younger people mentors. My cousin-in-law told me, "they killed our brains". Ah, the fellowship of Islam!
Postscript: My cousin-in-law's father stayed away from film after independence because of the tragedy it brought to his family, he's an arms dealer, a far more reliable profession!
Addendum: I just realized, some of my comments above might be illustrative of processes I hinted at in Machiavelli & the Great Men, that is, elite-dominant personalities in several sectors of Bangladeshi/Bengali (Bangladesh was in the process of formation, so the use of the term is an anachronism) society were at a fitness handicap in relation to more humble individuals. One could imagine a small nation that shifts back and forth between the hands of hostile larger neighbors which might be subject to several such anti-dominant selection sweeps (I think Lithuania might be a case of this that would warrent attention).
An acquaintance of mine suggested this sort of process might have been at play during Stalin's great purges, and wondered at the impact they might have had on the personality/IQ profile of the Soviet population. I was skeptical simply because it seemed to me that the characteristics of the Russian "personality" were crystallized as early as the reign of Ivan the Terrible (or perhaps Peter the Great), that is, the appeal of autocracy and the strong man. There is a strong cultural/social factor that obviously exists over any genetically rooted changes in the population, so we should not get carried away with the latter.
1- My mother was shot by mistake in 1971, though she survived. Her family were apolitical, and as a doctor, my grandfather was small-fry. But, the reality that such violence touched the lives of upper-middle-class Bangladeshi Muslims makes it entirely plausible to me that hundreds of thousands of Hindus, if not millions, were killed during the 1971 conflict. This asymmetrical impact explains I think the relatively sanguine attitude the Bangladeshi government & people take toward Pakistan, the Muslim majority was only mildly brushed by the catastrophe.
A Reason for Everything
I’ve just finished reading the new book by Marek Kohn: A Reason for Everything: Natural Selection and the English Imagination. This is ostensibly a history of the theory of natural selection in England since Darwin by way of biographical studies of six major theorists: Alfred Russel Wallace, R. A. Fisher, J. B. S. Haldane, John Maynard Smith, W. D. Hamilton, and Richard Dawkins, with briefer coverage of E. B. Ford, David Lack, and a few others.
An underlying theme is the strong influence of the ‘natural history’ tradition in British evolutionism - that is, the observation of animals and plants in the wild - as compared with the importance of comparative anatomy, physiology, or paleontology in other countries. I suppose there is something in this, but Kohn’s treatment of the theme is rather perfunctory, and closer study is needed of the natural history tradition in other countries before one can safely make comparisons.
The real meat of the book is in the biographical studies. There is nothing very new in the treatment of Wallace, Fisher and Haldane, who all have full length biographies already, but Kohn’s chapters on them are well-researched and enjoyable. There is more new material in the chapters on Maynard Smith, Hamilton and Dawkins, where Kohn draws on interviews and correspondence with the subjects themselves and their colleagues.
I was pleased to find confirmation of a suspicion of my own about volume 2 of Hamilton’s Narrow Roads of Gene Land. According to Kohn, ’His death in 2000 left his editors with a thousand pages worth of text and a remarkable dilemma. The book was as he wanted it, but he surely would have accepted major changes had he lived. The limited sales prospects for such a sprawling and necessarily expensive tome would have been pointed out to him; the essays would have been shortened and tightened. In the process, it seems reasonable to suppose, the editors would have persuaded him to lose remarks such as the suggestion that European Jews could have avoided persecution by limiting their population growth. In the end, the editors decided, quite properly, that without him they could not choose what to cut and what to keep. They passed the whole text…’
I wouldn’t recommend Kohn’s book as a single choice on the subjects it covers - Ullica Segerstrale’s Defenders of the Truthis better as an in-depth study - but it is a very enjoyable and readable introduction.
Addendum from Razib: The Guardian has a review of the above book by Andrew Brown (via Philosophy of Biology). Also, I'm sure David also knows this, but it confirms the reality that R.A. Fisher, also similarly depicted The Lady Tasting Tea (a short popular history of 20th century statistics), was a major league asshole. I was surprised to find out in the latter book that Karl Pearson, Galton's successor and the man that Fisher eventually far surpassed and rendered obsolete, seemed to be the more personable human being.
Also, for American and other non-British readers, since the book just got published in the UK, it might be a while coming to other shores....
Is it just me, or is Google Desktop search an order of magnitude better than Microsoft's? Granted, it only searches particular formats, but they are the important ones.
October 18, 2004
Infertility treatment differences by race
The research here is a bit sketchy, but I was pointed to it by a more thorough and detailed BBC radio report (which I couldn't find online). Researchers were interviewed and it was made clear that South and East Asians were surveyed in the United States, and their IVF success rates were over 50% lower (a comparison was given that a white women at age 40 had the same chance of conceiving as an Asian woman age 35). Additionally, the researchers offered that IVF clinics in eastern Asia had comparable rates of success as Asian Americans. Since both East and South Asians have these problems, I think it is probable that the issue with the fertility treatment is that these regimes have been developed mostly with European origin patients as test cases and the vast majority of customers remain white.
Once Upon a time there was a boy named John...
OK, I have received approval from on high (razib) to use my access to this blog to shamelessly shill for my favorite show of all time, Farscape, and it's upcoming mini-series The PeaceKeeper Wars. To the uninitiated, Farscape is a science fiction show produced by the Henson company (yeah, those guys who made the "muppet show") which is a dark alternative to the usual Sci-Fi fare of "Trek" "B5" "Flash Gordon" and "SG-1". It features a physicist and astronaut from our time who is sucked down a wormhole to another part of the Universe where two species The Scarren and the Sebaceans are involved in a genocidal war. I like it since it is the most creative, visually-stunning (it's very much like live action anime), dark, and...did I say creative? It is not afraid to tackle issues such as race, war, sex, genocide, slavery in a very up-front and bold way (and not in the P.C. way that Star Trek does.).
So check it out, the mini airs tonight.
Update One of the focuses of the mini is a race called the Interions who created the peacekeepers from human stock. Here is how they are described;
I suspect that the Interion people have been enviably sheltered. They have the luxury of considering themselves too civilized for violence, and so are not experienced with it. Consequently, their elite have gained status through knowledge rather than through force. One of Jool's cousins, a member of this intellectual elite, held 16 advanced degrees. Jool herself is expert in biology, medicine, history, astrophysics and even gymnastics, though her skills in that discipline remain too stylized to be of any practical value.
They are also described as professional peace makers (their goal is universal peace) and they place themselves in cultures to work towards this goal. They left 12,000 years ago having created the peacekeepers to "keep the peace" an experiment that went awry.
Hmmm... Highly intelligent, cultural elites who are ideologically driven for peace and who gene engineered a race of super beings to enforce that peace, sound like anyone we know?
Here's the fan produced commercial that is airing on FX and cartoon network that brings you a little up to date on the show.
Update II We'll the mini is aired and I'd give it an A-, all around great with a few minor errors. But here is a list of note;
Rygel "I would like you to name the child Rygel"
Jool dies :(
Sikozu dies :(
Ka' Dargo dies :(
Harvey dies :|
Aeryn in actively fighting the Scarrens as she gives birth to a baby, breach.
Aeryn and John desperate to be married before the baby arrives pulls Stark over to marry them. Stark: Alien Language, John: "Thats a Sheyang death rite"
Rygel, a male, undergoing post partum depression after having Aeryn's baby removed from him (he accidently had the baby left in him when he was collecting the shattered lovers)
Finally I liked how John ended the war. Remember that John is a fugitive on the run with a bunch of escaped prisoners being chased by both the Scarrens and the Peacekeepers for the wormhole knowledge he has. To stop the war between the two that threatens to involve the entire galaxy, John opens a wormhole weapon that is growing exponentially that threatens to destroy the entire galaxy to force the two sides the the table. Pretty novel plot device.
October 17, 2004
A week ago I posted Of lice & "men", mooting the idea of Homo sapien + Homo erectus matings. Well, Carl Zimmer points me to an abstract that indicates there is a gene with a ~2 million year history, with the oldest lineage found among East Asians.1 This hints as possible matings between different human lineages, since the balance of the data seems to point to most of "our" genetic history being in Africa 100,000 years before the present. This gene might have crept in during a time when two human species coexisted in eastern Asia. Since they say that it is a pseudogene there doesn't seem to have been a recent functional significance, so it is unlikely that the gene conferred some localized fitness advantage which allowed it to attain high frequencies in the local Homo sapiens after only minor genetic exchanges allowed it to crossover from Homo erectus.
1- Before you ask, am I "shadowing" Carl? Well, he get's paid to keep track of human evolution (in theory). I can only devote an hour or two here and there depending on the day.
A year and a half back, when I read Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior, I was pretty irritated by the constant implication (at least that was what I preceived it to be) that the authors' group selection paradigm was somehow more decent & congenial to liberal modern man than the alternatives, that is, individual/gene selectionism. Stephen Jay Gould, and to a lesser extent Dick Lewontin, attempted to leave the door open for "multi-level selection" as well, and some believe that is motivated by their communitarian political inclinations.
Not everyone would agree that higher levels of selection would imply something congenial to the "liberal" outlook. Here is William D. Hamilton (page 385, Defenders of the Truth):
To be more specific, group selelction implies outgroups and ingroups. The interdemic process that drives much of the group selection described by David Sloan Wilson makes it clear that competition continues. Like a theist pushing the buck on the issue of primal causality to a causeless deity, "liberals" who champion group selectionism are simply passing up the baton of competition to a higher level of organization.
A more specific example that refutes the idea that group selection is somehow more enlightened than individual/gene selection (characterized by some as too libertarian or egoistic!) is David Sloan Wilson's defense of Kevin MacDonald. Avoiding the particular issues of MacDonald's thesis, I think it safe to say that the prescriptions to remedy the 'Jewish problem' that he proposes, that is, heightened group awareness among white gentiles, is not necessarily part & parcel of the mainstream liberal tradition. This is not to say that individual/gene selection is immune from such interpretations, as Dawkins himself had to deal with British nationalists making an argument in favor of ethnic consciousness extended from kin selection (see the recent ethnic nepotism posts).
The overall point is that one of the major problems with the naturalistic fallacy is that so many natural models are drawn from biology, a science that is less clear cut than physics (at least the Newtonian physics that is relevant for our lives day to day). Imagine a simple equation of fitness = goodness, but "fitness" if often contingent upon a host of conditions and contexts! The lack of a clear inferred chain of logic between is and ought is displayed by the reality that atheistic utilitarians like Peter Singer can argue for a Darwinian Left, while a center-right religiously oriented journal like First Things can also publish an essay that declares that conservatives need Darwin. Needless to say, both of these espousals of Darwin in the interests of oughts have their foes from within their own ideological camps.
In truth, what is going on is not a simple naturalistic fallacy, that is, nature -> values, rather, it is more likely to be nature + values -> public policy prescriptions in ends of values. Nature has a constraining influence, it clears the field of the vast majority of cognitively conceivable options.1 Nevertheless, values still remain in the driver's seat.2
1- Consider Communism. We consider it unworkable today, but it is workable. The Hutterites have been going at it for nearly 450 years now. There were constraints on the conditions under which a communistic system would work for human beings. Our natures are not infinately malleable, though they are flexible.
2- Which begs the question where values come from. Nature?
In double-checking what I had stated about "kinship muting/masking" in social insects in the comments of the previous post, I stumble upon this site, Reproductive skew: An introduction to a central theory of biology. From the FAQ:
This is premised on animal models, though if you go further down in the FAQ the site acknowledges its debt to W.D. Hamilton, who did not shy away from implications of kin selection for human beings. The site is not complete, but the reference list has a bibliography of research in this area. Additionally, in case you didn't notice, many researchers have PDF copies of their papers on their web sites.
Dawkins on Kin Selection
In writings on Kin Selection there are often references to Richard Dawkins’s article ‘12 Misunderstandings of Kin Selection’, in Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie, 51 (1979), 184-200.
Alas, the Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie is not on every bookshelf, and I don’t know of any more accessible reprint. But I recently looked up a library copy, and it may be useful to list the ‘misunderstandings’ with a few comments.
The ‘misunderstandings’ follow Dawkins’s numbering and are quoted verbatim. In most cases Dawkins gives references for examples of the ’misunderstandings’, but I will omit these. Of course, some of Dawkins’s points are familiar from other sources, such as the endnotes to the second edition of The Selfish Gene, or Chapter 10 of The Extended Phenotype.
Misunderstanding 1: Kin selection is a special, complex kind of natural selection, to be invoked only when ‘individual selection’ proves inadequate.
Misunderstanding 2: Kin selection is a form of group selection
Misunderstanding 3: The theory of kin selection demands formidable feats of cognitive reasoning by animals.
Misunderstanding 4: It is hard to imagine a gene ‘for’ anything so complex as altruistic behaviour towards kin
Misunderstanding 5: All members of a species share more than 99% of their genes, so why shouldn’t selection favour universal altruism?
Misunderstanding 6: Kin selection works only for rare genes
Misunderstanding 7: Altruism is necessarily expected between members of an identical clone.
Misunderstanding 8: Sterile worker insects propagate their genes by caring for other sterile workers who are especially closely related to them.
Misunderstanding 9: Because full siblings are no less valuable to an individual than his own offspring, Trivers’s theory of parent/offspring conflict does not apply to monogamous species
Misunderstanding 10: Individuals should tend to inbreed, simply because this brings extra close relatives into the world
Dawkins points out that this is fallacious as it stands, because it overlooks the opportunity cost of giving up outbred matings. If each offspring of sibling incest simply replaces an outbred mating, there is no increase in ’genes for incest’. An incestuous couple would have (in a stable population) 2 offspring, with a ¾ probability of passing on the gene to each of them, giving an expected total of 1½ copies. But if the partners mated with unrelated individuals, the expected number of copies would be (2 x ½) + (2 x ¼), giving the same expected total of 1½.
The crucial point is therefore whether incestuous matings would simply replace outbred ones. Dawkins notes this question, but does not mention the likely asymmetry between males and females: females can usually only have a limited number of offspring, whereas males can have a practically unlimited number. A male who mates with his sister (or daughter) is therefore more likely to gain in the number of offspring than she is, and the balance between gain of inclusive fitness (measured by the increase in genes identical by descent) and loss of physiological fitness will be different for the two sexes. Suppose that a brother can mate with his sister and thereby gain 2 extra offspring for himself, while she gains none for herself (since the mating with her brother displaces an outbred one); a gene causing him to mate with his sister will therefore gain on average 2 x ¾ copies, [2 x ½ copies of his own genes, plus 2 x ¼ i.b.d. genes from her] whereas a gene causing her to mate with her brother will gain only 2 x ¼ copies [since she would pass it on to half her offspring anyway, and it is only the possibility of extra copies from her brother that counts]. We might therefore expect males and females to evolve different attitudes towards incest, with females being much more resistant to it.
Misunderstanding 11: There is an important distinction between exact and probabilistic coefficients of relatedness which affects the kind of altruistic behaviour predicted.
The difficulty with this, Dawkins points out, is that what matters in kin selection is only the probability of sharing a particular gene for altruism. Other indicators of relatedness, such as physical features, will give no information on this, unless they happen to be linked to the gene for altruism. Your brother may share your big nose, but this does not make him any more likely to share your gene for altruism than your sister with her small nose. For more on this point see chapter 10 of The Extended Phenotype.
Misunderstanding 12: An animal is expected to dole out to each relative an amount of altruism proportional to the coefficient of relatedness.
I think this point deserves more prominence than Dawkins gives it. It tends to undermine Dawkins’s own case for the general importance of kin selection.