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July 08, 2005
New index page....
I've moved over to blogger, for now. If you are seeing this page, it is likely because you are one of those people who never never closes their browser, so you don't see the new index page.
July 06, 2005
Any reader know how to select a specific blog in the w.bloggar blogger client? It always publishes to only one of the blogs, and I can't get it to switch. And yes, I'm going to give blogger chance, though we aren't going back to blogspot. The sooner this technical bullshit is done with the sooner we can all go back to blog bullshit.
I will probably shift the front page to the new URL by this weekend, but if you are curious, there is already some posting going on....
Interesting choice of words
Constrasting "free-market-oriented" and "economically liberal" makes some sense in the United States, but why use Americo-centric terms without explanation in European politics where "liberalism" tends to have free-market connotations? (see the Free Democratic Party)
July 05, 2005
No more posting for a bit....
This is for GNXP posters, I need to figure out if there will be a bug fix for MT soon, or if I will have to switch to other blogware, so for the next few days don't post.
Update: I'm keeping an eye out for any good static file generating blogware out there. My wariness with dynamic sites is that every page load can entail a database call, and this often results in crashes of MySQL databases (the site is getting a lowbound value of ~4500 page accesses per day, and I say lowbound because Sitemeter tends to always give far lower numbers than software which has direct access to one's logfiles). I do have a VPS account on backup, but I am trying to keep my technical hours on this site as low as possible and that would be more difficult if I switched to a host where more power and responsibility devolved to me.
Update II: If there isn't a bug fix within the next few days, I'll probably switch to Grey Matter.
Killing democracy softly
Just another brief report from the front lines in the never-ending struggle against free speech.
The following sentence from a personal e-mail to an elected official will get you indicted for "hate speech" in Sweden:
"I demand that you take part of the money that you and your damn sosse*colleagues spend on 'criminal Mohammed' in Rosengård and spend them on our swedish retirees instead"
"...cease your huge subsidies to all damn darkies in Malmö"
The question is only at what point the term "democracy" becomes a misnomer for political systems that systematically use the power of the state to suppress a certain competing ideology or viewpoint.
For more thoughts on the matter, here are a couple of posts on the subject from a while back:
*: "sosse" = "social democrat" = ruling party in Malmö and Sweden.
July 04, 2005
40,000 BP footprints in Mexico?
40,000-year-old footprint of first Americans. I don't really believe it, and the "island hopping" thesis via Polynesia seems ludicrous to me (if such a thing occurred phylogeneticists should find a previous extinction or bottleneck event prior to the arrival of Polynesians for many species I would think). But that this research gets any play is an indicator as to the unsettled nature of New World paleoanthropology. Nature has some voices of skeptics in their article....
Placing American Muslims within the distribution....
I promise I'll start focusing on genetics again soon (I'm really getting into epistasis FYI). But back to Islam. One thing that I like to say is that you need to characterize the distribution of Muslims (ie; radicals, moderates, liberals) in the context of how they map on to Christians when making analogies or comparisons (for instance, the moderate Christian and moderate Muslim identity).
So I thought I would extract the following data from The Future of Religion by Rodney Stark and William Bainbridge:
"Evolution could not possibly be true"
Southern Baptist - 72%
Here is the survey of doctors beliefs about evolution:
Q: Do you agree more with the evolution or more with intelligent design?
Muslim - 73%
Q: What are your views on the origin and development of human beings?
Muslim - 43%
Q: What are your views on Evolution?
Muslim - 40%
Comments: I used Hindus as a comparison point because most Hindus are either immigrants or the children of immigrants, and, from a "traditional" culture known for its conservatism. I suspect most of the Muslim doctors are either South Asian or Arab, not black or white American converts. There is a substantial intersection in the cultural origin of Muslim and Hindu doctors (the South Asians), but you see signs here that as regards attitudes toward evolutionary science, Muslims do tend to be rather conservative (many liberal atheists like PZ Meyers would use stronger language when describing religionists who reject evolution, but I will demur).
I want to frame this in comparison to the Christian groups in the USA. Muslim doctors are well educated, and middle class, but I think one can guess that at least on the evolution question they tend to slot into the region of the spectrum where conservative Protestants and fundamentalists normally are placed in in the United States. Assuming that Muslim American doctors are mostly "moderate" (my experience), I think one can place American Muslims on the conservative end of the religious spectrum, and this is not just due to their immigrant background, seeing as how Hindus (and Buddhists, who are often immigrant) tend toward more open religious views (this is a character I think of Hinduism in general).
I was prompted to this post by someone jumping on Scott at Sepia Mutiny for implying that Muslims are generally not too modern or assimilated. But objections to this generalization I think obscure the reality that if non-Muslims (think conservative Christians) espoused a set of views that Muslims normally espouse, there is, shall I say, less reluctance to ascribe lack of modernity or sophistication to said group. There are some modern, assimilated and liberal Muslims. I am not one who says there is something essential in the character of Islam that dictates a specific set of beliefs which are congruent with conservative Protestantism (and further to the religious Right), but, let's get real, the center of gravity in American Islam (for one) on the character of "religious conservatism" is not where that of American Christianity is. This makes "conservative Muslims" on a relative intragroup scale a different beast than "conservative Christians" (just as conservative Congregationalists are different from conservative Baptists).
Caution: The sample size was small and the questions between the two surveys were analogous, not identical. But at least there's some data here....
Update: I want to clarify a few things. Ikram asks "Is 'intelligent design' a well understood term in Muslim context?" Well, most people don't understand 'intelligent design,' whether Christian, Muslim or Jewish. I recently talked to a phylogeneticist who was clearly confusing 'intelligent design' with Young Earth Creationism. I suspect most evolutionary biologists don't really think much about the nuanced differences between 'intelligent design' as promoted by William Demski and Michael Behe and the older schools of Youth Earth Creationism.
In most people's minds 'intelligent design' is just a new semantic placeholder to address the question: is man descended from monkeys? Most people who espouse anti-evolutionist views do not ever show to me that they have ever really thought much about irreducible complexity or Demski's use of information theory, they are just props for their beliefs which reject the man-is-a-monkey hypothesis.
In other words, surveying attitudes toward 'intelligent design' is simply a gauge for a general sentiment that might be used as an indicator for 'modernity of religious outlook.' In hindsight using Hindus as a comparison group is probably a bad choice in the context of is-man-a-monkey question hanging in the background in light of some unrelated facts.
My opinion is that a straightfoward interpretation of the scriptural monotheisms seems to imply some sort of special creation of humanity. The fact that liberal Protestants and Roman Catholics have modified their worldview in light of science is indicative to me of a general attitude of maintaining a truce with the modern intellectual environment, that is, grappling with the modern world on its own terms. The rejection of such by fundamentalists is in my opinion a rejection, or at least a refusal to grapple with, modern intellectual developments. To me the lack familiarity with the details of Creationism or Intelligent Design on the part of Muslims is irrelevant because most fundamentalist Christians aren't familiar with the general concepts either, beyond a reflexive my-uncle-ain't-no-monkey sentiment (Intelligent Design doesn't even reject common descent necessarily, something many popular adherents seem to not grasp).
Challenging Islamic Faith Healers
I found this video to a Arabic-speaking, "Jerry Springer" like show on the question of Jinn possession and faith healing. In the past, Razib has noted the rise in Indian society of skeptics of the "God men" who go to events arranged by them and demonstrate exactly how they performed their "miracles; he has also noted the need for such skeptics in Islamic society. This video shows an attempt at that.
It features a "crescent table" discussion of disease and Jinn possession; with a moderator, a faith-healing sheik, and a couple of researchers into the difference between Jinn possession and mental illness. The fourth guest is one of these skeptics, and he immediately falls into seizures, replicating what a possession would be like, in order to undermine the other three "experts". Unfortunately, the three have their defense at the ready and note that the man is either an actor or mentally ill; thereby providing an "out" for themselves (i.e. it is not Jinn possession unless "I" say it is a Jinn possession, otherwise it is just mental illness)
But, it is a welcoming sign that skeptics are beginning to challenge the faith healers.
July 03, 2005
Those with posting privileges should know that I am aware that there have been some errors of late related to file permissions. I'm looking into it, no need to ask me about it....
Oh, and happy birthday America!
Update: This is relevant. Until further notice, please don't use extended entry. If you get a 503 error when attempting to rebuild, just rebuild the index....
Super-size this! Follow-Up
Wouldn't this have made a "30 Days"-worthy story of dispelling preconceptions?
"Before, I thought the Americans were like the Europeans - no religion, no moral values, taking drugs, having sex, drinking all the time," said Sirine, an earnest 17-year-old Tunisian who stayed with an Atlanta-area family. "But my opinion changed. I found people going to church a lot, and some are really conservative. I found the people more friendly than I expected. I thought all Americans were for the war, like the government. But some people are different." Her host mother, to her surprise, kept a scrapbook of antiwar news clippings.Or this?
Farah Siddique also knows what it means to feel marginalized, and she is grateful to "Postcards From Buster" for helping her feel less so. Farah, 12, lives in a Chicago suburb with Pakistani and Filipino parents who are Muslim. In a telephone interview, she explained why she was happy to appear on "Postcards From Buster," wearing her hijab (a head covering) and studying the Koran.
A Question on France's Future
I'm on the record as stating that France's Muslim community is no more likely to create an Islamic Republic of France than the United States' Catholic community was likely to create a Papal States of America. If anything, it may well be less likely, given European-style rates of religious observance and levels of intermarriage comparable to that of American Jews in the 1950s.
One thing that this community, younger and in the middle of a minor baby boom, will do is boost the numbers of those French of Muslim background, at least until intermarriage and immigration from other sources--eastern Europe? Latin America? China?--alters the makeup of the French melting pot again. This has already had some cultural repercussions, in the popularity of couscous and North African popular musics. It's open to question what further effect it will have, apart from continued interest in the countries of origin.
What's particularly interesting about France is that this country, at least as much as any other European country, is a particularly dynamic one. It is in the middle of a baby boom that, some suggest, will be responsible for three-quarters of the population growth that will bring the French population up to a respectable 75 million by 2050, ahead of Germany's projected 72 million. If this baby boom is overstated overall numbers will drop; if the amount of immigration is understated, overall numbers may well rise. (And yes, the baby boom appears to be equally distributed across France, not concentrated in a few immigrant-heavy areas.)
I'd like to pose a question to the readers of GNXP. Let's say that France's Muslim-origin population continues to evolve on the lines I've already stated, that the general baby boom will take place, and that there will be another wave of immigration to France. What will France's Muslim community look like? What will the French population in general look like? Or am I wrong on one point or all of them, and how?
Addendum from Razib: I've advised in the comments that people do some research before they offer opinions on the "Islam" topic. Since 9-11 there has been a lot bloviation about this with a tendency toward letting politics and values do the guiding, rather than facts and models. You see this whenever the "right-wing blogosphere" gets frothing over some bizarro anecdote (which are numerous) which pops up about an unassimilated Muslim. You saw it when some "left liberal bloggers" seemed to cream their pants as Randy posted some hard numbers on the Muslims of France which leaned toward a more optimistic view than the "inevitable Islamic Europe" you hear about from Mark Steyn & co. I'm really tired of all that crap...I wish people would get past the latest Bernard Lewis book (which are entertaining enough) and grapple with some of the reams of historical material out there.
To do my part, check out this on the expulsion of the Moriscos from Spain ~1600 (if the link doesn't work, it is page 144 of Infidels : A History of the Conflict Between Christendom and Islam, use the search query "Moriscos castration").
Mosques for brown women?
Just heard a report on the BBC World Service about a group of women who are getting together to start their own mosque in Tamil Nadu because of complaints of secondary status and exclusion from the mainstream mosques run by the local Muslim associations (exclusively male of course). Standard issue hostility and threats ensue. Hopefully this is the thin edge of a persistent wedge. I'm not a big fan of religion personally, but seeing as it seems plausible that the majority of the human race in the near future will bend their knee to some deity, I'd rather have such activities in a social context be decentralized among many players rather than under the thumbs of a few scary-dudes-with-beards. Signs of a feminist streak among Muslim women in China and India are a good.
Related: Women's mosque's in China.