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November 20, 2004
Nazi IQs and leader success
IQ of Nazi leaders, cited from: Gilbert, G. M.: Nuremberg Diary. New York: Signet Book 1947, p. 34; Wechsler-Bellevue IQ: Hjalmar Schacht IQ 143, Arthur Seyss-Inquart IQ 141, Hermann Göring IQ 138, Karl Dönitz IQ 138, Franz von Papen IQ 134, Erich Räder IQ 134, Dr. Hans Frank IQ 130, Hans Fritsche IQ 130, Baldur von Schirach IQ 130, Joachim von Ribbentropp IQ 129, Wilhelm Keitel IQ 129, Albert Speer IQ 128, Alfred Jodl IQ 127, Alfred Rosenberg IQ 127, Constantin von Neurath IQ 125, Walter Funk IQ 124, Wilhelm Frick IQ 124, Rudolf Hess IQ 120, Fritz Sauckel IQ 118, Ernst Kaltenbrunner IQ 113, Julius Streicher IQ 106 - "confirming the fact that the most successful men in any sphere of human activity - whether it is politics, industry, militarism or crime - are apt to be above average intelligence."
Whether or not the Nazis can be considered to have been "successful" is debatable and it has been demonstrated numerous times that that the Nazis cared more about ethnicity than about the merit of individuals. Of course, it is generally fairly well known that the Nazi leadership and their scientists were extremely smart. However, I continue to find it extremely disturbing, no matter how many times I see statistics similar to these, that such intelligent individuals were attracted to such a destructive and horrid ideology/ies (you see the same type of high-IQ individuals in Marxist movements, as well). So, let me ask some questions to get your brains spinning a bit...
I have mentioned statistics similar to these in the comment sections of this site before, usually adding in Richard Nixon's IQ of 143 and John Kennedy's IQ of 119. It has been said by some that "many empirical studies confirm the central prediction that an IQ near 119 is the prescription for leader success." (unfortunately, I have not read the book that this quote came out of, so I don't know who and why they say this) So I must ask, do leaders with above average, but not sub-genius or genius-level, IQs have a higher chance of success as a leader than those with sub-genius and above-genius level IQs? Is this because those with higher IQs tend to be more ambitious than those with lower IQs, sometimes to the point of recklessness?
Hitler, before he died, said something along the lines of "The German people have not met my expectations and so as I will perish I will ensure that Germany perishes, as well." (if somebody has the actual quote, please post it since I can't seem to find it anywhere, but I know I've seen it before) Hitler was obviously ambitious to the point of recklessness and his high-IQ advisors were certainly equally ambitious, if not more. When the tide turned against them many believed, as Hitler did, that it was not their own fault for being too ambitious, but the fault of their people because they did not meet their expectations.
You see similarities today amongst the high-IQ neoconservatives who are now blaming others instead of re-evaluating their own policies. They are saying things along the lines of, "We did not fail. Our plans and our policies did not fail. What failed are the Iraqi people. They did not meet our expectations." I might add that they aren't necessarily wrong here when it comes to their expectations for Iraqis, but they are absolutely wrong when they use others as a scapegoat instead of re-evaluating their policies.
So my theory is that higher-IQ people simply tend to be more ambitious and this ultimately dooms many of them when put into such positions of power. Since this post is mostly to satisfy some of my curiosity, what does everyone think? Does it really matter if a leader has an IQ of 143 instead of 116? (this is assuming that generally you aren't going to get into a leadership position if you have a low IQ) Are higher-IQ leaders, as I asked before, more prone to reckless policies that will lead to failure than those with slightly lower ones, like Nixon in comparison to JFK?
For data junkies
City-Data.com. Yes, you can find this elsewhere, but this is a quick shortcut.
The Asian Genome Study
First we had the Human Genome Project which mapped the genes common to us all. Then the Human Genome Diversity Project mapped the inter-group differences. Now, the Asian Genome Study will map the intra-group differences.
"Although we know that the difference in our genetic makeup is only 0.1 percent, we know very little about the genetic factors that make us different," said Liu.
Does anyone have any more sources on this claim?
Scientists think Asian populations share genetic variations dating back thousands of years but people from some areas are more prone to certain diseases. For example, those living in China's Guangdong province are more prone to nasal cancer.
As the news of this project gets wider coverage let's hope that it won't bring out the activists like the Human Genome Diversity Project did:
In the year of indigenous people and at the time of UN Conference on Human Rights we find such initiatives emerging from the West totally unethical and a moral outrage. We call on all groups and individuals concerned with indigenous peoples' rights to mobilise public opinion against the case of human communities as material for scientific experimentation and patenting. Indigenous communities are not just "isolates of historical interest". They have a right to be recognised as fully human communities with full human rights which include decision about how other countries will relate to them. We are bringing up this issue at the UN Conference on Human Rights which is currently taking place in Vienna, Austria. This fundamental human right abuse of indigenous people by western economic and scientific powers needs to be focussed on as much as the human rights violation within the Third World. Although the Project's formal campaign may not be launched until late 1993 or 1994, collection work has already started. Therefore we strongly urge you to join us to call for an immediate halt to the Project.
Only minor hacking required
The links have not been posted on the web yet, but you can listen to the Dawkins interview anyway because it appears that NPR puts them up on the server before making the links.
November 19, 2004
Everyone has sex eventually
Interesting article over at PLOS: Convergent Evolution of Chromosomal Sex-Determining Regions in the Animal and Fungal Kingdoms. The late S.J. Gould liked to emphasize the importance of contingency and expressed skepticism that the shape of life would manifest itself in the same way if one could rewind the clock of natural history by fiat and allow evolution to do its work once more. Well, research that offers evidence as above undercuts the force of such musings (though those who deny the seminal importance of natural selection in evolution might argue that they would concede there are broad parameters that natural history must always be constrained by). What language is to evolutionary psychology sex is to evolutionary biology, the mother of a million papers and the patron of a thousand careers. Nevertheless, I will offer that in an ecosystem characterized by species plentitude and competition sex will evolve (see Narrow Roads of Gene Land: Volume 2 for more details on why complex organisms must be sexual organisms). Some might ridicule science fiction for the tendency for many of the "aliens" to simply be humans with strange growths on their noses. Some authors like Ursula K. Le Guin have offered worlds where conventional ideas of sex/gender are confounded in an effort to break out of the box of anthropomorphism. But I would be surprised if hermaphroditic sentient beings were common on earth-like planets (I have no idea how natural selection would shape organisms on gas giants for example). Certainly there are novel sexual life cycles among certain species, but they are usually exceptions that prove the rule.1 The lesson that biology, and science in general, offers is that diversity exists constrained by certain parameters, what we like to call reality. This does not imply that there is one way to go from A to B, but some of the paths might be favored over others. The reality of physics is relatively transparent in its exposition, but just because biology is messier, more statistical, does not mean that its lessons don't have any utility.
1 - Amazon mollies "...are a unisexual (all female) species of molly that are parasitic on the closely related bisexual sailfin molly, P. latipinna. Conflict exists between male sailfin mollies trying to mate with the right species, and the unisexual females trying to appropriate a mating from these males...."
Stating the Obvious
After Razib posed the question about Red and Blue State values that Steve will be writing about I thought it might have to do with academic and military cultures, which do map quite nicely to the liberal vs. conservative ideologies, but very quickly disgarded this hypothesis because it didn't meet the other conditions stated in the post.
However, after a cursory search of the net I didn't find a nice summary of the hypthosis so I thought I'd do a first order approximation and below are the graphs.
Here is the source data for National Science Foundation Grants by States.
The fact that the Blue states dominate in the area of research funding per capita and the strength of liberal values on university campuses shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
The fact that the Red states dominiate in the area of military spending per capita and the strength of conservative values within the military shouldn't come as a surpise to anyone either.
So, this is a post that simply states the obvious, as least on a first order examnation of the data. For those who want to break the data down and look for more surprising results let me know and I'll add an addendum to this post.
Blue & Red on iSteve.com
From Steve's site:
Any guesses? I'll throw out hair-dye purchases. Might be time to get The American Conservative electronic edition.
Update: Check out Jody's crunching of marriage numbers. Not too surprising.
Dawkins on Science Friday, a review
Listened to much of Dawkins' interview (archive should be around by tomorrow to listen). Two notes.
Vlaams Blok is Back
Flemish nationalist and anti-immigrationist party, Vlaams Blok, is back in Belgium after being forced to disband as a "racist organization" by the country's Supreme Court.
Activists decided to dissolve the party and start up again under the name Vlaams Belang, which means ‘Flemish Interest’.
A little common sense from the Dutch
The AP reports that the European Union justice and interior ministers want to start forcing integration onto immigrants. A simple statement that we in the U.S. could learn from
Verdonk said. "If you want to live in the Netherlands, you have to adhere to our rules ... and learn our language."
It's a sad state of affairs that the New Left has such a stranglehold on this country's thought (U.S.) that a statement like that is not only considered 'racist' and 'bigoted' but is fought against so strenously by our so-called 'right-wing' government.
Update from Arcane:
Of the about 800,000 Muslims in the Netherlands, the General Intelligence and Security Service estimates that as many as 50,000 are "sympathetic to extremist ideas." Also, "Geert Wilders, the most outspoken advocate of restricting immigration and the heir apparent to Mr. Fortuyn, has shed his pariah status virtually overnight and now has about 20 backers in the 150-member Dutch parliament." Mr. Wilders is quite blunt in comparison to much of the Western world and has no problems stating that "Ninety percent of our prison population is immigrants, they are the most dependent on our social schemes, they are non-Western and not speaking our language" and that he believes that "Islam is fascist."
Tasting the demon
We have addressed the physiological aspects of alcoholism & their controlling genetic factors before, but here is evidence that the experience of rum is salient upstream in the taste buds: Genetic variation gives a taste for alcohol. The bitter chemical PROP, earlier mentioned in a more generic gustatory context, shows up again as a proxy to determine how sensitive people are to particular bitter tastes. Strong tasters of PROP also tended to drink far less alcohol. You can see the profile of the lead researcher and note that she's published a lot in this area. Here is the abstract for the research that is the basis for the above article.
The Saxon Shore on the Imbler Coast?
In my spare time I am rereading Albion's Seed. I live in the Western extension of "Puritan America." Going over the section that draws the connection between East Anglia and New England David Hacket Fischer, the author, emphasizes the peculiarity of East Anglian society in comparison to the rest of England (more literate, more egalitarian in asset distribution, etc.) and alludes to possible historical differences traceable as far back as the 6th century. The deep time roots of these differences reminded me of genetic studies which indicated that the peoples of the "Saxon shore" (of which East Anglia was the heart) bear the stamp of their Germanic forebears in their NRY lineages. The Elect who emigrated to the New World (immigrants were vetted for character and piety) might have numbered no more than ~50,000, who in the first half of the 17th century laid down the seeds for the development of Yankee America up to the Revolutionary War (Fischer makes reference to the fact that the sex ratio was relatively even in New England because of the social engineering of the elders of the colony and demographic doubling time worked its magic to increase the population base after the immigration decreased after 1650).
In this book Fischer emphasizes the cultural continuity that characterizes a region even when the preponderant ethnic group is numerically surpassed, and the genetic affinity of extensions of the root culture that transcend the bounds of geography. The peculiar cultural folkways of East Anglia, shaped by its Saxon and later Dane heritage, were recapitualed in a more extreme form in New England. These folkways were then transmitted to the Upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest. When the Irish settled in New England they brought their Catholicism and their drinking, but after a few generations Fischer argues that they began to behave very much be Yankees (J.F.K., an Irish Catholic was The United States' last openly & proudly Yankee president). And so it is that the descendents of Gaels adopt a culture that owes much to the Saesons who displaced their kin in Britain, and hippies in the shadow of Mt. Hood in distant Imbler are stamped by the decision of Vortigern to invite German mercenaries to repulse Irish and Pictish mauraders.
Of course the current world is contingent upon the past, that is a trivial assertion, what surprises me is that we can still discern such stark strands of culture & thought over thousands of years and miles tracing themselves through disparate periods and nations.
November 18, 2004
A new hominoid, Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, said to be "close to the last common ancestor of great apes and humans," was just described in the latest issue of Science. An MSNBC report can be found here.
Interested parties can email for a PDF of the actual paper, if they want.
Google Goes Academic
For those who don't know, Google has introduced Google Scholar, a service that finds free, online scholarly literature.
Richard Dawkins on Science Friday
Richard Dawkins is going to be interviewed on the second hour of NPR's Science Friday tomorrow.
Scarred for life
I happened upon this nugget in an article in today's Washington Post , discussing basic probability theory:
The general idea of probability theory is illustrated by the now infamous bell curve. Actually a value-neutral form of measurement, the curve demonstrates that if you gather random factors and then graph them, the resulting line will be near-flat on the left, rise gradually to the rounded peak of a hill, then sink at exactly the same gradient to near-flat again on the right, resulting in the shape of a bell.
Apparently, a large segment of society has been left permanently scarred by Herrnstein and Murray’s work. Perhaps they could sue?
Prince vs. Blank Slate
As Christmas is coming up, think I'll be able to buy a inspirational poster of this anytime soon?
November 17, 2004
Dawkins vs. Gould
Homophobe = Homosexual?
Anyone who has ever taken a critical view of the social/moral/legal desirability of male homosexuality (or who has affective responses to gay individuals) has undoubtedly heard the "you're a homophobe, and homophobes are homosexual themselves" canard. Interestingly, I found an older study that provides some empirical support for it.
I actually did read the Nature Genetics article Implications of biogeography of human populations for 'race' and medicine, but I didn't click the link for their phylogenetic tree. Well, Greg Cochran just emailed me and told me to look at where the Ashkenazi are placed. I cut it up so you can focus on it:
The Adygei are North Caucasian.
The Chuvash are a Turkic people of the Middle Volga.
The Khazars were of course a Turkic people of the Lower Volga region.
I never said I'd drink milk....
Related: Jews & Khazars. Also,
Funny (?) anecdotes
Today was a little stressfull in the real world of work. And seeing as how we are serious all the time, I thought I would offer some funny stories about my family to puncture the mood (mine if not yours).
My mother's father died in his 100th year. His aunt lived to around ~115 (my family ostentatiously avoids close monitoring of birthdays because Hindus keep track of these things for astrological reasons and Good Brown MuslimsTM must D.W.H.W.D.TM [Do What Hindu's Wouldn't Do]). The way she died was kind of funny. She was always preoccupied with making dinner by herself, and in her old age sometimes she insisted on handling everything if there wasn't any heavy lifting involved, usually desserts. So, one day she shooed everyone out of the kitchen and set about making a sweet-meat of some sort. She took a little more time than usual, so my mother was sent in see what was up. Of course, as you might have guessed, she was keeled over and dead. I don't recall if anyone found the sweet-meats palatable.
Another story, one of uncles is a "born again Muslim." He's a member of a missionary order, though his "day job" is as a geology professor. He is making sure his kids get the Islamic education he didn't get. So, my cousin is a good student, and one of the kids at the madrassa was jealous of him because he always set the curve (or something to that effect). Now, this isn't like the cloistered madrassa I've talked about, he was free to come & go as he pleased, etc. One day a bunch of kids, including his rival, jumped him. They kidnapped him and held him hostage for a week. They insisted that my uncle give them a big ransom, and the police were hinting that they would need a big bribe to find who did what to my cousin. My uncle is rather high up in the Tableegh order and talked to a few people and soon the cops had the fear of Allah up their ass and rescued my cousin. The kids poisoned him with something, so he needs to visit the doctor a lot. He plans on going to Al-Ahazar, but my uncle says the Arabs have gotten too new fangled and is against it (my uncle expresses opinions that are very similar, bizarrely, or not so, to those of my New Agey neigbhors here in Imbler). My cousin's rival was kicked out of the madrassa.
50 K B.P. in the Carolinas?
First Americans may have crossed Atlantic 50,000 years ago. Well, I think the headline is way too bold, and I don't understand why the Christian Science Monitor of all places would want to engage in this sort of behavior. Nevertheless, the important point is not this dating of artifacts from 50,000 years ago in the New World itself (the attempt by the writer to claim some association with the Solutrean culture of Western Europe is bizarre since there were still Neandertals in much of what would later become Cro-Magnon territory over the Atlantic during this period), it is the metastory that scientists would actually come forward with these sort of dates with a straight face that one should pay attention too. I think Greg Cochran's assertion that he won't believe all these early dates until we get some human remains is defensible, I really don't know what I believe, though I do know what I don't believe. It is rather suspicious to have such an early date (honestly, I don't think 50,000 B.P. is right, but who am I to say?), and I wouldn't be surprised if more than half of these splashy sites turn out to be false leads. Nevertheless, we live in exciting times, and because the old orthodoxy (paradigm) is crumbling so fast you have all these theories and claims rushing to fill the vacuum until the rise of the next orthodoxy crystallizes reputations and closes off avenues to clinch tenure.
Baby, we were born to run
Wilford, John Noble. "Even Couch Potatoes May Have Been Born to Run". The New York Times. 2004 November 17.
Demography and destiny
Patrick Cox over at TCS has a new article up comparing politcal vote by county in the 2004 election and population density. He does not give into the folly of trying to give absolute answers to the correlation, as many pundits have, but mearly makes observations and proposes some theories. The one thing he does say with some conviction is;
Depressingly deterministic as it is, this correlation, if it continues, may mean that future elections will be decided by immigration patterns, reproductive rates and technologies that allow more businesses and workers to locate in suburban and rural locations.
An interesting read, I post it hear for discussions sake.
Update upon re-reading the article I noticed Patrick uses population density by county from 1990. Here's a number of maps that are more up-to-date and also show population density change, population and change by age etc.
Update II By special request, here are census 2000 national maps based on racial demographics;
November 16, 2004
Ontario's submission to Shar'ia
In a development that has been discussed on this blog by Godless before, Ontario is going to begin allowing for the application of Shar'ia law for Muslims in Ontario. In year-old articles that I seem to have missed before, the Canadian Law Times reported that the new Islamic Institute for Civil Justice in Ontario has begun drafting bylaws that will be enforced by the secular Canadian courts, with the help of Shar'ia trained Islamic "arbitrators."
I just ran across this a few minutes ago, so I haven't done much research into it, but what I've seen so far is appalling. From the website of the IICJ:
Muslim minorities living in non-Muslim countries like Canada are like wandering Bedouins for whom the Shariat applies irregardless of where or when or they live. Although they are free to live according to the Divine Law to practice their faith unhindered in their homes and masjids [mosques], they have practically no say in the making of the laws of the land, and governmental institutions do not cater to their needs.
This is multiculturalist dogma in its most hideous form. Regardless as to what the multiculturalists claim, the slippery slope rule applies here; what is "voluntary" now ("voluntary" in that legally, Muslims in Canada are not required to go through this process, but this is ignoring peer and religious pressure which will result in them being forced to) will become mandatory in the future if the West does not wake up. If the West does not re-assert its cultural hegemony over what remains of Western Civilization soon, what will result will truly be remembered as "the suicide of the West."
Microcephaly in H. floresiensis
A new explanation for Homo floresiensis: Microcephaly
I know that paleontologists don't like the "maybe the one we found is weird" explanation. But modern tools together with a 380cc brain is rather hard to swallow, I'll admit.
Internet IQ test
I got 124 with a standard deviation of 15. Only one point below our President. I think. The only words of Danish that I can understand are "majestik møøse." Or maybe that's Swedish.
And now back to Half Life 2. (Released at midnight last night.)
Red & blue beneath the cliches (sort of)
God I hate political ass-licking & coalitional politics. Bush is neither the Great Leader nor the Beast in my book. It's nice to see hypocrisy pointed out on occasion, how many times should I have to listen to New York City living neoconservative intellectuals praising the muscular values of the Heartland in comparison to their effete citified environs? (move to the fucking south and shut up!) How many times will I have to endure orthodox liberals praising the value of diversity from their "lily white" (to use a favorite liberal appellation) suburban perch? (go move to the ghetto or barrio and take in the fucking ambiance first person!)
I've enjoyed the recent posts on the blogosphere (something I can't say often for political pieces to be frank) noting that Red states are more charitable and Blue states tend to feed less gluttonously at the federal trough. After the recent loss it has been pleasant to see the Left praise federalism, though I can only wonder how long it will last before the next political swing corrupts them again. Nevertheless, sometimes the superficiality of the analysis bothers me. As many observers have noted: the wealthy in Blue states voted for George Bush (and so pay a disproportionate number of taxes), so the liberal critique of Red states parasitizing off the hard earned money of Blue citizens is pretty shallow (and when did Blue staters lionize capitalistic productivity anyway???). Similarly State-by-State divorce rates mask the higher rates of cohabitation in Blue states, while cumulative years married (since Red Staters marry earlier) might also close the perceived gap.
Just as liberals ignore the reality of Republican enclaves in places like Wall Street and (to a lesser extent) Silicon Valley driving the engines of their prosperity, it is tiresome to see NRO publish a piece which caricatures Blue folk who live in Red states as if they were all effete Austinites, when they are in fact mostly blacks or racial minorities (Red intellectuals aren't often muscular & brusque enough to point that out, but must go for the easy targets, so liberals aren't the only pussies about facing up to facts). If the Blue and Red do go their separate ways, will we see an outmigration of Manhattan financiers south toward Dixie? Will blacks begin to reprise their great northern treks to industrial cities? I doubt it. People are more than just their politics, more than Blue or Red. The back-migration of northern blacks to their grandparent's ancestral towns illustrates that the Republican nature of most of the south does not deter them, because the sum of life is more than the political orientation of your state. Similarly, I am skeptical that the brokers and traders on Wall Street or the Chicago Mercantile Exchange view an exurban life in the South as anything more than an option of their dotage.
I've travelled a bit in the past few years, through the Blue and the Red. If liberals like diversity so much, they should appreciate it more. There are always familiar oases in strange lands like Madison or Austin to recharge at (and as a nonwhite person I've encountered no ovetr racism, though a few people in rural Kentucky did do a double-take when they saw me according to my girlfriend, but perhaps it was my angelic face?). Similarly, I might live in the least churched part of the nation, but those who are religious here often tend to be evangelicals and people who take their faith seriously, surrounded as they are by relative paganism, it isn't just wall to wall "goths, faggots & single moms" (not to mention that single moms are not solely a Blue phenomena).
Below is a table with exit poll results for the two highest income brackets and who they voted for in the states that give the most and get the least from the federal government. The $200,000+ group is unbounded into the great white expanse of the asset rich, while I added the $150,000 - $200,000 bracket to indicate the upper-middle-class professionals. Though the samples were small, going through the polls I detected a surprisingly strong vote in Blue states for people who made $100,000 - $200,000 for Kerry (the $200,000 leaned toward Bush more or less). Assuming that these are two earner families, I wonder if they validate Steve's hypothesis that many liberals earn less than people of lesser education, so they are voting against the interests of the $200,000+ crowd, who might only be equally educated (you can only get so many postgraduate degrees) or even less.
Iran & its Nuclear Quest
Let me say straight out that I don't trust the Mullahs of Iran having control of the nuclear fuel cycle. This weekend's report on Iran agreeing to freeze their fuel cycle development have many hailing Iran for agreeing to halt its uranium enrichment. The New York Times was more balanced in noting the temporary nature of the suspension. After witnessing this whole process play out once again, I'm left even more convinced that both the US and European approaches to the problem are destined for failure and the common thread that binds both approaches is that they seek to stop Iranian domestic nuclear fuel enrichment and are only using Security Council sanctions as a stick. I can't see this process working. The sanctions against Iraq were easily subverted and Iran's economy is much larger, and the temptation to break the sanctions would be too great for them to be as effective as we'd like. Short of invasion by the US, Iran will achieve its goal of nuclear power generation, and if under sanction, it will develop the fuel cycle for it is driven by internal structural failures and political pressures that are pushing it inexorably in that direction. Our strategy should be more narrowly targeted on derailing the Mullah's ambitions of piggybacking their nuclear weapons ambitions on the inevitable development of the fuel cycle and offering some carrots to enable the Iranians to abandon the domestic fuel instrastructure and it is only by focusing on these aspects that we can safeguard our own interests.
Let me touch on a few points that I think warrant elaboration before I return to the structural failures and what I see as the way forward.
Why does Iran, which is the world's sixth largest oil producer need nuclear power? If we restrict our analysis simply to this point we could ask the same of the world's second largest oil producing country, the United States. Here is the CIA's estimate of Iranian production.
A more nuanced analysis of Iran's drive for nuclear power needs to also account for domestic oil consumption, which the CIA lists as 33% of oil production.
Delving a little deeper we need to look to the future to understand what Iran is about to face and here the writing is on the wall. Iran is being hammered by an exploding population. Consider the situation as reported by Anthony Cordesman in his report Demographics and the Coming Youth Explosion in the Gulf This report is well worth the time to read and covers a diverse range of topics but I'll only pull a few points to support my thesis. In 1996, 45% of Iran's population was under 14 years old and the fertility rate was 4.72 children per woman.
As this graph illustrates,
The economy is overly reliant on the oil sector and is stifled by statist controls. It has amassed a foreign exchange surplus of late due to the higher price of oil, but huge structural problems remain, primarily inflation and high unemployment rates. The US Dept. of Energy country profile of Iran states:
Despite relatively high oil export revenues, Iran continues to face budgetary pressures, a rapidly growing, young population with limited job prospects and high levels of unemployment; heavy dependence on oil revenues; significant (but declining) external debt; high levels of poverty; expensive state subsidies (billions of dollars per year) on many basic goods; a large, inefficient public sector and state monopolies (bonyads, which control at least a quarter of the economy and constitutionally are answerable only to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei); international isolation and sanctions.
Oil's significance to the Iranian economy makes the dependence perilous in terms of economic concentration and lack of buffer during periods of low oil prices . Iran's (89%) dependence on oil exports is only exceeded by Libya (97.26%) and Kuwait (92.4%.) A bright spot is that Iran's oil exports to Europe account for 80% of its total exports bound for Europe meaning of course, that the Europeans are importing goods from Iran that much of the world sources elsewhere.
The exploding population is leading to increased demand for electric power of about 7%-8% annually:
Iran is building significant new generation capacity -- both thermal and hydroelectric -- with the goal of adding 30 GW over the next ten years (Iran estimates that it may need 90 GW of power generating capacity by 2020).
This year alone Iran's electricity consumption has increased by 3,000 MW.
The Iranian leadership isn't blind to what the future portends and some of their other, non-nuclear, initiatives lend support to the benign part of the nuclear dilemma - the need for domestic production of electricity. They've invested over $1.5 Billion in the electricity sector. Currently, Iran imports power from Turkmenistan is building its first geothermal plant, is starting to use biogas and wind power.
Iran is seeking foreign investment from China, Thailand, Hungary, and has implemented legislation to encourage foreign investment . They've also started work on an underground gas storarge facility to safeguard their ability to store slack capacity and are planning a gas pipeline to India and Pakistan and are investing $24 billion in the development of the petrochemical sector so as to boost its contribution to GDP from 1% to 4%.
The Iranian constitution prohibits the granting of petroleum rights on a concessionary basis or direct equity stake. However, the 1987 Petroleum Law permits the establishment of contracts between the Ministry of Petroleum, state companies and "local and foreign national persons and legal entities." "Buyback" contracts, for instance, are arrangements in which the contractor funds all investments, receives remuneration from NIOC in the form of an allocated production share, then transfers operation of the field to NIOC after the contract is completed. This system has drawbacks for both sides: by offering a fixed rate of return (usually around 15%-18%), NIOC bears all the risk of low oil prices. If prices drop, NIOC has to sell more oil or natural gas to meet the compensation figure. At the same time, companies have no guarantee that they will be permitted to develop their discoveries, let alone operate them. Finally, companies do not like the short terms of buyback contracts.
This loosening of foreign investment restrictions is occuring at the same time that Iran is recognizing capital shortages in the electricity market, considering privatizing the sector, importing 45% of domestic gasoline consumption, which is growing at 10% per year ( four times the world average) and encouraging the development of natural gas powered vehicles so as to cut down on gasoline imports while at the same time its domestic natural gas consumption is falling.
The common thread that weaves though all of these reports is a desire to increase structural foreign currency earnings. If Iran abandons it's nuclear ambitions, which it has harbored since the 1960s and accelerated in the 1970s with contracts for 4 plants, a gas diffusion uranium enrichment plant, and plans for 20 plants by the end of that decade, it will have to replace that foregone power generation with other means. The obvious choice is of course it's oil and gas reserves. The dilemma for the Iranians is one of opportunity cost, for by diverting the oil and gas for domestic consumption they'll be foregoing earning foreign exchange, which if we discount the recent run-up in oil prices, Iran is in desperate need of, for oil is the main export that they have to offer the world.
Further compounding the issue is the rise of domestic consumption, and with its burgeoning population Iran could expect to see the majority of its oil production diverted away from export markets and severely curtailing its foreign exchange earnings. In one sense it could become like the US - a big producer of oil yet also a net importer as well.
An incomplete solution to the nuclear question was offered by both Senator Kerry and the Europeans in which the nuclear fuel would be sold to the Iranians thereby obviating the need for a domestic fuel cycle infrastructure. The strucutural flaw (ignoring for the moment the Iranian's nuclear weapons ambition) is that the nuclear fuel would have had to be paid for with scarce foreign exchange reserves. By developing a domestic fuel cycle, they exempt the whole sector from foreign exchange concerns.
Another compounding issue is that Iranian national pride is tied up with the nuclear development. To succumb to US and European pressures would be hugely unpopular domestically.
I can't see that the Iranians will ever abandon their ambitions for nuclear power and subsequently rely on their oil and gas reserves for electricity generation. For them to import their nuclear fuel and abandon the domestic fuel cycle they need to turn their acquiescence to Western demands into a domestic win and they need to offset their foreign exchange losses. How a win for the Iranians is engineered can be arranged amongst the many interested parties.
Absent any moves in this direction we would most likely see a period of UN sanctions that would free the Iranian hand, initially invigorate the population, and most likely speed up development with the aim of providing a fait accompli to the Security Council and then seeking an accomodation like those offered India, Pakistan, and Israel.
If the Bush Administration holds to the line that Iran abandon all of its plans for nuclear power, Iran will face a future a few decades out in which all of it's oil will be needed for domestic consumption, and it's already decreasing GDP/capita figures will really hit the basement. That's structural economic suicide for the Iranians (not that the Theocracy hasn't speeded them on their way.) Such a strong demand sets us up for a confrontation for I can't see the Iranians slitting their own throats.
Perhaps a more fruitful path can be followed by the US adopting a strategy of stalling Iranian progress while at the same time massively undermining the Iranian government. During the run-up to the Iraq War we were able to buy off Iraqi generals and other top officers. What we need is a regime change in Iran, a popular uprising and we need to provide the incentives (bribes) to initiate the process. Further, if the Mullahs are deposed, we need to provide favorable trade terms, or even trade assistance, so that the Iranians can diversify their economy away from oil and link the aid and cooperation to the importing of the nuclear fuel and the complete abandonment of the fuel cycle infrastructure. Afterall, when Iran was under the rule of the Shah, we had no issues with the prospect of 20 nuclear plants operating within Iran.
The Iranian nuclear problem really lies with the Mullah's weapons ambitions and what they will do with the bomb considering their biligerant foreign policy and active sponsorship of terrorism. The power plants are inevitable and if we demand their abandonment then we're on the path to war. We need to surgically target the real problem - the Mullahs.
Cybernetics takes a step forward
Biomedical researchers at Vanderbilt University have discovered that low-intensity infrared laser light can be used to stimulate neurons. In the immediate future, this process will be able to more accurately identify and map specific areas of the brain, as there is no "Halo effect" like seen when an electrical charge is used for mapping. But in the long term the researchers forsee a future where bundles of fiber optic cables carry impulses to artificial limbs.
Nice work if you can get it (Intellectual Ventures)
To generate patentable ideas, Intellectual Ventures hired a dozen top scientists as part-time consultants to participate in several all-day gabfests each month, which the company calls "invention sessions." Lawyers transcribe the discussions, which can range from biotech to nanotech to solid-state physics, and follow up on the most promising ideas with patent applications.
I like that, getting together with a bunch of your geek peers and engage in techno-babble for a few hours and get paid for it. Where do I sign up?
November 15, 2004
In an internet discussion with a friend the issue of military IQ came up and I thought readers/posters on this site might be able to help. Here are my questions; does anyone know estimates on what is the mean IQ of the military? What is the estimate on the lowest IQ score one could have and still serve?
The info would be much appreciated.
Update from Razib: Steve Sailer has written about this topic. Relevant quote:
About an IQ of 90 is the minimum if my conversion of the 20th percentile is correct for whites.
Update from Arcane: This topic has been discussed before on this blog, although I'm not sure how much help it will be to you. Click here.
Some good news on immigration
I know we all like to rip on Bush for his lax immigration policies that seem designed to increase the latino population to be used (foolishly) as a voting bloc for Republicans, but here is some good news that seems to have gone unnoticed.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has deployed 80 agents assigned to "fugitive operations teams" in 16 cities to find 400,000 fugitive immigrants in the United States, 80,000 of whom were ordered to leave the country after criminal convictions, the Arizona Republic reported.
Thankfully our administration is enforcing immigration laws.
Dean Nation: week 2
Last week I linked to a page which indicated that my political preferences were "Right Libertarian." In four words I could be described as "socially liberal fiscally conservative," but that's a simplification, because my emphasis on process and localism means that I am a republican federalist before I am an ideologue. As a background for this post I would like to offer that I have lived for the past four years in a very "blue" small town in Imbler, but I went to a high school in a very "red" small town in eastern Imbler. On an individual level I have known people who were convinced that Democrats worshipped Satan and Republicans were Nazis. In a Republican milieu I often feel somewhat like a Democrat, and in a Democratic milieu I feel like a Republican...
During the last election cycle I voted for John Kerry, mostly because I thought that George W. Bush's foreign policy had a high probability of failure, and, I wanted the Republican Congress to begin behaving like Republicans again.
Now that we are going to go through the second phase of Bush II, many of my friends are rather frightened. In the arena of foreign policy, I tend to share their qualms, though with less rabidity. On the other hand, I think the terror over a restoration of pre-1960s social conservatism is overblown. The America that I see at the end of 2004 is simply not anymore socially conservative than Bill Clinton's America. In fact, it is far more "progressive" in many ways.
Why don't we start with porn, an issue many men would rather not speak of, but which is near & dear to our "hearts" when we are single. When John Ashcroft became Attorney General there were some well founded concerns that there would be a "rollback" of the relative pornotopia of the Clinton administration. The breaking of the Internet during the Clinton years was a boon for the adult web because the Clinton Justice Department viewed porn with benign neglect, choosing to focus on other more pressing issues. With the election of Bush in 2000 many were concerned that prosecutions might ensue. And certainly there have been clamp downs on the most extreme porn purveyors, but though I haven't done a scientific survey, I suspect the growth of the adult web continues apace during the Bush administration. Some of you might think this is a trivial observation, but it is a metric, a leading indicator on the pulse of the country. Britney is more lascivicious than she was during the Clinton years, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire seems tame now and my 12 year old brother is deleting "Zoo Lovin'" porn spam from his hotmail account. A repressed Victorian Age has not been ushered in because the concerns of social conservaives have been superseded by technological realities and pop culture inevitabilities.
In the area of gay rights the debate has also moved quite far. Remember, Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act! Today, George Bush is trying to one up him, but no one believes that Congress will actually pass the Constitutional Amendment. Civil Unions are part of the everyday parlance and some jurisdictions have even solemnized gay marriages. Far from being a trailblazer of social conservatism in this area, the Republican administration is fighting a losing rearguard action. Most young people, even Republicans, agree that gays are here, and they are going to stay. Queer as Folk arrived in 2000 with the Bush administration and now homosexual make-out sessions on T.V. don't have the capacity to shock as they once did. All is not good in the world of gay rights, and equality is not here, but there has been a sea change in my lifetime. It took 100 years between 1865 and 1965 for black Americans to become fully normalized as citizens of our republic, it stands to reason that it will take another decade or two for homosexual individuals to become just another banal feature of our civic world.
OK, abortion. I favor abortion rights. But if Bush appoints a conservative Supreme Court Justice to team up with Scalia and Thomas, I still don't think Roe vs. Wade will be overturned. Additionally, even if it is, I don't think it will matter. States will then have the right to do what they want about abortion according to popular consensus. That means Utah and a whole bunch of conservative states will restrict it. That means almost nothing will happen in states like California and New York. But you know what, in terms of raw numbers, it won't matter much, because it's already difficult to find a place to get abortions in extremely conservative states anyhow! Unlike the United States, Europe legalized abortion through popular mandates, and so you have a patchwork of laws, with some states like Ireland and Portugal banning the practice, others like England with relatively liberal abortion laws, and others like Germany somewhere in the middle. And unlike the United States abortion is not nearly the controversial issue it is on this side of the Atlantic, and I think part of it is that the democratic process worked its way through the issue.
This is just a general sketch with a few issues, but my overall point is simple, the cultural Left has won the substantive battles, leaving the Republicans with rhetorical victories in "values." The rise of South Park Republicans is a leading indicator. The fact that "Christian rock" is hard to differentiate from "lite alternative" aside from its relatively positive message is another indicator of the acidic effect that worldly pop culture is having even on the explicit bastions of pre-1960s culture. History marches on. The fact is that many social conservatives are so vehement because in their hearts they know they are losing. The anger and contempt that some on the cultural Left direct toward "hicks" or "white trash" does nothing more than inflame them (I do not presume to say that this is a common or universal sentiment, but I've heard it often enough). Here you have the peculiarity of a culture moving Left, but economically depressed people shifting Right because of values issues. Ultimately the elites continue to push the envelope, but the masses can make their voices heard through democratic means.
To make arguments on cultural issues I believe Democrats have had to shift to the far Left simply because their central planks have been conceded (don't discrimate against gays, don't outlaw abortion, etc.). John Kerry defending public funding of abortion is something most people are not comfortable with. The gay rights movement making a push for marriage equality through the courts simply slots into the stereotype promoted by Rightist culture warriors toward the masses. Howard Dean saying he didn't want to "listen to evangelical preachers anymore" when they minister to 1/3 of the American population at the same time when those who have "No religion" doubled in the past 10 years emphasizes what the cultural Left opposes rather than what is promotes.
You can probably gather from the above that on the core issues I tend to be in agreemant with the cultural Left. My main difference is that I do not believe in such an aggressive national promotion of social change when core principles have already been secured, as the winds of American history tend be on the side of shifts toward more freedom, more tolerance and more pluralism. Rather than rowing ahead I would prefer to allow the winds to fill the sails and just glide on.
Personally, though I disagree with the party of the Left on economic issues in general, I tend to agree with the analysis of my friend John Emerson that economic issues have been neglected by Democrats. Now, I am not saying there is no difference between the Democrats and Republicans on social & economic issues, but my current perception is that the Republican elite tends to pay lip service to social issues while focusing in economic issues in execution while the Democratic elite tends to pay lip service to economic issues while focusing on taking an absolute stand on particular social issues (abortion rights for example).
My own feeling as a libertarian who is often dismayed by the megalomania displayed by leaders of the Republicans and Democrats is that we need a vigorous two party system to maintain a balance. At this point I feel we have a choice between the tax & spend party on the Left and the borrow & spend on the Right. For the Left to take up its proper role in checking and blocking the party of the Right, it needs to refocus in a substantive non-symbolic fashion the importance of bread & butter issues. But any shift will not be accepted as sincere if the Democrats do not pull back from a massive cultural push on all fronts for social liberation through the federal judiciary, and I'm not just speaking of gay rights, but social issues in general. If a shift does not occur I suspect that the Democrats will always remain at the cultural center of American politics, but ten years shifted out of phase (that is, always about a decade ahead of its time), always at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Link to a UCLA study thanks to Fly, about a team that is activating telomerase in HIV specific CD8(+) T cells (here's the abstract). This is an effort to resuscitate an infected patients immune system as the HIV virus specifically attacks these cells and over time the cells "age" by losing their telomeres through successive phases of mitosis. Not a cure, but an effective way of keeping patients alive and healthy.
One of these days I'm going to sit down and do a review of all the varied treatments for HIV-AIDS under investigation at this time.
GNXP's posters have covered the Netherlands' recent events, starting with the assassination of van Gogh and continuing through to the current unsettled and open-ended situation. My contribution? I thought that I'd take a brief look at the situation in the Netherlands, all appropriate thanks owing to Afghan Voice.
Fortunately for him, the Netherlands Central Bureau of Statistics had already examined the question, in the article "Immigrants in the Netherlands, 2003" (PDF format, Dutch language). His translation:
"Not-western immigrants see to for a large part of the growth of the Dutch population. Between 1995 and 2003, they grew by 490 thousand, while during the same period the total population grew by 770 thousand. ... CBS expects the non-Western immigration to total 3,5 million in 2050. In 2003, they total about 1,6 million. ... Starting in 2007, the non-immigrant population will decrease ... [They] will total 11,9 million in 2050, down from 13,2 million in 2003."
And as Afghan Voice adds, "[r]emember also, that these are predictions and statistics of non-Western immigrants; not Muslims (immigrants.) Only a mere 56% of non-Western immigrants are estimated to be of Islamic faith."
As the graph on page 20 makes clear, the number of ethnic Dutch in the 1972-2050 period is expected to remain stable in the range of 12 million over this period; including other Westerners, this figure rises to just short of 14 million. Further, pages 23 through 24 explores the depth of the demographic transition, with Turkish fertility rates dropping by one child to rates marginally above replacement rates over the period of study and Moroccan rates falling more dramatically still. The relative youth of the Muslim population of the Netherlands, along with relatively high fertility rates, ensures continued growth above the Dutch average. A takeover of the country, though, is unlikely.
To be sure, the Dutch Muslim population is quite concentrated, with many projections--for instance here at Radio Free Europe--referring to an unspecified government report which indicates that "by 2010, large Dutch cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht will have Muslim majorities." The problem, though, is that the definition of city used in all of these references is vague: is a city a legal municipality or is it a metropolitan area? The former is a rather more restricted area than the latter. If, in the urban areas of the Randstad, ethnic Dutch and assimilated immigrants tend to be concentrated on the peripheries of major cities while non-assimilated immigrants tend to be resident in urban cores, this isn't exactly an unprecedented setup.
It's not at all clear what exactly this means, anyway. Of New York City's population of roughly eight million, one million are Jewish and at least two million are Hispanic. Not only are these ratios (one-in-eight and one-in-four) greatly in excess of the American average, but including all of the diverse immigrant groups from Europe, Asia, and now Africa it's safe to say that WASPs (in the traditional narrow sense of "White Anglo-Saxon Protestants") form a decidedly small minority of New York City's population. And yet, New York City is considered and considers itself American, blue-versus-red rhetoric aside.
Clearly, the Netherlands needs a new policy towards its immigrant population. Calling for a pause in immigration may well be a good idea, given concerns over immigrant integration. The Netherlands' race issues need addressing, on both sides of the fence. (If there is, in fact, pervasive misogyny and homophobia among Dutch Muslims, it should be addressed. All prejudices are bad.) Apocalypse, though, will come only if everyone concerned really wants it.
The CDC reports that Birth Rate for Young Teens Lowest Since 1946. The cause?
CDC researchers said the drop in births among girls aged 10 to 14 might be a sign that programs emphasizing abstinence and other forms of birth control were having an impact on this high-risk group.
Jorcelyn Elders must be furious.
Hearts closed to god(s) but open to right & wrong?
Via Randy I came across this interesting article about a Christian American living in what seems like an atheistic society, the Czech Republic. The CIA Factbook lists 40% of the Czech population as "atheist", which I believe draws from a public survey. In cities like Prague the secularism could very well be cloying to an American Christian. I remember when I was attending a Unitarian-Universalist Church in college (to meet ladies, but they were all old there) that when newbies were introducing themselves, a young man brought his Czech fiance, and she got up and exclaimed, "I am Jana from the Czech Republic, and I am not a Unitarian!" with a mild bit of edgy hostility in her voice. It amused me at the time because she was under the misperception it seemed that all churches were equally evangelical and that the Unitarians were out to convert her!
So has society collapsed because of the Death of God in Czech society? Well, not yet from what I gather, but, places like the Czech Republic and Hungary, where secularism is far more advanced than in Poland or Romania (as contrasts), tend to produce many porn stars. Some of this can be chalked up to the demand for cheap blonde labor, but, Poland is far more populous than either Hungary or the Czech Republic (and as blonde), but my impression is that it does not produce as many porn stars in even absolute terms as the two latter nations. But porn does not equal murder or assault, so I am skeptical that a toleration for this sort of behavior can be the sole judge of ethical or moral fiber. I tend to agree with Pascal Boyer in Religion Explained that morality (or ethics) precedes religious doctrine, so a lack of religion will not result in a collapse of morality or ethics because these tendencies are drawn in part from our evolutionary heritage.1 Other the other hand, specific aspects of morality or ethics might be strongly shaped by religion, for example, admonitions not to participate in Euro-porn for money because the body is a temple. This might be distinguished as the general morality vs. the particular morality (in many nations it is immoral and repulsive to eat with your left hand, which is an example of the particular morality).
In short, religious people are right when they say secularism does open the door to moral relativism, but only to a point, as the core principles of the general morality are intuitively clear to all but sociopaths. That does not deny that religious institutions and beliefs might firm up the application of the general morality, or that elements of a particular morality might be conducive to a particular social structure (eg; Western Christian admonitions against polygyny), but it does deny that belief in God alone is the overwhelming principle component in moral behavior.2 A flip side in this somewhat essentialist conception of morality is that just as ethics were not introduced from On High into the human mental universe, belief in the supernatural also does not depend on the intercession of supernatural agents themselves, that is, God belief itself may be resilient in the long term in places like the Czech Repubic because it is for many individuals a low tension state that can only disrupted by strong cultural, social and individual forces.
1 - This does not mean that I am advocating Rousseau's Noble Savage, rather I am implying that depraved selfishness (that is, all-against-all state of nature) is not some default state that mental constructs need to work against, rather, people are social animals and so have predispositions that heighten their fitness in a milieu of other human beings.
2 - If supernatural retribution is somehow the prime motivation for ethical behavior, I would predict that (all things being equal) Roman Catholics would be more ethical than Calvinists (because Roman Catholics believe that works might be relevant and accept free will) and that Hindus would be more ethical than Catholics (because Hindus place primacy on karma, while Catholics add the possibility of saving grace).
November 14, 2004
Organically closed systems & the open society
I live in the Pacific Northwest. Here, many liberals (90%+ white) favor "natural" over "synthetic," "organic" over "metallic," etc. They are in many ways good (if sometimes annoying) people, and I live here for a reason. I spent 2 weeks in Houston, and there are good & bad things about that city, but in the end, I'm a Northwesterner. The city of Portland is known for being very "livable," and it takes the anti-sprawl philosophy seriously. I mention this as a backdrop to the fact that many Northwesterners admire the values that many Europeans espouse, and do in some ways I believe envy the "rootedness" of many Old World village cultures, with their centuries old permanence. To them, Europe is a world of (relatively) "slow food" and a "different pace."
What made me think about this is this entry about the rage in The Netherlands. One reader notes that local dialects make it extremely difficult to assimilate into Dutch culture if you are an alien. Whether I buy into this specific point, I do think there is something to the idea that European cultures are more difficult to integrate into than the more open and ephemeral American cultural complex. Europe might be a world of charm and a place where people live at a slower and more natural pace, but the communal orientation has a flip side: it might be far more difficult to insert yourself into the community if that community is tightly united in values, history, tradition and yes, blood.
To me, this highlights the concerns I have in some of the back-to-nature anti-technological romantic movements in the United States, they simply don't see that there is a flip side to their revolt against the artificiality of modernity. I mentioned to a friend to his surprise that while neopagans in the United States tend to be politically and socially liberal, in Europe they are often associated with extremist right-wing ethno-politics. I recall listening to an NPR profile of the founder of IKEA, and the presenter mentions the incongruity of the fact that he participated in Nazi sympathetic youth movements and later was a prominent environmentalist. This shows quite clearly the American tinted lens of the reporter since in Europe the environmentalist movements have roots in both Left and Right.
European Leftists are not all blind to the reality that "diversity" might have a cost in terms of social justice. A recent Prospect Magazine article suggested that ethnic diversity might undermine the welfare state. Three years ago Jonah Goldberg made the same observation, though he came at it from an American right-wing perspective. We do not live in the best of all worlds, and scarcity is a fact of life. American economic nationalism, often promoted by the Left, also can veer into rage at "aliens" among us (see Vincent Chin).
Though here I focus on the American Left, I think the same lesson could apply to the American Right. Many free market conservatives believe that moral values can firm up and give a structural framework to capitalism. And yet some have wondered: might not capitalism itself have an acidic effect on the values that it purports to serve? We are now going into year 5 of the Bush administration, but I see no slackening in the sexualization of American culture. The Britney of the late Clinton years is nothing compared to the Britney of today, and my personal impression is that homosexuality and avant garde lifestyles are becoming even more publically on display in our pop culture. Many religious conservatives have even started to admit that they might be fighting a rearguard battle in the quest to prevent public acceptance of homosexuality as a valid orientation. South Park conservatives praise the scatological and often blasphemous humor of Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Fox News promotes "fair and balanced" while its sister network implies midget sex.
The monster that is culture keeps on moving, and always seems to slip away outside the bounds of our labels.
Update: If you want a insider's point of view on romantic American liberalism, check out The Cultural Creatives. The authors point out several times that though there are differences in areas like women's rights, "cultural creative" liberals share a lot with religious traditionalists in their sensibilities. For me, as a modernist classical liberal/libertarian (if I want to type myself), the funniest part was the anecdote of a Nigerian guy going around asking older Americans what they can "teach him" (in emulation of his African reverence for elders). He reported that many older Americans reacted with bewilderment, and I can just imagine some crotchety old guy telling this well intentioned immigrant to get the hell out of his face and stop bothering him. I would like to submit that one of the strengths of Western culture is that it is not uncritical about the past and tradition, but is able to adapt and evolve. In Losing the Race John McWhorter implies that one problem with African American intellectual culture is that it is too complacent about following tradition and not engaging ideas critically. In any case, David Hackett Fisher's Growing Old in America suggests, if I recall correctly, that youth-centric culture has been relatively dominant since the Revolution. It is not just a plague perpetuated by rationalist moderns.
Evolutionary psychology & neoconservatives & the "Creationists"
In my post below on the evolution-skeptic sophist David Berlinksi, who even relaxes in a pretentious manner, I did not address the reason that Commentary, a journal aligned with the neoconservative movement, might publish articles like this against evolutionary psychology. Steve and others have suggested this is part of a bank shot in solidifying the ties between evangelical Christians (who are often, but not always) evolution-skeptics and Jewish neoconservatives. Since some leading lights in the "the movement" are Straussians who have admitted that the beliefs of the masses might sometimes have to be at variance with reality for the sake of social amity, it is plausible to me that Irving Kristol & co. might feel it a worthy trade-off to an intellectual pursuit which they truly don't disagree with to please their allies. This is probably signalled by an essay 8 years ago in Commentary titled The Deniable Darwin by the same David Berlinski. But, that begs the question, why move on to evolutionary psychology??? The Weekly Standard has also thrown some grenades in the direction of evo-psych so I don't imagine this is simply an isolated incident.
GC has noted the Jewish origin of many critics of evolutionary psychology, and Berlinksi is Jewish, and that many Jews are prominent in biophobia movement, but the problem I have with this angle is that I still can't understand why Commentary would fall into this camp as it is a neoconservative magazine (read gc's post about the necon turn away from The Bell Curve after their initially positive reviews). It does not have a stake in denying differences between the genders (one of the main areas in evo-psych) or asserting the infinitely malleable capacity of our species. In fact, this isn't even addressing human biodiversity, the controversial realm of intergroup differences, and Commentary has not stayed away from this area. Christopher Chabris' piece IQ Since "The Bell Curve" in that very magazine in 1998 was one of the first clues I had that Arthur Jensen (who I had heard of) was not a kook.
Unlike Leftists, it seems that the main problem that some religious conservatives have with evolutionary psychology is that it works with the assumption that evolution is a fact. Human universals should not be a problem for people who believe in conservative moral values and timeless truths, right? Additonally, even Young Earth Creationists accept microveolution. It is true that much of evolutionary psychology is based on our pre-human heritage, nevertheless, the key period deals with Homo sapiens. Some would argue that the macroevolutionary jump that led to humanity as it is, our speciation, was also the moment when many of our human universal propensities congealed. Now, if I was a Young Earth Creationist I might object to the idea of macroevolution, but what about the idea that microevolution reshaped God's creation??? I know that some religious conservatives become angry when evolutionary theorists posit that humans are "naturally polygamous," but I can also see how people could argue that is evidence for "original sin."
I'm not religious so I don't know how religious people can or will accommodate the findings of science with their beliefs, but I am pretty sure it can be done (many GNXP readers are religious themselves). I really don't get how neocons will get much leverage out of bashing evolutionary psychology, since I don't see that this is the primary focus of evangelical evolution skeptics. It seems like this is a bank shot of a bank shot. Nevertheless, the only other thing that I can think of off the top of mind is that ideologues, whether on the Left, Right, neo or paleo flavor, do have issues with always evaluating their policy positions in light of the latest science, science being provisional and often mercurial in the "accepted wisdom." Reality can be a bitch, and science can be spun in many ways because of its complex nature. If you want simple easy formulations, whether you are a religious or secular ideologue, you might want to topple an intellectual methodology that is empirically, rather than idea, driven, and so frames the terms of the debate with parameters outside of your control.
Pets, what are they good for?
This story about an Arab American Muslim buying a dog is very heart-warming and is making the rounds. The author notes that other Americans, who normally might view him as a threat, an alien, now seem to approach him as a human being through the cuddly & approachable vector of his pet. Now it is true that until recently most dogs (though not cats) worked for a living, and the bourgeois ideal of canine companions is not exactly analogous to the life of a sheep dog or a war dog.
Nevertheless, I have mooted the idea before that pets may have a secondary functional role as social facilitators. There is the stereotype of people meeting through their dogs, and there are a few neighbors that I know only because my cat tends to not consider distinctions of property when roaming. The neotonous features of cats and especially dogs in comparison to their wild forebears is pretty evident (everyone wants a perpetual puppy). The farm fox experiment shows that the same microevolutionary selection pressures that reshaped the wolf into the dog can apply to other species. Clearly not only were dogs bred for their direct utilitarian specialties (herding, hunting, defending, etc.), some breeds were also selected by universal human "cuteness" biases (that is, a social selection pressure). Not only do cute dogs appeal to individuals who claim ownership over them, because all minds share some common features, they appeal to other humans beings who we might come in contact with. And so you have a perfect organic interface with which to "break the ice" between people who might be separated by cultural barriers.
Related: In jeet's post below one reader suggests that expensive dog clothing is a status symbol. Again, this is an example where pet culture hijacks common cognitive biases.
A fascinating report by Mark Simkin from Australia's ABC-TV on the rise of Male Geishas. For those of you without access to Australian TV here are some excerpts from the transcript:
SIMKIN: Meet Reiji. Entertainer, businessman, multi-millionaire. He’s amassed a fortune by knowing what women want and giving it to them.
Stem Cell Tidbit
In light of the recent discussion on stem cell research (adult vs. embryonic), I thought this article might attract some interest. Some of the highlights are:
Although I am somewhat sympathetic to the ethical objections that some raise about embryonic stem cell research, I am glad that private and state funded work (in the USA) as well as international work with embryonic stem cells is alive and well...