Wednesday, July 31, 2002
Among the converted peoples.... Check out Zachary Latif's blog today. He's got a lot of stuff-from Iran vs. Pakistan and their societies to bearish story-telling. His most provocative blog asserts the following:
I adhere to the idea that the Pakistan government should codify these tribal laws and integrate them into the legalistic structure. Village and tribal councils form the back of Pakistani society and trying to supplant is just plain nonsense. Rather we should legitimize this active grass root political structure since it is inherently accountable to the demands of the Pakistani rural populace.I'll comment tomorrow perhaps, tonight I party (please don't tell the mullahs!). I will add though to Zach's blog on the misattribution of Iranian achievments to Arabs-much of the earlier Umayyad era (circia 650-750 C.E.) scholarship was the product of Christians of Syrian origin-who though they were Arabacizing, probably spoke Aramaic/Syriac or Greek as their native tongue, and so were not Arabs per se.
Watch those Rams fly.... Loyalty and conservatism make me a Steelers fan, but my heart is with the St. Louis Rams. This article from ESPN.com tells it like it is. Who would have thought that American football could be a thing of beauty? But the St. Louis Rams make it work with their elegant acrobatics-stretching the field from goalpost to goalpost. In the NBA (and again-I will always be a Celtics fan-60 wins or 6) the Sacramento Kings or the Dallas Mavericks are the same. Sometimes it isn't if you win the game-it's how you play it! On a different note-I'm in Imbler right now-going to Crater Lake tomorrow. You can't see down the block because of the fires! People should sure as hell build houses without the expectation that the government will douse wild-fires all the time-because without the little ones, you'll get these massive buggers that threaten larger communities.
whether a "buzz" is "honest" Some friends of mine have gotten in a tizzy over this WSJ article [I'm not a subscriber, and it works for me, so hopefully it will work for you too] about Sony Ericsson's new guerilla marketing campaign:
A second stunt will involve the use of "leaners" -- 60 actresses and female models with extensive training in the phone's features who will frequent trendy lounges and bars without telling the establishments what they're up to. The women are getting scripted scenarios designed to help them engage strangers in conversation. One involves having an actress's phone ring while she's in the bar -- and having the caller's picture pop up on the screen. In another scenario, two women sit at opposite ends of the bar playing an interactive version of the Battleship game on their phones. So far, so good. But do the actors then identify themselves as working on behalf of Sony Ericsson? Not if they can help it. The idea is to have onlookers think they've stumbled onto a hot new product.This seems pretty clever to me, though I've heard it called "evil" and "dishonest." The Naderites hate it: "People will be fooled into thinking this is honest buzz." And even the ad industry hates it: "They are trying to fabricate something that should be natural." Advertising is unnatural. But who cares? People will see the new phones, and either they'll want them or they won't. I personally have no need for a cell phone that takes pictures or plays Battleship, no matter how attractive the girl demo-ing either. This is not to say that I'm unaffected by advertising -- lots of people (incredibly) claim to be, but I am not one of them. But what's the difference between actresses using cool Sony Ericsson phones in bars and the stars of Alias flaunting their Nokias? Where does the should in "should be natural" come from? Why does it matter whether a "buzz" is "honest"? Don't we have more important things to worry about?
the evils of the DMCA The Chronicle of Higher Ed has a nice piece on the evils of the DMCA. (via Frank Field)
"enhance" the internet Here's an interesting analysis of the problems in the telecommunications industry, which (as an added bonus) has the kind of cynicism I appreciate:
So if you hear that somebody is going to "enhance" the Internet -- to make it more efficient, to Pay the Musicians, to Protect the Children, to thwart hackers, to enhance Homeland Security, to find Osama, or whatever -- this is almost certainly propaganda from the powerful businesses that are threatened by the Internet. Remember that the Internet became the success it is today -- and the threat that it is to existing telcos -- because it is a Stupid Network, an end-to-end network.(link via Boing Boing)
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Haplotype Maps and QTL Murtaugh talks today about the upcoming effort to make a haplotype map of the human genome. I'd been meaning to talk about this as it's very close to my research interests, but I hadn't gotten around to it. What's a "haplotype map", you ask? Well, the basic idea is that stretches of DNA tend to segregate in clumps, and these such clumps are often large enough to contain several genes and/or markers at a time. Here's Science's description:
To stretch the analogy, individual genes are analogous to the sink color or the floor tiling. You can't simply mix and match sinks and floors from the different kitchen designs - you have to pick one of the haplotypes and accept all the genes that come with it. Making a HapMap means identifying the blocks of DNA that can be slapped into the various points of the chromosome. What's the point of all this? Well, making the HapMap will require large scale surveying of haplotype diversity . Quoting Science again:
In other words, if you think of the human genome project as a massive effort to provide a "first order" approximation to human sequence space, the HapMap will be a massive effort to provide a "second order" approximation to human sequence space. How is this useful? Suppose we want to describe the sequence of a randomly selected Joe. If you're limited to describing Joe's sequence with a single string, you'd give the consensus human genome sequence. If you can afford to be more accurate than that, you'll start figuring out which haplotypes are most common in Joe's population group, and give the haplotype distribution instead. A higher degree of accuracy would of course be to sequence Joe's genome de novo , but that's not yet cost effective. We can thus see that while the consensus human genome sequence is an approximation of what we have in common, the HapMap is fundamentally about finding the genetic roots of human differences. Yes, it may be useful for curing diseases, but that will only be the beginning of the applications and not a major one at that. There is much dispute over whether combinations of common mutations cause disease or whether rare mutations are more likely to do so, but such disputes miss the forest for the trees. The main haul of the HapMap will be a flood of data that will overwhelm those who would deny that significant genetic differences exist between humans. Even more importantly, it will provide an invaluable base of information for those who would usher us into an age of reengineered humans. Oh, and by the way, Charles - we won't need these techniques to find the genetic roots of IQ, though they will help. IQ, being a quantifiable variable, can be studied with QTL analysis, as I've detailed in the past.
the "cost" of quitting I'm quite the caffeine addict, so I never like to read articles touting its unhealthiness:
People who consume caffeine may experience an increase in blood pressure, feel more stressed and produce more stress hormones than on days when they opt for decaf, US researchers report.However, the more irritating part of the article comes at the end:
Cutting out caffeine "doesn't cost a thing, and it may make you feel better. So it's worth a try," Lane advised.Only someone who has never experienced the joy of a good cup of caffeinated coffee could claim that giving it up was costless. Or perhaps he's confusing cost and monetary cost. Using that logic, why not tell smokers: "Cutting out nicotine doesn't cost a thing, and it may make you feel better. Go for it!"
Just another genocide.... Figured I'd drop off one more link before I took off for the Imbler coast. Kolkata Libertarian brings up the nasty ethnic cleansing that occurred in East Pakistan/Bangladesh in the early 1970s. I have a personal connection to this as my mom was shot through the hip during a midnight raid to a village where my grandfather, a doctor, was tending to some injured civilians. From what I remember, my grandfather managed to pay a big enough bribe that none of his relations were raped, but the servants were abused and my mother's old nanny was shot in the head for being an irritation to one of the soldiers.
While we're talking about God.... Check out this Weekly Standard piece about an atheist march in Washington that will take place on November 2. The author, Jonathan V. Last should know plenty of atheists-since he is a journalist and everyone knows how godless his profession is. But no-instead he goes on to caricature atheists and sample their (our) idiosyncrasies. Last terms American Atheists, the "lead organization of the un-God movement." Groups less screeching-such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation or even the Internet Infidels are probably more representative. And of course, most atheists, secularists, agnostics, and so forth, aren't members of any group and don't want to be. Also, I know Last's piece is more for entertainment value than anything else (I hope conservatives return the favor if we secularists make fun of Catholics that practice cannibalism-you know, the Eucharist and all). But he says:
On the one side you have agnostics, who don't believe that faith in a God is possible, and on the other side you have atheists, who have faith that there is no God.Well-agnostics think that faith is the only way you can have belief in God. Agnostics (a la Huxley) hold that knowledge (gnosis) of God/gods is not accessible via rational or empirical means. Technically, one can be agnostic, and still have a belief that God exists solely on faith. And as Last notes above, there are many atheists for whom the rejection of God has little to do with faith-but rather its rejection. Last finally ends with a little question: Why do atheists concern themselves with Christianity? Well, Christianity is the religion that dominates this country. Atheists in India tend to attack Hinduism. We are equal opportunity blasphemers, we have as much respect for a dead man on a stick as we do for a cow farting in a field or even a tyrant that engages in copulation with young girls. Now-look at this article from the same publication about "regime change" in Iran (something I'm all for):
...Will the Western idea of individual freedom, which has been gaining ground in Iran for over a hundred years, triumph over the Islamic injunction to submit oneself to God's law in virtually all matters public and private?....Hallelujah! I applaud those who would have man's law supersede God's law. (and yes-I know there are those who would argue that man's law owes all it is to the God who created us-let us politely disagree as long as cling to our azadi, our freedom)
Monday, July 29, 2002
trailer park theology In the town of Godley [ha!], Texas, a theological debate gone awry:
Johnson County Sheriff Bob Alford said a witness who was the designated driver for the group told police the four men were sitting at a table outside a trailer park after their night on the town and began arguing about religion. The talk became heated when the subject turned to who would go to heaven and who would go to hell. Stoker said he would settle the argument and went into a house and returned with a shotgun, which he loaded and placed in his mouth, Alford said the witness reported. "The victim Joslin then took the gun out of Stoker's mouth, saying, 'If you have to shoot somebody, shoot me,"' Alford said, citing the witness report. The shotgun went off, hitting Joslin in the chest and killing him.
A 3000 word oxymoron Or perhaps simply a moron... you decide. I found this link courtesy of Angry Clam, and it's well worth your time to read - as a humor piece, of course. The author rages against "freedom" and "democracy" and (predictably) "colonialism" and "globalization". Here's a quote:
The priceless part, of course, is that this self described opponent of cultural change, this prideful lion of the desert steppes....is writing in English on the internet and is a "senior studying international development studies and business economics at UCLA." At least Johnny Walker was consistent enough to his beliefs to travel to Afghanistan and pick up a rifle and fight for the other side. This fellow is too much of a coward to do more than talk.
born in the west bank? It turns out we've been going about this Middle East Peace process all wrong:
"Israel has always wanted to be integrated [with the rest of the world]. It's an obsession," said Calev Ben-David, managing editor of the Jerusalem Post, who complained that "even the traditional supporters of Israel are not coming" these days. [...] "We'd give the Palestinians a state if Bruce Springsteen would come."
Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999 I recently read Benny Morris’ Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999. Interestingly (or unsurprisingly) it simply solidified my position-first do no harm, and second step back, very far back…. At 700 pages of text, it seems like it is a thick tome. But in fact, much of it is fast reading, especially the last 400 pages. The first few chapters, from page 1 to 300 or so, before the 1948 “War of Independence," is the meat of the book. The last 400 pages can be summed up in the following manner:
tyranny of the content providers Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
tyranny of the content providers Famous plagiarist Joe Biden, with a newfound taste for Hollywood money, has recently taken a distressingly hardline pro-IP stance:
Biden's new bill would make it a federal felony to try and trick certain types of devices into playing your music or running your computer program. Breaking this law--even if it's to share music by your own garage band--could land you in prison for up to five years. And that's not counting the civil penalties of up to $25,000 per offense. "Say I've got an MP3 collection and I buy a new nifty player from Microsoft that only plays watermarked content, and I forge the watermark to allow my legal MP3 collection to play," says Jessica Litman, who teaches intellectual property law at Wayne State University. "It is certainly the case that if I pass that around, I could be trafficking (in violation of the law)."And unlike the slightly-more-draconian Hollings bill, this one has a disturbingly reasonable chance of passing. It's a reminder that my anti-IP crusade, quixotic as it may be, anticipates a very likely "tyranny of the content providers." Update: Looks like InstaPundit beat me to this one. Oh well.
Sunday, July 28, 2002
Breaking the "Educartel" Steve Sailer interviews a fascinating innovator who admits that college might not be the best path for every kid out there. As someone who went to a pretty non-selective state school-I've seen plenty of people drinking their way through their college years. These kids should have gone to work, made some money, and then maybe gone to college after some seasoning (read: more maturity needed).
Organic Foods I live 1 block from an organic food store-and my roommates swear to God that it tastes better, so of course for house meals we have to go and buy over-priced produce (my opinion). Since I've spent a large portion of my young adulthood in chemical laboratories-I simply don't have the atavistic fear of artificial chemicals that most Americans seem to have. In fact, the idea of microbes and "natural fertilizers" (cow shit with possible e. coli) tends to scare me more. So it's nice to see a Left-Centre attack on organic food. Sure, it's not like Ron Bailey's perspective, but as long as I don't have to listen to my roommates lecture me on how positive buying from organic grocery stores is-I'll be happy. Here is a quote from the Salon story:
So here's the final paradox. Mass production and government standards mean more organic production and consumption, which means fewer chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are going into the air, soil, water, and, of course, our bodies. But just as U.S. regulations for certified organic foods are about to be put into place, the label "organic" may become obsolete -- or, at the very least, lose its cachet. This is why Gould, who grinds his own flour, sprouts his own sprouts and buys chicken from a non-certified Portland-area farmer, says the future of sustainability depends on linking producers and consumers via regional production and networks of farmers' markets, food coops, and CSAs.Update: The following seems a common sentiment:
I'm just being a selfish consumer and buying higher quality organic veggies and fruits (not all the time, just the items I like eating raw). If Safeway would sell edible "chemical" produce, I'd buy it. Right now, it's crap.OK-I'll admit that organic vine ripe tomatos can be really good. But is this the because it is organic, or that agribusiness tends to produce low quality produce-and there is less agribusiness involvement in organic right now? In other words, if small family farms lavished a lot of attention on their crop...and used nitrogenous fertilizers and GMOed seed, it also would taste rather good. But in the context of heavily cooked foods (stews and fries), which is what I was thinking of, the taste differences are minimal in my experience because most of it comes from spices and oils.
Saturday, July 27, 2002
Way of the Kurds This New York Times article talks about the precarious situation of the Kurds of northern Iraq (see this Jeffrey Goldberg piece from the March New Yorker). I always find it ironic that Saddam wants to portray himself as the new Saladin, for Saladin was a Kurd! The article makes quite clear that the northern Kurdish regions have something close to a reasonable government (the two Kurdish parties are no means liberal-but they are angels next to the Baathists to their south and west). The Kurds are a refreshing change from the despotism that characterizes the Middle East, from our "allies" the Saudis and Egyptians, to our "enemies" the Iraqis and Syrians. Because of the vicissitudes of geopolitics, these 25 million Indo-European people (like the Persians and Armenians, unlike the Arabs or Turks) will almost never be able to reconstitute into a nation-state. In fact, the "Kurdish" identity is to some extent created by outsiders, for their myriad dialects and tribes had little pre-modern coherence (the Turkish government declares that they are "mountain Turks"). So Mr. Bush, are we going to risk the Kurds for an invasion of Iraq? Are we going to be able to reassure the Turks-whose repression of the Kurds makes the Israelis look like Swedish humanitarians-that the Kurds won't flex their muscles of self-determination? Are we going to try and maintain the age-old status quo of Sunni Arab domination in the new post-Saddam Iraq? Do you know the fire that you're playing with? Let's hope Condi, Cheney and Powell do....
Free online books Thanks to Slashdot for pointing me to this site that has plenty of online free books in HTML format (categorized by subject-including plenty of technical books). You might also try out Project Gutenberg-though I've found the texts less than user friendly. For techies, I also highly recommend Safari, it's got a large selection and is pretty affordable-I use it mostly to preview before I go down to Powell's Technical to buy the paper version. Also: Martin suggests this archive at the University of Virginia. Check it out.
Friday, July 26, 2002
Saffron peril.... This New York Times article seems to be a pretty damming indictment of the Hindu nationalist establishment. The line between muscular religiosity and nationalist conservatism on the one hand, and blind fanaticism and chauvanistic fascism, is a clear one. I have always thought that the Hindu nationalists were evolving toward the former model-but perhaps they haven't changed much at all.... Let me leave you with this:
Mothers were skewered on swords as their children watched. Young women were stripped and raped in broad daylight, then doused with kerosene and set on fire. A pregnant woman's belly was slit open, her fetus raised skyward on the tip of a sword and then tossed onto one of the fires that blazed across the city.
Bush followup In response to my earlier post, readers have given the following list of things Bush has done "right". Let's take a look, shall we? My comments are in bold.
we don't need no thought control Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
we don't need no thought control At the end of a long article on students' use of the internet as a research tool, the WaPo drops this:
"For decades we've been doing topical research," [Jamie McKenzie, a former school superintendent and library director who now publishes an e-zine on educational technology] complains. "Schools say, 'Go find out all about Molly Pitcher.' That's an invitation to scoop it up, to write stuff they already know. We should be encouraging kids to research the difficult truth. Let's tell them a woman has been diagnosed with breast cancer and has five doctors recommending different treatments. What would they do?" But do school systems really want students using the same tools to question current proprieties and conventional wisdom? Teach kids to be critical thinkers and they'll be sending it right back at the teacher in the classroom. There is much to worry about.I've long believed that our schools should offer a class called "Critical Thinking." But I've got to admit, I never considered the "worrisome" possibility that kids might start to think critically about their school lessons, social norms, and conventional wisdom. Next thing you know, they'll be disrespecting their elders. And from there, it's not too great a step to human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, and eventually mass hysteria!
economics joke #1
Economics Joke #1: Two economists walked past a Porsche showroom. One of them pointed at a shiny car in the window and said, "I want that." "Obviously not," the other replied.I think of this joke every time I see an article like this one explaining that "most smokers want to quit."
Among those defined as current smokers -- people who had smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lives and still smoke regularly -- 70 percent said they would like to quit.There are essentially two reactions. One is the CDC's: "Look at all those poor people who want to quit but can't. We've got to do something for them." The other is the economist's: "Obviously not." Quitting smoking has costs. There's the unpleasantness of withdrawal, the loss of "coolness", and the deprivation of nicotine. Insofar as these costs outweigh the benefits of quitting (health, money saved, smiles from your doctor, etc...), people aren't going to quit. When I taught Calculus, I had students come to me after class and tell me that they "wanted" to do well in the class. I kept lots of office hours and helped everyone who stopped by. But most of the kids who "wanted" to do well never came to ask for extra help. Many of the kids who "wanted" to do well skipped homeworks and quizzes. And lots of the kids who "wanted" to do well ... didn't. Doing well in Calculus carries a cost -- you have to study when it might be more fun to drink. You have to show up and take quizzes when you'd rather be sleeping. You have to think when it might be easier to watch "The Price is Right." I suppose I could have followed my students around, turned off their TVs, physically dragged them to class on quiz days, taken away their beer, and done everything in my power to make sure their actions matched their purported "wants." I can't imagine that I or they would have been better off. Lots of people say they want things. Many, many fewer are willing to bear the costs. This is not itself a bad thing. But when we design public policies to convert purported "wants" into reality, we're asking for trouble.
Calling all W fans Here's a challenge for W fans: Can any of you tell me why you support Bush? Can anyone list Bush's policy successes and honestly claim they outweigh his manifold failures? Not only has he sold out on issues important to the right (e.g. affirmative action, bilingual ed, tariffs, foreign policy, federalizing things right & left, expanding bureacracy, etc.), he's also pissed off people on the left (e.g. unilateralism, anti-environmentalism, pushing religious school vouchers, etc.). This recent Wall Street debacle is a case in point. Bush - or rather Rove - thought he could score easy political points with centrists and lefties by talking a big game about "corporate evil doers" while winking at his business pals. But no one believed that Bush - a lifelong beneficiary of nepotism & corporate welfare - was serious about reforming anything. No one, that is, except the market, who (rightly) feared an onslaught of ill-advised regulation in the same vein as the new "Homeland Security" superagency. It's not often that one can make a strong case for pinning economic woes on the actions of the president. But the Dow's precipitous drop began on the day Bush visited Wall Street, and it seems clear that Bush's speech caused it. I'm counting the days till Bush gets booted in 2004. Approval ratings are 60 and dropping...
Thursday, July 25, 2002
Rumors of pregnant woman with clone Drudge Report pointed me to this story about a Korean woman pregnant with a clone. I don't know if it'll be confirmed or what-but I always think it's strange that a lot of anti-cloners always hint toward eugenic/white racialist implications of cloning-what an irony if the first clone was an Asian! Look at this cover of World Watch magazine with pictures of non-whites with digitally altered eyes that are blue!
you can thank the usual suspects Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
you can thank the usual suspects Open source advocate Bruce Perens bought two DVDs on a trip to London and found -- when he returned home -- that they wouldn't work play in his region-coded DVD player. Perens figured out how to hack a DVD player to play them and -- in a brazen act of civil disobedience -- plans to demonstrate the hack during his talk at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention tomorrow. If you're scratching your head at the "civil disobedience" part, that's because you're not familiar enough with the DMCA, which provides criminal penalties of up to $500,000 and 5 years in jail for giving the sort of presentation Perens plans to. (Xeni Jardin claims to have locked up freebruceperens.org, just in case...). And if you're wondering how we ended up in a world where explaining how to soup up a DVD player is a crime, well, you can thank the usual suspects.
Wednesday, July 24, 2002
Myth of British heterosexual AIDS? Ian Murray says complacency about AIDS is OK in the UK. And even though the British are disgustingly uncircumcised??? Well, maybe that's why they're not getting any play....
beating the system Want to run a business and collect unemployment? Just call it a "labor of love" and collect donations.
clickworkers In the middle of reading a long paper on the economics of open source development (which I'll write about once I'm done), I discovered a very interesting NASA project:
A pilot study conducted on the Web site between November 2000 and September 2001 attracted more than 80,000 people who marked nearly 2 million craters for measurement and classified the relative age of another 300,000. Their averaged results proved to be just as good as those produced by an expert crater rater—who would have had to dedicate several months of continuous effort to produce the same amount of data.Will we someday see tedious scientific research farmed out to third-world "sweatshops"?
conspiracy theory The RIAA fervently opposes P2P file-sharing. ("Musicians, singers, songwriters and producers don’t get the royalties and fees they’ve earned.") But the music industry is itself working to screw artists out of royalties:
Singer Montel Jordan, who had the 1995 hit, "This is How We Do It," said despite 2 million singles from that release and several albums since, he still owes money to his record label. "I have sold many gold and platinum records. I've never had a moneymaking loss and yet ... I still haven't recouped," Jordan said.No, many artists are discovering that they're better off getting exposure through P2P systems:
"Because we're shut out of (the major labels') distribution system, we have to get our records out, we have to get our records heard, whatever way we can," said Hall, director of publicity and promotions for Durham, N.C.-based Merge. "If it means giving it to Napster, so be it. ... We have to find some way to let people know that the record is here."Indeed, with massive radio consolidation and payola, it's mostly the major-label-approved bands who get radio exposure. Internet Radio could help fill the gap, if it weren't being burdened out of business with impossible royalty requirements. To recap, a cartel of record labels conspires with an oligopoly of pop music stations to play only cartel-approved bands. Meanwhile, the cartel works to shut down alternative distribution channels. But it's all about the poor, starving artists. Right? -- Incidentally, during the Napster trial, CD sales were up and the RIAA claimed: "In view of the healthy state of the US economy, it would be surprising if record sales did not increase. Common sense [sic] suggests that sales would have increased even more without Napster." And now that we've run into a little economic downturn?
While the RIAA cites both the recession and the aftermath of September 11 as key factors in the decline of record sales, it says that online piracy and CD burning also played a large factor in the industry's woes.In other words: Sales up, blame Napster; sales down, blame Napster. Brilliant.
can't manage themselves out of a paper bag Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
can't manage themselves out of a paper bag On the heels of our talent myth discussion comes this USA Today article about the worthlessness of an MBA. I worked with a lot of MBAs during my time in Corporate America. Some of them were bright and competent, but quite a few of them (with degrees from top ten schools!) were neither. But while my observations easily convinced me there was zero (if not negative) correlation between has-a-MBA and is-a-good-person-to-have-on-the-team, few others drew this heterodox conclusion. It's refreshing to see it gaining wider acceptance.
asian-american atlantans The AJC has a couple of articles today about Asians in Atlanta (my hometown). The first deals with the "complex diversity" of the Asian community:
Even some Asian-Americans question whether everyone belongs in the same category. Until recently the U.S. Census Bureau included Pacific Islanders as "Asian." The category also includes Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Should those communities be included with Koreans and Japanese? "It's quite unnatural for us in the Asian-American community," said Choi, who is also vice chairman of the governor's commission. "But Indian and Pakistani cultures are just as much, if not more, foreign to us as American culture. There's almost no contact."The other article details Asians' disproportionate success in getting small business loans targeted for "minorities":
Five years ago, Asian-Americans in Georgia -- immigrants from Iran east to Japan -- were granted 179 of the SBA-backed loans, worth $77.8 million. Last year, their 282 loans were worth $133.6 million -- nearly 3 1/2 times the value of SBA loans to African-Americans. The numbers are more remarkable on a national level. Asian-Americans won $2.3 billion in SBA-backed loans the last fiscal year. African-Americans got $374 million. Hispanics received $733 million.This, of course, has prompted the usual debate over "minority" programs:
The disparity rankles some who question why the easy loans intended for minorities increasingly get gobbled up by immigrants. They say Asian-Americans -- typically wealthier than blacks and Hispanics -- shouldn't be allowed to so readily tap the loan pool for the economically disadvantaged.
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Check out this blog.... My Asian-American brother Eric Lien has his own blog titled "MixedAsian." So Eric, are you part-white? If so-did you just not get the loud-mouth genes or what? Anyway, look for it on the permlinks. Also-I won't be blogging much for the next few days. I promise. Really.
Two birds-one post The New York Times has two good science articles. The first article points to some results that indicate there's a biochemical basis for the tit-for-tat behavior that is one of the central themes of evolutionary psychology. Here's the culmination (again-the article acts like you know nothing about this field-so it's good for a skim):
Assuming that the urge to cooperate is to some extent innate among humans and reinforced by the brain's feel-good circuitry, the question of why it arose remains unclear. Anthropologists have speculated that it took teamwork for humanity's ancestors to hunt large game or gather difficult plant foods or rear difficult children. So the capacity to cooperate conferred a survival advantage on our forebears.The second article tackles cosmology. Interesting to many of us seculars because it does fill that "God-Shaped-Hole" that Carl Sagan liked to talk about. The article is pretty wide-ranging-and the first half of it is mostly of historical interest. The second half, and especially the last quarter, hints at the changes heralded by experimental observations that seem to throwing wrenches into the clean edifices constructed by the theoreticians. For me, cosmology seems one science where the quest is far more important than the answer. Until the far distant future when/if we become cosmic engineers, cosmology will have little practical, but great, shall I say it-spiritual, value. P.S. I found these articles in the "Top 25 Most E-mailed Articles from the New York Times" section. I'd like to think my tastes are more elevated than the typical reader, but the fact that I find this is my clearest guide to what's "hot" news everday indicates I'm middle-brow at best (no snickers please).
Thank the gods for federalism? There is always Nevada notes Chris Sullentrop of Slate. I spent some time in central Nevada a few months ago (as in 1 day-which was enough). All I saw were brown hills and Basques. In other words, not much.
condoning collective guilt Peter Kirsanow, a Bush appointee to the US Commission on Civil Right, is in trouble after these offensive comments:
Kirsanow, who was appointed by Bush and finally took his seat in May after a heated legal fight with the commission chairwoman, said if there were another attack by Arabs on U.S. soil, ``not too many people will be crying in their beer if there are more detentions, more stops and more profiling.'' ``There will be a groundswell of public opinion to banish civil rights,'' Kirsanow added. ``So the best thing we can do to preserve them is by keeping the country safe.''What? You're not offended? You've parsed the sentences and concluded that Kirsanow wasn't advocating the internment of Arabs? Then you're brighter than the two civil rights groups who've angrily demanded Kirsanow's removal:
``Unlike you, Mr. President, Mr. Kirsanow appears to be condoning collective guilt and seems open to the idea of the mass internment of an entire community."
mass circumcision in kabul Would Reuters have written such a cheerful article if it had been a "mass female circumcision"? Oh, and before someone tells me that the difference is that female circumcision removes "essential" parts, I direct to you the inspiring story of pornstar Chloe Nicole.
Monday, July 22, 2002
'The whore is dead now' Fadima Sahindal was killed by her father for "dishonoring" her family. Let me excise the parts of the story from the New York Times that I feel are most painful and relevant:
She spoke fluent Swedish, had a Swedish boyfriend and believed that foreigners should adapt to Swedish culture. Last year, she spoke passionately in Parliament about the difficulties of being a young Turkish woman pressing for Western-style independence against the wishes of her deeply traditional parents. .... Neither he nor his wife learned to speak Swedish. Instead, they clung hard to their Kurdish identity, living as part of a patriarchal clan of some 400 emigrants from the same region. Authority was vested in a network of male relatives, and the concept of honor — to the family, and to tradition — was all-important. The wishes of individuals, and especially women, were considered far less significant than the wishes of the group's elders. .... Television cameras recorded, too, how Mesud Sihandal, Fadime's brother, tried to attack her during a break in the trial. The father was ordered to pay a fine; the brother, 17, got a suspended jail sentence .... In the subsequent trial, Mesud, who had a criminal record, testified in court that Fadime was "a whore." "I asked him in court, `You say that Fadime has dishonored the family, and what have you done — you have stolen and used drugs,' " Mr. Ericksson said. " `Doesn't that dishonor your family?' And he said, `I've broken your rules, but Fadime has broken our rules, and our rules are much more important.' " .... "At the hospital, the doctors said that Fadime was dead," Mr. Ericksson related. "At that point, one of her older sisters phones a male member of the family, in Songul's presence, and says, `The whore is dead now.' "What can I say? I'm a product of the immigrant culture myself-and I've seen many women be married off to some yokel with bad teeth for the sake of family honor. I've even seen many of the women smile like cows and express their happiness with the fact that their lives are seen as simply extensions of their family's existence. To each their own. Those who wish to bow their heads to the graven image of another's will may do so. And yet, this sort of terror, I can't say I have seen it personally, but I do know of women that live in fear of their family's finding out their true lifestyle. Women in denial-who go to great lengths to maintain their image for the "sake of the family." Father's who get into paroxysms of rage over any interaction with males-for how dare their property be defiled by the touch of infidels, men with Ph.D.s and M.D.s, engineers at IBM and Microsoft. In the end, they are but men. They are creatures of their culture and their genes, and the two go hand in hand in this case. Evolution guides, culture ratifies and crystallizes. Patriarchy is part of all of our heritage, we shouldn't deny that. There are differences of degree, but I agree with evolutionary psychologists that assert than feminist utopias of the past that were matriarchies reflect more our own yearnings that any truth about the past. But here we are in the 21st century-and women have de jure equality. The barbarism of the past is behind us, no? At least in the lands that were once Christendom. Women can breath free knowing that their bodies-their lives, belong to them. Their shames and sins are their own business. They are not property, simply the daughters of cruel hard men who's honor is wrapped up on the actions of their seed. So we hope. Look hard all those who dance to the joys of multiculturalism. Yes, Islam can mean peace. But it can also mean submission. The Jews have a prayer, "I bless you, O Lord, etc, who has not made me a gentile. I bless you, O Lord, etc, who has not made me a slave. I bless you, O Lord, etc, who has not made me a woman." (thanks for the correction Scott) I'm afraid to say that sometimes I agree with the last. Afterthought: I understand that many who read this blog have a different life experience than I do-so let me tell you of something I just learned on my last visit home to my parents in Seattle. I have a younger sister-age 12. She informed me that my mother had explained to her that she would have to go to junior college and live at home. Of course, I went to a four year college and lived in dorms in the next state-while my younger brother is also finishing his undergraduate studies and will be going to grad school on the east coast. I have another brother, age 10, and he asked if he too would have to live at home and go to a community college, and my mother was aghast at such a suggestion. I'm lucky I didn't have a full stomach when I heard this-my mother would have been enraged if I threw up on her carefully clean suburban carpeting. Understand that my family is rather lax in their religious beliefs and pretty liberal-no one wears a head-covering and they are the Muslim version of Easter Christians. My father has even been known to disapprove of women that do the black head-to-toe purdah because of their ostentatiousness. So-I sometimes imagine, what would my sister be telling me if my father was a cab-driver and they lived in a curry-barrio somewhere in New York City? As it is, she can look forward to lowered expectations and an extended childhood in the Seattle suburbs. Another thing I must add is that though I make no bones about expressing my revulsion for any beast who would treat his daughter or sister as possessions that must be disposed of if soiled-the female relations of "dishonored" women are as great of a problem. Sequestered from the greater society to an extent their brothers are not, some of these women have bizarre conceptions of Westerners and their righteous contempt echoes the most extreme of Victorian gossips. And these women often will encourage their men-folk to dispose of their sisters happily-because if they are not married their sister's actions might be having a negative effect on their own prospects. Let me state again-the cows are free to make their own decisions, or allow others to make them in their stead, the problem occurs when the cows egg on the coercion of their sisters and daughters who wish to make their own choices-for good or bad. An example of what I mean-read this article about the mobilization of a herd of cows to protest abominations such as the equalization of divorce law. Some children never wish to grow up I suppose....
Calamari anyone? A new squid species? It always surprises me when weird stuff floats up from the depths. It makes big news when new large mammals are discovered in Vietnam-but imagine what we'll find this century as we go exploring down under!
The Matthews Bruce Matthews just retired. As a die-hard Steelers fan in the early 90s-I dreaded him because he always protected his quarterback against the Steeler rush. The above article tells the tale of the whole Matthews family-father and two sons who had careers in the NFL. Think on them as the a strike looms ahead for major league baseball....
the talent myth I've been thinking about the Gladwell article since Razib first linked to it. While it's been garnering praise around the blogosphere, something about it struck me as very wrong:
The talent myth assumes that people make organizations smart. More often than not, it's the other way around.But this seems quite incorrect. In my experience (in both industry and academia), organizations make smart people dumb. The people who graduate from HBS and work at McKinsey are all very intelligent. But intelligence can be a bad thing when your brain is full of management nonsense and your job is full of perverse incentives:
How do you evaluate someone's performance in a system where no one is in a job long enough to allow such evaluation? The answer is that you end up doing performance evaluations that aren't based on performance.Is it any wonder that intelligent people, faced with an evaluation not based on performance, will work towards good evaluations rather than good performance? Furthermore, Gladwell writes,
A company's business is supposed to be shaped in the direction that its managers find most profitable. But at Enron the needs of the customers and the shareholders were secondary to the needs of its stars.If you take a bunch of super-intelligent people and tell them "do whatever you want," you'll likely end up with a less successful company than if you take competent people and tell them "make money meeting customers' needs." But rather than "intelligence is unimportant" or "success is an emergent property," the lesson I take is incentives matter. Charles Murtaugh thinks that Gladwell's thesis has implications for the "engineering intelligence" debate he and Godless and Paul Orwin are forever having (and which I try to stay out of). But my takeaway from the Gladwell article is the simple "If you reward stupidity, then even the intelligent will act dumb."
I haven't been diagnosed with a mental illness (yet....) Thomas Szasz nails psychiatry in Reason magazine. The following section is illustrative of his tack:
...For many years psychiatrists imprisoned homosexuals and tried to "cure" them; now they self-righteously proclaim that homosexuality is normal and diagnose people who oppose that view as "homophobic." Psychiatrists diagnose the person who eats too much as suffering from "bulimia" and the person who eats too little as suffering from "anorexia nervosa." Similarly, the person who has too much sex suffers from "sex addiction," while the person who shows too little interest in sex suffers from "sexual aversion disorder." Yet psychiatrists do not consider celibacy a form of mental illness; celibate persons are not said to suffer from "anerotica nervosa."For me insanity is like porn-I know it when I see it (for instance, if a guy gnaws off his own penis for the hell of it-now that's insane). (For me-psychiatry has a strong element of "story-telling" in it-just like stock analysis or meta-history)
God-I'm down with You now! Most of the time-stuff like our bad backs and vestigial teeth in a few South American birds convinces me that God goofed off a lot when he did His Creating. I think that maybe God should go back and take some remedial Core Classes in Creation back at Divine University where gods get Their degrees (I hear Satan dropped out). Seems to me that the Old Testament points to a God that partied hard in His youth, and was trying to make up for it by being really stern with His Creations. I mean, you never hear Him talking about His past, you ever wondered why? But anyhow, the reason I mention this is that today I saw the most exquisite looking woman walking down the street. Not "drop-dead" or unequivocally "hot"-just an exquisite Creation of God beyond my mere mortal descriptions. I can imagine her face launching a thousand ships. So God, props to You. You the Man!
Sunday, July 21, 2002
Drake's Equation The Drake's Equation and Fermi's Paradox are intertwined. Fermi's Paradox asks "where are they all?" based on the numbers churned out by Drake's Equation. Michael Shermer has his own hunch-and posits that one parameter L, the lifetime of a civilization, is generally overestimated. Perhaps. It seems to me likely that there is some sort of inflection point beyond which our species will start manipulating our own genome, and memome (is that a word?). Perhaps we will transform into pure minds in some form that we can't even imagine, and explore universes of our own creation-or calmly extinguish ourselves in a science-fictional nirvana. But before this inflection point will be a period of instability-when big precocious apes have their finger's on the doomsday machine. Perhaps the dumb ape can never resist pushing that bright tempting red button-so like a sweet nutritious fruit of old. For an interesting hard science-fiction rumination on this issue-check out Stephen Baxter's Manifold series. He's an Arthur C. Clarke for our times.
the headline / the story The WaPo headline:
1970-85 Famine Blamed on PollutionThe story:
And while pollution may affect the behavior of rain clouds, scientists stopped short of solely blaming industry's effluent for the famine and starvation that wracked the region of Africa called the Sahel. "It's more subtle than that," said atmospheric scientist Leon Rotstayn, lead author of the study on the subject.
Tremblings of a feudal despotate This Newsweek article chronicles the changes wrought by the terrible fire where girls died to preserve their modesty. But at the end of the story-there is a paragraph that got my attention.
The crown prince will need that reserve of good will if he’s to continue his campaign of top-down reform. The sad fact is that most Saudis are deeply suspicious of change—and hostile to the West. Last October the Saudi intelligence agency produced a confidential poll of men between 25 and 41. Ninety-five percent said they approved of Osama bin Laden’s cause. As one high-ranking Saudi said, “fortunately, this is not a democracy.” Even so, changing it will not be easy. Reaction to the fire in Mecca was only one painful, small step.So-this seems a clear clue that the Wahabbi/Salafi tradition isn't just a sugar-coated patina on Saudi society-its enmity to the Other runs deep. The solution so far has been to maintain the status quo-hypocritical despots that are more rational and amenable to American wishes than the moronic demagogues that would no doubt arise in their places. But as I have said before-let us take a step back, and consider, what would happen if the Saudi monarchy fell? There would likely be a short-term disruption of oil supplies-but in a nation with no other major natural resources and a lack of human capital they have no choice but to export oil. I'm beating a dead horse when I'm asserting that the American public would feel only mild economic repercussions-while certain slices of the elite would be financial inconvenienced beyond measure. So let's think about what would happen to Saudi society. An Islamic version of a proletarian dictatorship might ensue. And look what that has wrought in Iran-or China (granted, in these latter two cases the transformation is halting-but we see the pattern). Freedom's great ally is illiberalism. The expatriate community that supplies the red blood cells to the plasma of crude oil would likely leave the country if Islamic theocrats came to power. This would enrich our allies, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi society would cease to function, and perhaps they might be roused to begin a futile jihad along the fringes of the peninsula. But the numerous Yemenis in their mountain redoubts and the placid Omanis who are ruled by a genuinely benevolent autocrat would no doubt repulse the assaults of fanatics who would barely be able to fly the jets purchased with oil money (strangely, the fact that Oman or Qatar are not run by committee, as the Saud House rules, might be a factor in the ability of the autocrats to change their societies from above). Democracy would expose the intellectual bankruptcy of religious extremism in the modern era. Sometimes it's best not to keep maintaining old buggy code by writing patches-rather just rewrite from scratch. Of course-some might argue that Saudi Arabia would become a beacon of terror in the Islamic world spreading their anti-intellectual filth. Oh really? What a terrifying idea! I could never imagine....
finally, a strike I approve of Israel's flour mills are on strike. Not for better working conditions. Not for grievances against management. No, the price of wheat has gone up, and they're striking for government approval to raise flour prices:
The government, which must approve the price increase, has made no immediate decision on the demand for a 20 percent price rise. Meanwhile, many bakeries have run out of flour. Others bought flour on the black market, where there is still some available but at inflated prices.
Evolution & US NEWS & REPORT US NEWS & WORLD REPORT devotes this week's cover story to evolution. Laudable. But check this quote out:
The "modern synthesis" of genetics and evolutionary theory in the 1940s began to fill that gap. But until recently, much of evolution still felt to nonscientists like abstract theory, often presented in ponderous tomes like paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould's 1,464-page Structure of Evolutionary Theory, published shortly before his death this spring. As theorists argued over arcane points and creationists stressed uncertainties to challenge evolution's very reality, many people were left confused, unsure what to believe.So it goes from the dominant paradigm of modern evolutionary biology, and uses the magnum opus of the fashionable non-cretinous dissent as an example of an evolutionary tome. To those in the know-using Gould's book as an example of a book about evolution is no problem-we know that his was a minority position. On the other hand, lay persons could make the mistake (as they always do when Gould is brought up) that he is part of the mainstream and a culmination of the modern synthesis.
It's a man baby! It's a man! This story centers around an elite woman biker in Canada who happened to be born as a man. Other women in Canadian mountain biking scene are protesting her status as a women, saying her male genetic heritage gives her a leg up. Their arguments are pretty persuasive to me-though if you accepted the logic that this "transgendered" person has an unfair inborn advantage-perhaps the same could be said of West African sprinters or Kenyan runners (and no doubt these women have genetic advantages over other women). This just points to a difference of taboos: Male/female differences are acceptable to moot in public, racial ones are not. One can argue (correctly in some cases) that racial differences are minimal next to sex differences (though I think most hereditarians would argue that the difference between Asian women and men in mathematical ability is smaller than between black men and Asian men)-which perhaps explains why the West is/was so much more tolerant of Saudi quasi-slavery of women than Afrikaner quasi-slavery of blacks. Women were, and to some extent can be, dehumanized in a way that is no longer acceptable on the racial level (thank gods for the latter, pity the former). But as they say (or do they?) gender is just a chromosome baby.... I wonder on what side the radical feminists will come down on. This sort of case makes me remember the android that burned up because of Kirk's logical conundrum that he always lies, and he just lied-should feminists support women bikers-or someone trying to break-down gender stereotypes and roles? The perils of being a Leftist....
doc, do everything you can! The NYT reports on a study suggesting that increased health care spending doesn't actually lead to increases in healthiness:
But nothing, Dr. Wennberg says, is so counterintuitive as the peculiarities that keep cropping up in the use of medical services. Whether it is the frequency of visits to a doctor or how often people have diagnostic tests or how much time people with chronic diseases spend in intensive care units or how often they are hospitalized, the data are consistent, he says: the greater the supply, the greater the use. If medical care were just another commodity, the opposite would happen, he notes. "In areas where there are too many doctors it would be like areas where there are too many McDonald's," Dr. Wennberg said. Offices would be half-empty, doctors would see fewer patients. Instead, without even realizing it, doctors in such areas simply see their patients twice as often, monitoring their conditions ever more closely, Dr. Wennberg said. Yet he and others say there is no evidence that patients in these regions are healthier. His colleague Dr. Fisher noted that four large studies of Medicare patients, by the Dartmouth group and three others, found no improvement in mortality in areas that spend more.This actually isn't so "counterintuitive" if you believe the following (all of which seem plausible to me): (1) Increases in health care beyond a certain point don't increase health very much. For instance, the difference in health between (say) getting a physical once a year and getting a physical once a month is probably negligible for most people. (2) People are hypochondriacs and tend to overestimate the benefits of additional healthcare. ("Doc, do everything you can!") (3) To the extent health care is paid for (e.g. by Medicare), the cost of "consuming" health care is simply the inconvenience of obtaining it. If the number of doctors doubles, you can get twice as much health care for the same cost (inconvenience). These all differentiate doctors' offices from McDonalds, though the third is likely the key difference. I'm surprised the article doesn't point that out. Actually, since it's the NYT, I'm not surprised.
Saturday, July 20, 2002
a plug Instapundit points to the blog of Stuart Buck, which I also like very much. I especially like this piece on corporate malfeasance. Too often people on both the left and the right equate capitalism with corporatism. Most libertarians and randroids are unflinching supporters of corporations, either from the it's-not-the-government reflex or some sort of Reardenian reverence. I made the mistake of broaching the topic on a libertarian chatlist once -- it went over about as well as my IP ideas. But I can't get past the following points: (1a) I'm not convinced that corporate limited liability is a good idea. Someone asked this question on the Armchair Economist mailing list the other day, and the answer received was pretty wishy-washy -- it listed the benefits but ignored the costs. (1b) Relatedly, I'm not convinced that the separation of "ownership" from management is a good idea. As we've seen recently (and not so recently), it leads to all sorts of incentive problems. Most answers somehow involve my grandmother -- why should she, as an "owner" of Enron, be responsible for its misbehavior? Why should she lose more than her original investment? But owners of dogs are punished when people get hurt. Sure, it's true that my grandmother has less control over Enron than the dog owner does over her pet. This seems all the more reason to question the corporate structure. Who does have control over the corporation? (2) I'm not convinced that allowing the aggregation of arbitrarily large amounts of capital is a bad idea. The corporate structure allows for immensely wealthy "entities" which are accountable to almost no one and -- often as not -- collude with governments to get what they want. David Korten claims that Adam Smith thought the same thing, though I don't have time to look it up right now. -- My thoughts on this are somewhat half-baked -- they're really in the identifying the problem stage. Most of the questioning of corporatism comes from the far left. David Korten's When Corporations Rule the World was maddening -- full of spot-on diagnoses and ludicrously wrong prescriptions. So I find it heartening to read criticism coming from more economically sensible corners.
economic pet peeve ii On drug re-importation, Jane Galt, after arguing for the importance of patents in drug research, writes:
We have a free market that pays for drugs to be developed.Now, whether you think patents are a good thing or not, it's hard to deny that they're temporary grants of monopoly by the government. And one of the cornerstones of a "free market" is that if I can more cheaply produce what you're producing, I'm free to compete with you. Hence, a more accurate statement would be
We have government intervention in the market that pays for drugs to be developed.(I'm not trying to argue here whether patents are good or not -- just pointing out the perversity of referring to the drug market as a "free market.")
Friday, July 19, 2002
The perils of Difference This TNR article is a competent take-down of Carol Gilligan and her methods and conclusions. Nothing too world-breaking. What is important though is that it is a cautionary tale of jumping the gun on taking social science and trying to shape public policy with the "results" that one culls from the "data." Those on the Right and the Left do this-but the problem is a lot of time the "science" is on shakier ground that those using it to justify their politics will admit.
Thursday, July 18, 2002
Is whitey scared or what? It seems an obscure Indian film actress and her family were detained for possible terrorist connections (it was all a big mistake-they sound like loud brown trash basically-the ugly Indian so to speak). Kind of funny actually. I know people are really scared and all-and I don't mind a little bit of cautious racial profiling if it'll put people at ease-but this confusion of South Asians with Middle Easterners since 9/11 really has me on a low-level alert for operation "Scare Whitey." I mean-you ask us to endure some hassles when we get confused for ethnic groups we have no resemblance to really (most Arabs are closer in complexion to Europeans than Indians in my experience-take a close look at Arabs next time and you'll see cousin Vinnie or your brother-in-law Constantine from Greece-not Vijay), so you have to expect us to use your fear against you for our amusement and humor (so far I've convinced one roommate that I'm hiding out in my room hatching conspiracies and leveraged the combination of ignorance and political correctness that so many Americans have in such large dollops to great entertaining effect!). Update: Americans removed from the immigrant experience in general are ignorant of say the difference between people from Thailand or China and Iraq or India. Ignorance knows no color, but I couldn't exactly say, "Let's scare whitey and blacky!"-since I don't want to be smeared as a racist. Thanks for understanding.... A thought on civil liberties: A few years ago, I remember an exchange between a "law & order conservative" and a "civil liberties liberal"-the former asked the latter why they chose to remain in a country that they criticized so, and the latter responded, "Because here I can." Of course there is a mundane interpretation of that last statement, but the conservative who a moment past was denigrating the liberal's patriotism was taken aback, and smiled broadly, and nodded. That is what separates this great country (and this great civilization) from the "shitholes" that a poster was commenting on. Of course, those cloaked by anonymity throwing insults show so much more courage than people who choose to dissent from the consensus-I tremble in fear. Clarification: I hope no one gets the impression that I agree with Norm Mineta's perspective that race should never be an issue. For instance, to someone from the Indian subcontinent, my name is clearly of Islamic origin. There are only a few dozen surnames that Muslims use in India-Khan, Kabir, Islam, Rahman, Bhutto, etc. Our first names, Akbar, Humayan and Muhammed are even easier. "Profilers" could easily be trained to pick out those of us with Islamic names out of the vast majority of South Asians who are basically a zero threat for terrorism in the United States. Similarly, there are Arab Sudanese who fit the phenotype of black Americans and Syrians who fit the phenotype of white Americans who might warrant further scrutiny because their names stand out. The fact is that a certain subset of Muslims are hostile to the United States, and unfortunately those of us of Islamic origin are much more likely by definition to belong to this group than non-Muslims. Race may be used as a proxy to aid in this, but ultimately Muslims are simply too racially diverse (Asian Malaysians, black Kenyans and white Turks and Bosnians not to mention brown South Asians) to be selected via crude racial profiling-people need to use their brains about this. My own personal experience with the average American is that people in these positions better get a lot of training-because I've passed myself off as Bosnian, Japanese, Finnish and Indonesian in the past few years with those geographically ignorant. I've had to deal with hostility during the Gulf War because I looked "Iraqi" and then paradoxically hostility because of tensions with North Korean in 1994 (?). These are at most irritations-all in all America is more racially tolerant than the vast majority of countries-but this level of ignorance can be appalling when you're trying to figure out someone's ethnic identity and the life and death of other's may depend on it.
Mighty Mouse or the Brain? This story gives a peak at a article that's going to be published in this Friday's Science. Keep your eyes out for it-though I suspect that nothing more exciting will come out of it than what the reporters are already blabbing about. Here are some interesting quotes:
It is not yet clear whether the mice are smarter -- they were all killed soon after birth -- but the scientists said they were surprised that one gene had such a strong effect and said they would do further experiments. .... "A bigger brain is not always good," he added, pointing out that a condition called megacephaly, in which the cerebral cortex grows too large, can cause mental retardation.If I was a betting man-I'd assume the mice were going to be more like Pinky rather than The Brain. But who knows? The key is that the scientists were surprised-that does happen. I'm not going to trumpet this as the next big step toward genetic engineering-experimenting with human fetuses to see if they can develop more "advanced" neocortexes is unfeasible at this point (I personally have little qualms about experiments on 1st trimester fetuses)-even if the mice do turn out to be rather intelligent. But, further experiments will occur with the mice, and what if if the mice are brainy? What will be the implications of enhancing animal intelligence? What would you do if your dog told you that you stank when you came back from the game of tennis or tried to seduce you with sweet nothings while humping your leg? Hmm.
Theory as code-base? Over at O'reilly Network Timo Hannay asks:
So my question is this: What lessons have been learned within open source software development that might be directly applicable to scientific peer review in the online world?His article is a nice little analogy where he frames what used to be called "natural philosophy" (science) as if it were software development. I tried a hand at trying to use analogies to bridge two fields-evolution and software-a few years back on Slashdot. My contention was that open-source software has some resemblance to evolution via natural selection and genetic drift, while closed-source ("commercial") software is more like intelligent design. Slashdot being what it is-I got thrashed thoroughly, with most of the respondents telling me I needed to learn a lot about both software and evolution. Ah, the joys of being ignorant....
living with a computer Here's an utterly charming 1982 Atlantic article on "Living With a Computer."
To put it another way, you should be wary of any machine or any program that won't run CP/M.
economic pet peeve Ramesh Ponnuru, writing on prescription drug re-importation, commits one of my economic pet peeves:
But if re-importation were allowed, wouldn't it make more sense for the drug companies to stop selling drugs in Canada until it allowed prices to rise? That way, they could still at least make a profit in the United States. During the interim, however, one would expect prices here to rise, not fall. As it stands, Canadian prices cover the cost of production and a little bit extra — and that little bit extra lightens the load of the companies' R&D on Americans.As far as I'm concerned, this makes no sense. Imagine you run a Drugco, and you're deciding what the US price should be for your new drug. Do you (a) figure out what price will bring you the most profits and charge that price? (b) figure out what price will bring you the most profits and then charge a lower price, reasoning that "Canadian profits are lightening the load"? To argue as Ponnuru does (and as so many others do), you'd have to believe the second. And while I suppose it's conceivable that some company might do business that way, it strikes me as highly unlikely. It's certainly not what I'd "expect" to find. And if Drugcos are already choosing path (a), there's no reason for the loss of the Canadian market to change the US price at all, since it's already chosen to maximize profits.
Indefinite hiatus Well, folks, it's mid-July, which means I only have a month and a half before I attempt to carry out one of the stupider ideas I've had: starting grad school while maintaining my full-time job. This will no doubt interfere with the side work I do (freelancing, consulting, writing book proposals that I'll send to publishers one of these days, dammit), so I'm going to spend the next month and a half trying to get that part of my life in order before all hell breaks loose in September. This means no more time for blogging -- and things certainly won't lighten up in the fall. So I guess I'm outta here for now, though you may occasionally find me in the comments section. I've enjoyed our little experiment immensely. Though I don't always agree with my fellow gene expressors (expressions?), I've always found them to be witty and worthy blogging partners. I look forward to more of their antics.
drug hangups The Senate voted to allow re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada, where they are cheaper. Andrew Sullivan is already throwing a hissy fit, though I'm still puzzling over what the effect will be. Drugs are cheaper in Canada "because Canada’s national health-care system forces drug companies to discount their prices." Hang-up #1: I don't believe the government should set prices. But I do believe that buyers should be allowed to choose a maximum price they're willing to pay (above which no transaction takes place). Neither of these is terribly controversial. But what happens when the government is (for the most part) the only buyer of prescription drugs and demands deep discounts? Is this price-fixing or hard-bargaining? I don't know. Hang-up #2: I like free trade. I like removing trade barriers. But it's not clear to me what will happen if we remove a trade barrier separating the Canadian market (which has, essentially, one buyer and one seller) from the US market (which has one seller but many buyers). I've written about price discrimination on drugs before, though I assumed many buyers in each market. The hard part of thinking about this is imagining what the Canadian government's demand for drugs looks like. If forced to pay a higher price, would they buy progressively less drugs (and just be stingier about handing them out)? Or would they buy no drugs at all? If the anti-importation laws were simply allowing drugcos to price discriminate freely between the two markets, then it's pretty clear that they'd be made worse off by removal of the barrier. But isn't it possible that removing the barrier will dilute the Canadian government's buying power and ability to set prices? Isn't it conceivable that the drugcos will be able to credibly tell Canada "with the new re-importation laws, we simply can't give you good discounts anymore"? In short, isn't it (paradoxically) possible (though by no means certain) that such a move might actually be good for the drugcos? [I've covered several sheets of graph paper trying to make sense of this, but I don't do my best work at 2:30am. Maybe one of you will leave me an inspiring comment while I sleep?]
Stock Market Heresy Pt. II Okay, I'll bite. Here's my (rambling, and yes, oversimplified) response to Joel's earlier assertion that market value isn't directly tied to intrinsic value and Razib's assertion that so-called stock market experts are talking out of their asses when they imply that they actually know what's going to happen tomorrow or ten years from now. For the most part, i'd say you're both right. Intrinsic value is loosely based on the cost basis of the company's existing assets and the net present value (NPV) of the company's future cash flows (FCF), which can be extrapolated from historical growth and discount rates. The cost basis variable is fairly objective. What did the company pay for the equipment, property, etc. ? The NPV of FCF is more subjective. Averaging historical growth rates and historical costs of capital to get the value of FCF is the conventional way to do it, but there are exceptions to the rule. If, for example, the company is pursuing an aggressive merger and acquisition schedule, and hasn't done so in the past, it's reasonable to assume that growth rates in the future would exceed historical rates. Market value = what the market is willing to pay at any given point in time. Market value reflects the market's assumptions about the subjective variables that contribute to intrinsic value (i.e., growth rates, cost of capital.) Those assumptions are often wrong. A GNXP reader called me a 'sniveling Marxist' a few weeks ago (heh - he obviously hasn't read my personal blog) because I implied that the market wasn't always right. In the long run, the market generally appears to conform to basic economic tenets, which would suggest that at least in the abstract sense my critic is right. (It should be noted, however, that given the relatively short history of U.S. capital markets, it's a little difficult to test. How many economic cycles constitute a valid sample size?) In the short run, however, the market is wrong on a regular basis, and what's more, people *expect* the market to be wrong. they also expect eventual "market corrections" when this happens. People begin to feel that the market is overvalued. "Feel" being the operative word. No one can predict the future. One would think that fortune telling statutes would prevent analysts from setting price targets on stocks, but alas, no... The value of future cash flows is really the *perceived* value of future cash flows, which is, by definition, subjective. The cost basis of hard assets and resale value upon breakup are generally not. You want to find out the resale value for something? Go try to sell it. (On this one point, I sort of disagree with Joel when he insinuates that stock ownership is an illegitimate proxy for actual ownership of a company.) You see the ownership aspect in bankruptcy situations. Having actually watched investors trade in stock certificates for office furniture and brand new Cisco routers, i can attest to the fact that there is some direct connection to company ownership, at least in terms of existing hard assets, if only because bankruptcy law formally and directly binds the two. (If you wanted to trade in your one share of MSFT for, say, a used Aeron chair upon the Evil Empire's liquidation, assuming you have a senior security, you *could* technically do it, although the cost of conversion would probably exceed the value of said chair and it wouldn't make rational sense to do pursue it.) The issue is that if the *only* potential value in owning the stock is the breakup value of the company, no one would invest. There would be no upside. The upside is the related to the perceived value of future cash flows, and joel's right, you can't directly own something that doesn't' exist yet. (Argh. Will perhaps find a better way to word/explain that later...) The perceived upside changes as investor expectations change (a result of both rational and irrational assumptions and subsequent behavior) and the price conforms to the perceived upside. Because perception isn't always reality, Joel's largely right. When, however, someone asserts that X market is "40% undervalued", they're really saying that "X" market is 40% undervalued relative to fairly recent historical patterns of *perceived* value. (These change over long periods of time. Certain industries, for example, tolerate much higher P/Es than they did two or three decades ago.) Small caps tend to illustrate the perception =/= reality phenomenon very well. Stupid investor psychology run amok, really. A large sale in a stock that's relatively illiquid (i.e., most small caps) can create a panic in which other shareholders exit the investment on the basis that the large seller must know something they don't, and a large buy may produce the same results. (Another example of the greater fool theory Joel mentioned.) The large sale may have occurred for no other reason than because the shareholder wants to buy a new house and needs cash. It may have nothing to do with the company. The stock price still goes down. In my experience, most "stock market experts" - the ones with whom i interact, anyway - don't start with economics to make their so-called 'predictions." They start with trying to predict investor sentiment and use economic theory to justify those predictions. (The running half-joke when I was doing a lot of VC work was that you "picked a valuation and backed the assumptions into it." Same concept. ) Some of them don't even do it consciously. You only realize it when you press them to flesh out the rationale behind their argument, and they start at the wrong end. When I make buy recommendations (buy-side so that rarely happens), I almost never put a hard price target on a stock, and try to avoid quantifying upside within narrow bands. (One of the advantages of being an independent analyst is that there's no pressure to be more exacting than necessary or practical.) I usually just assess risk and try to identify the factors that would prevent an otherwise healthy, growing company from experiencing some level of price appreciation in the stock. Then I assign some level of probability to the likelihood that those things are going to happen. You try to make rational, objective, and conservative assumptions, but at the end of the day, it's still subjective. you're still just rolling the dice based on what you think are legitimate reasons to believe that the odds are in your favor. Why do people listen to stock market experts? Ideally because they're better at assessing risks, but i'll certainly admit that that's generally not what happens. Most people try to use stock market experts to predict the future, something which *no* expert, no matter how good, is capable of doing. Consumers also tend to listen because they don't understand enough about how the market works to do their own homework - or frankly, because they're too lazy to do their own homework. Keep in mind that equity investments were considered highly speculative in the not too distant past. Modern equity markets and securities regulations haven't really caught up to consumer demand and participation. Professional investors that *do* understand markets may listen to stock market experts out of fear that these experts have become market forces in their own right. A word from the right "expert" can cause a major shift in investor psychology. Rather than interpreting market forces, the experts create them.
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
irrationality? I'm a sucker for studies which mix economics and biology. Like this one, examining brain scans of women playing Prisoner's Dilemma games:
Using MRI scans, the investigators found that when both players cooperated, the player whose brain was being scanned showed significant activation in brain regions associated with reward. They report their findings in the July 18th issue of Neuron. In an interview with Reuters Health, Berns pointed out that this finding may explain why players opt for cooperating over the more rational option of defecting, "because social cooperation is intrinsically rewarding in the human brain."Unfortunately, this is plain wrong -- he's trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist. While defecting is the "rational" option for a single game of Prisoner's Dilemma, it is not necessarily the best strategy for repeated interactions. (The best strategy for repeated interactions depends on your opponent's strategy.) And if you believe that our evolutionary history is full of repeated interactions (which seems a pretty reasonable assumption), then there's nothing "irrational" about a brain which gets pleasure out of cooperating. That said, the result is kind of neat. Update: I'm not perfectly happy with what I just wrote. Here's the point I was trying to make: I could have told you "people behave 'irrationally' in a one-shot prisoner's dilemma because cooperating brings them brain happiness" without ever having read the study. It's almost a tautology. The study demonstrates a mechanism for the brain happiness. But calling that an "explanation" is deeply unsatisfactory to me. Why would our brains direct us to behave in such an "irrational" way? Because (possible explanation) our brains evolved to deal with (among other things) repeated prisoner's dilemma situations, in which case cooperation might well be part of a "rational" strategy.
Organization vs. talent? Malcom Gladwell says it ain't just brains.
New blogger.... We're going to have a new blogger named Frankenstein join our collective soon.... Be warned!
Physical clues to a good first date It seems that when a girl fixes her hair by running her hands through it while you're talking-that's a good sign on a first date. Has anyone else noticed this? And what do guys do that girls notice as a good sign on a first date? [I know I'm opening myself to a lot of smart-ass comments]
Are you proud to be an American now? This article from Opinion Journal makes me sick. Is this sort of the government that I signed up with when I naturalized? Yes-I still believe America is the land of the free and home of the brave. But this sort of behavior-kow-towing to a medieval autocracy because of the economic interests of the elite makes one consider seriously those who mock this nation as an oligarchy as rapacious as any tyranny (as they say, the oil must flow, and it will, they have no other export, but those who benefit may change....). Here are the most disgusting quotes:
In testimony submitted to the House Government Reform Committee, Miss Stowers says that Karla Reed, a State Department officer, coldly informed her that the American Embassy was "not a hotel." When Miss Stowers refused to leave and pleaded for help, two Marines were brought in. Miss Stowers says she held the American passports of her and her two U.S. children in front of her, never believing that an American Embassy would turn the American military on a helpless American mother and her children. "You see that American flag over the embassy and you think, 'I'm safe now. This is civilization, and they'll do something to help me here.'" One of the Marines apologized to her. Amjad, who was then only seven years old, recalls being scooped up by "a big man" and then taken out of the office as her mom and brother followed. Another State Department officer had already called Miss Stowers's ex-husband.I agree with Steve Sailer that an oriental adventure is going to take a lot of determination and follow-through-which the American people might not be willing to put out. But-we sure as hell should let the Saudi autocracy fall. Any radical fundamentalist regime would collapse like the Iranian theocracy is right now-and far faster since the Iranians actually have native-born skilled people. The first thing a dictatorship of the morons would do is to treat non-native workers so badly that they'd flee to the other Gulf states-after which the economy would collapse and the bankruptcy of their fanaticism would be naked and obvious even to the average moron on the street.
We are animals.... Sex is not rational-and AIDS is the byproduct.
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
powerful penis-enlargement lobby Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
powerful penis-enlargement lobby Anti-Spam Legislation Opposed by Powerful Penis-Enlargement Lobby:
"If this legislation passes, the government would, for all intents and purposes, be taking three to four inches off America's cocks," said Denny Garner, president of the National Association of Penis Enlargers (NAPE), speaking to reporters Monday. "For millions of poorly hung American men, spam is a vital source of information about penis-enlargement options, and our elected officials have no right to take it away from them." Added Garner: "MAKE YOUR DICK BIGGER THAN A CLUB!!!"
stock market heresy I used to work in capital markets, where I developed a heretical disbelief in the stock market. "Why," I'd ask anyone who'd listen, "should a share of MSFT stock be worth anything?" The initial answer I'd get involved dividends, in response to which I'd point out that Microsoft doesn't pay dividends and seemingly has no plans to start. Next someone would point out buybacks -- MSFT returns cash to the shareholders by buying back stock. But selling my stock back to MSFT is no more beneficial to me than selling it on the market (which I could do without a buyback, likely at close to the same price) -- the benefit (if there is one) is to those who keep the stock and "own" a larger share of the company. My friend Norm would then steer the topic to earnings. Imagine, he'd say, that Microsoft's future earnings have a net present value of $100B. Then Microsoft should be "worth" $100B, and so one share (out of a billion) would be worth $100. I'd grant him that under his circumstances, the whole company should be worth $100B, in the sense that someone would be smart to buy it for a price less than $100B and someone would be smart to sell it for a price above $100B. Nonetheless, I couldn't make the mental leap that my one share should be worth $100. After all, I couldn't drive to Redmond and demand my "piece" of the company. And when Microsoft reported $5B of earnings, there was no $5 check for me. In what sense, I'd ask Norm, was I really a one-billionth "owner"? After a while he came to agree that I really wasn't. And (here's the really heretical part) insofar as my share of stock doesn't represent any real ownership, there's no reason its market price should be related to the value of the company. In fact, except for the fact that people are willing to buy it from me, there's no reason it should be worth anything. (In contrast, gold can be used to make jewelry, grain can be eaten, Beanie Babies are huggable, etc...). What it boils down to is that, for the most part, the stock market operates on the greater fool theory:
[The b]elief held by one who makes a questionable investment, with the assumption that he/she will be able to sell it later to a bigger fool.Now as long as most of the people in the market believe that a stock's value should be related to a company's earnings, there will be some connection. But it's a connection that rests solely on that belief. If everyone woke up tomorrow and decided that MSFT stock was only worth a dollar, then MSFT stock would only be worth a dollar. By way of analogy, the Hollywood Stock Exchange (which is interesting in its own right) offers ArtistStocks:
An ArtistStock™ represents a musical artist that is traded on the Music Market™. It's an ownership [sic] stake in a musical artist (solo, duo, or group) whose value will fluctuate based on market supply and demand. So, you should buy an ArtistStock if you believe its price will go up (meaning that other people will be picking it up) and sell if you think its price will drop (people are selling).In this instance the misuse of "ownership" is much clearer, since the HSX is not even connected to the actual artists. And yet the Music Market makes its own attempt at fundamental analysis with the Spin Factor:
A high Spin Factor signifies a lot of hype and a potentially good investment.Now, as far as I'm concerned, ownership of a share of, say, PJ Harvey is only superficially different from owning a share of MSFT. (It's true that the share of MSFT gives me 1 vote out of 1 billion in how the company is run -- but the practical value of this is zero.) Hence it is with a mixture of amusement and confusion that I watch stock market commentary. Currently, for instance, people are complaining that the stock market keeps going down, despite positive economic indicators. Larry Kudlow, for instance, offers the unjustified assertion that
today's market averages look to be nearly 40% undervalued.To me this seems no different from asserting "Today's Beanie Market is 20% undervalued" or "Today's Top Ten ArtistStocks™ are 35% undervalued" or "Today's Pokemon Market is 30% undervalued." It amounts to a mass prediction of investor psychology. It's like trying to predict what's going to be fashionable next year, or which new TV show is going to be the "sleeper" of the season, or who's going to be elected President in 2008. Of course, people can guess and even clothe their guesses with statistical analysis to lend them a scientific veneer. And so many people are guessing that a few of them will build track records of "knowing what's going on." (Just as if you pair up 1024 people in a single-elimination coin-flipping tournament, one of them will flip 10 heads in a row. This does not make him a coin-flipping "expert.") But even track records aren't that important. Jim Glassman, who runs TechCentralStation, published a book in 1999 claiming that the Dow was heading to 36,000. (Incredibly, here's a fairly sensible Krugman article about the hypothesis.) But this hasn't affected his credibility -- he's still getting his predictions published today. (Similarly, biologist Paul Ehrlich, who has a track record of being spectacularly wrong when it comes to economics, is still approvingly cited as an "overpopulation expert.") So why do we listen to stock market "experts"? Well, Elizabeth is a stock market expert, so maybe she'll tell us. :) Update: the instapundit points to this CSM article listing a bunch of possible excuses for the "disconnect" between the market and the economy. This all reminds me of one of my favorite stories:
In Munich in the days of the great theoretical physicist Arnold Sommerfeld, trolley cars were cooled in summer by two small fans set into their ceilings. When the trolley was in motion, air flowing over its top would spin the fans, pulling warm air out of the cars. One student noticed that although the motion of any given fan was fairly random -- fans could turn either clockwise or counterclockwise -- the two fans in a single car nearly always rotated in opposite directions. Why was this? Finally he brought the problem to Sommerfeld. "That is easy to explain," said Sommerfeld. "Air hits the fan at the front of the car first, giving it a random motion in one direction. But once the trolley begins to move, a vortex created by the first fan travels down the top of the car and sets the second fan moving in precisely the same direction." "But, Professor Sommerfeld," the student protested, "what happens is in fact the opposite! The two fans nearly always rotate in different directions." "Ahhhh!" said Sommerfeld. "But of course that is even easier to explain."
Make it a science god-damit! This CNNfn/MONEY story talks about how we might be the "next Japan." Some people are saying we're different. Some people are talking about a double-dip recession. Others are saying the market is undervalued. Blah, blah. This is the sort of crap that makes me not want to be a utilitarian about economics, because no one knows what they're talking about! I mean, yeah, we could be the next Japan, the pereptual recession nation, or not. That's a 50/50 chance there. Or maybe not. Who the hell cares? I know economics can be pretty hard, and they have to take a fair amount of math (one of my roommates was an econ and math double major-so I know about late nights studying econometrics and stuff). But please, please, do something to stop all the financial pundits from talking out of their ass when they don't know as much as a chimp. At least elections pundits don't really matter that much. Rich Democrats vs. rich Republicans. Ooh!!! The contrast is making me teary-eyed. But economics matters. Right? But should we all use divining rods or what? Joel, help us. Help us....
Follow up to genetic engineering and history Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
Follow up to genetic engineering and history anon_rm says:
Even if we someday figure out how to genetically manipulate intelligence (and I'm skeptical), we will never, ever reach a point where everyone's IQ is "uniformly high". There are just too many factors at work. Unless you foresee a day when everyone has the same exact freakishly large head size, and everyone is exposed to the same identical environment.Even if we someday figure out how to genetically manipulate intelligence (and I'm skeptical), we will never, ever reach a point where everyone's IQ is "uniformly high". There are just too many factors at work. Unless you foresee a day when everyone has the same exact freakishly large head size, and everyone is exposed to the same identical environment.I'm not a geneticist by training, so I can't give you a technical refutation of your point. But-from what I know about genetics-molecular, developmental and population-it is not theoretically (Paul Orwin will chime in here and disagree, but I suggest you just go over to his blog as he's tackling this sort of thing right now) impossible to locate most of the points in the genome that effect IQ. If this became a priority for the human race-I suspect that we could overcome the problem with brute force-and yes, possibly unethical experimentation. We'll see. Back in 1996, Dolly surprised many (most?) biologists. We don't need to find them all-and we don't know how much each region of the genome effects the phenotype. There maybe to a transitory period when some people will get benefits because not all the genes have been found, but if any progress is made, it should (hopefully) be a matter of time before most are found. I think the head size issue has been addressed, do people with IQs of 160 have freakishly large heads compared with those of IQs of 70?
Another "problem" you need not worry about. A high IQ never guaranteed rationality. Countless examples from history show that otherwise intelligent people can believe ridiculous things (Christianity, Marxism, etc., etc.)This is very true. But it depends on what you call "rationality." I do believe that intelligent people rationalize the irrational. Humans want to be somewhat altruistic, so we create Marxism. Humans want to believe in a higher power, so we create Christianity (or whatever religion). On a more specific religion-the theological differences between Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Armenian Church and the Assyrian Church are subtle. The Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox schism is centered on the filioque. Roman Catholics believe that the Holy Ghost proceeds from both the father and the son-the Orthodox believe it proceeds from the Father only. The Armenians dissent from the two aforementioned Chalcedonian Churches in holding to the Monophysite position, that Christ has a single nature, rather than a dual nature. The Assyrian Church on the other hand holds ot the Nestorian position, which emphasizes the humanity of Christ, and denies that Mary was the Mother of God. Why do I bring all this up? Does anyone really think that Christians on the ground care about this stuff? These are arguments of the elite, just as the Thomistic proofs of God are for the elite. And yet these elite quarrels over obscure theological formulas served as vehicles for political and historical discord-possibly leading to the easy conquest of Monophysite Egypt and Syria by the Muslims. Most non-Christians (like the Hellenists, the last pagan philosophers) find all this theological blather rather amusing at best and bizarre at worst. And yet, to intellectual Christians, these points matter a great deal. Their faith maybe based on irrational foundations, but they rationalize it. Even Kierkegaard, the expositer of courageous irrationality, applied intellectual methods to his Protestant faith. I think perhaps that we are misunderstanding each other here. I think the world might be different, not necessarily better. The irrationality will be far more nuanced-post-modernism rather than biblical literalism. But perhaps the high intelligence of the people involved will also allow enough introspection to find a solution. Or perhaps everyone will have enough self-confidence to ignore everyone else. I really don't know. okham says:
That basic difference was not just a random artifact. Those French smarties and American smarties were reading the same books, but they began with very different "shibboleths and prejudices", leading to opposite results.I was asking the question about this in my earlier post. It might be even more poblematic though because very intelligent people often believe that others just don't understand what they're saying-because they have reasoned it all through. So you see, "A dictatorship of the proletariat is inevitable-it's in the science...." David Burbridge notes:
There is also good evidence (e.g. the work of Teasdale and Owen on the Danish Army tests) that the length and/or recency of schooling affects IQ results. It is therefore very difficult to take seriously differences of 10-15 IQ points between individuals or groups with widely different educational and cultural experience.OK, I looked up some stuff on Teasdale. Interesting. Seems related to Flynn's work. I get the point. But what about the twin studies? I wasn't always a believer in the "hereditarian" position-my personal politics are easier if people were born with more equitable potentialities. I simply don't believe that's the empirical case. Onto my fellow blogger (bloggerette? bloggeress?) Mary C:
Certainly, just as the forces that culminated in Homo sapiens did; otherwise, higher intelligence wouldn't have evolved in the first place. But today, things are rather different. Look at Europe's incredible shrinking population. Try to name five Great (or even Pretty Good) Men in America who have more than four kids. Look at the places that drive people like Paul Ehrlich, and smart people, too, into overpopulation hysteria. These days -- thanks to a combination of assortive mating, socioeconomic structures, cultural preferences, and women's lib -- people with genetically granted higher IQs have fewer kids. This should mean we are slowly breeding out intelligence. How, then, does one explain the Flynn effect?Your point about dysgenesis is pretty good. The response by Lynn and company would be that some dysgenesis has happened, but it's masked by the Flynn effect. I tried looking it up-but couldn't find it-but I also remember an article in Slate that showed that the underclass and rich tend to have more children than the middle class. In addition, though the fertility of highly educated women might be low-that of highly educated men might be higher because of multiple marriages. (Carl Sagan had a lot of kids because he married three times I think) But some of the stuff that David pointed to earlier also indicate that the Flynn effect is levelling off-and that there might be a slight drop in recent years in IQ in Denmark.
What do we think changes the speed at which cultures evolve? Is there some sort of tipping point which shifts society into and out of phases of dynamism and stasis, like punctuated equilibrium with memes instead of genes? Is the tipping point the number of individuals with high g, or something cultural, or something else entirely?This requires a post of its own at some point. As does the rest of your comment Mary.... I'm tired now. I just want to add that my post was in part (large part) a thought experiment. I don't know if my conclusions were correct-or if it's what I truly believe. I was just trying to work out novel implications of our possible high IQ future.
Is she Chinese? Someone asked me if Lit Eit Ang here is all Chinese (Ms. Malyasia 2002 FYI).I think she's a good candidate to be one of the Dead or Alive 3 girls. Update: she says she's a "stewardess." Explains it. I encourage everyone to check out the swimsuit photos of her too. And, and also, check out the Miss World contest site. It's also one of the bigger "scholarship" programs for women out there.
Miss Universe Entered the Miss Universe delegate info into an ACCESS database. (you can get the db for yourself here if you want to play with it-and you can check out the delegates here-I had to make some judgements on sight obviously-Ms. Puerto Rico is rather sightly if I must say so) There were 73 delegates.... 35 white 12 black 15 mixed race 6 Asian 4 East Indians 1 Of the countries-I classified majority races.... 32 white 13 black 7 Asian 14 mixed Race 3 Native American (Pre-Columbian) 2 East Indian 1 Pacific Islander Hair color- 10 blondes 37 brown 26 black (sometimes I took the the delegate's word, but sometimes I let my eyes make the final decision :) Eye color- 48 brown 11 blue 12 green 2 hazel Using names and physical inspection-I find that the following numbers were or were not ethnic and/or racial and/or religious minorities 29 were minorities 44 were not 4 of the white nations sent non-white delegates 5 of the black nations sent non-black delegates (please note that many were obviously physically far more racially mixed than the norm of their respective nation-though in the United States some may have been termed black [high-yellow or red-bone types]-though Ms. South Africa was obviously white) 1 Asian nation sent a non-Asian delegate, Singapore where it seemed to me they sent an Indian women. Though physically she seemed Indian to me-her name was Muslim, so I thought maybe Malay, but when I looked at her interview she said she was a lawyer-so I put Indian knowing how many Singaporean lawyers were Indian All 3 Native American nations sent non-Native American delegates, I believe Mestizos 1 nation with an East Indian majority (Mauritius) sent a black delegate (a large minority there) 8 delegates from "Mixed-race" nations were not of Mixed-race themselves. Most of these were whites from Latin America from mestizo nations-though there was a black woman from Hondorus and Columbia. There was only one blonde from Latin America-Ms. Uruguay, and she modestly put her hair color as "brown" though she was far more blonde than some of the supposed blondes (Ms. Sweden was half-black and put "blonde" as her hair color-though it seemed closer to a very dark auburn-I thought Swedes knew English?) Ms. Egypt seemed to be a white immigrant-Ms. Malaysia as usual was ethnic Chinese, though Ms. France was white for a change (usually it seems they're black). I was surprised that some countries from Latin American sent very dark-skinned, even black, delegates. Perhaps we are getting more progressive in terms of beauty standards.... Update: check out the "native costume" get-ups. Ms. South Africa is a white girl prancing around in a Zulu princess outfit while Ms. Sweden is a black girl dressed up as a freckle-faced milk-maid or something. Ms. Uruguay's dress needs to be seen to be described. Anyway, it's a good laugh. Correction: a brilliant reader looked up info on Ms. Egypt-she's an Arab. Perhaps Lebanese? She mentions have visited that country so maybe her ancestral home. Who knows.
Monday, July 15, 2002
government-sponsored assortative mating Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
government-sponsored assortative mating Here's a weird article on Singapore's government-run (!) dating service which "provides subsidized mixers, trips, and computer matchmaking services to college-educated Singaporeans."
The current racial balance – about 75 percent Chinese, 15 percent Malay – is important to the government. Singapore's Chinese majority is one reason the state split from its confederation with Malaysia in 1965, following race riots. Lee Kwan Yew, Singapore's founding father and architect of its social policies during his 20 years as prime minister, is closely identified with policies to promote Chinese culture. To critics, the focus on "educated" men and women today is merely a politically correct way of targeting the ethnic Chinese. In fact, in the early days of the SDU, the divergence in birth rates across racial and socioeconomic classes was a stated reason for taking action. "If we continue to reproduce ourselves in this lopsided way we will be unable to maintain our present standards,'' Mr. Lee said in his national day speech in 1984, the year the SDU was created.But does it work?
Derisive laughter rises from the young hipsters reclining on a red velvet sofa when the unit is mentioned. "SDU – Single, Desperate and Ugly,'' says a thirty-something woman in a miniskirt and an open-backed shirt. "Those guys are geeks – the government doesn't think we can do better on our own,'' says another young woman. "You kind of get fed up sometimes with all the hand-holding. We're grown-ups. And the government is not our parent."
Incentive pay.... Joel Spolsky of Joel On Software notes the problems that come about because of "incentive pay." This obviously applies to areas outside software. Joel [from gnxp] adds: When I worked at MSFT, the lynchpin of the annual review process was writing "clear, measurable objectives," on the completion of which (in theory) your annual bonus depended. My job was a weird mix of cleaning up messes Winston Wolf-style, and repeating routine tasks, neither of which was easily measurable. So I'd have to make up phony quantifiable objectives ("reduce X by 10%, develop at least 5 new Y's") and then waste time accomplishing them, even though they didn't really add value. But I don't think the problem is with "incentive pay" per se. The problems are that good performance is hard to measure (which leads to the fetishization of metrics), and that many (if not most) implementations give the wrong incentives. (Of course, I'm biased, since I'm going to econ school to study, in part, "incentive-compatible mechanism design.")
Are Muslims insoluble? That is the question blogger Zach Latif asks. And I love getting a chance to use a chemistry analogy!
Suicide rates This story in Beliefnet argues that black faith in religion explains their low suicide rates compared to whites. Of course, it doesn't note that Asian-Americans have the lowest rates of all-and they tend to be more secular. Interestingly, Japanese have higher rates of suicide than American whites.
HIV blocking gene? So says The Independent.... Adds Scientific American.... Or get Google's results....
The End of Times approaches? I live in a "bohemian" neighborhood in the southeast quarter of Portland. There is a spot on Hawthorne street where hippies always have a mat spread-and they just hang out. Usually they're talking to people passing by-trying to sell their beads. As I was walking back from the bookstore, I noticed a butch lesbian talking to a traditionally dressed Orthodox Jew. Both were in their twenties. As I neared I heard the lesbian talking about the rights of the Arabs in Israel. Just as I passed, the Orthodox Jew started talking. This is what happened: Orthodox Jew: Yo, yo, you heard about the 6-day War? Me: [Confused, I turn around to confirm that this is the Orthodox Jew talking-and I note that his hands are up in the air, gesticulating like Snoop-Doggy-Dog] Orthodox Jew: Yo, you gotta known that Israel was only 6 miles wide jee! I mean, who are the Arabs tryin' to front? OK, this is not a joke. Do I have any Jewish readers? The man was dressed exactly as an Orthodox Jew would dress. His beard and locks looked imaculate to my goyish eyes. But is talking like a gangster from the hood problematic? And what does it say about our culture when observant Jews (who are Israel hawks to boot) are gettin' down with the street? If you ever visit Portland, and you're walking down the street, and gaggle of Torah scholars stop and strike a pose-look you up and down, and say, "Wassup?", then you'll have met them too....
Sunday, July 14, 2002
"540 math, 620 verbal, helped by monkey" Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
"540 math, 620 verbal, helped by monkey" When I took the LSAT, there was some sort of paragraph-long loyalty oath at the end that had to be written in cursive ("DO NOT PRINT!") and signed. Since I stopped using cursive the day they stopped requiring me to (7th grade, I think), my oath was nearly illegible. I always thought of it as "bad handwriting," but it turns out it's a disability -- dysgraphia. I never would have known, except for this NYT article on the SAT's new disability policy. Previously, if you were disabled and needed extra time, or a helper monkey, or to be told the answers, you got a little red flag on your score report: "540 math, 620 verbal, helped by monkey." Thanks to a lawsuit (I assume under the ADA, though the article doesn't say), the GRE and GMAT had to remove the flags, and the SAT soon followed suit. With the removal of the "this kid took 6 hours" flag, expect the ranks of
"[I]t's that flag, that asterisk, that helps cut down on abuse. This will open the floodgates to families that think they can beat the system by buying a diagnosis, and getting their kid extra time."Robert Schaeffer, the public education director of FairTest (an anti-SAT group) adds,
"And it's further complicated by the fact that the SAT is introducing a new writing component, so I'm already getting strings of e-mails from guidance counselors who expect a big surge of accommodation requests from kids who have bad handwriting, dysgraphia."My inner conspiracy theorist wonders whether this is just one more step towards eliminating the tests altogether.
the power (?) of incentives In "an attempt to slash re-offending to a quarter of today's rates," Britain's director of prisons Martin Narey wants to make them a much more pleasant place to stay. Along the same lines, I have a new plan to reduce traffic. Let's pay people to drive during rush hour!
I'm loyal and brown! Oh yes-I am.... The estimable Eric Lien comments on the East Asian vs. South Asian controversy prompted by one Steven Sailer of soon to be North Los Angeles. I hear that this personage is white-a coincidence perhaps..... Mr. Lien says:
...some East Asians feel that South Asians' style of social interaction bears too much resemblance to the Euroamerican style - perceived as louder, less respectful, and less loyal to one's friends - which they joined monoethnic cliques to get away from in the first place....If my complexion wasn't as brown as the earth itself-I would be red as the blood that courses so furiously through my arteries at this very moment. Do I not bleed when my brown skin is cut by the blades of your accusations? Do tears not stream down from my round eyes when my large lobed ears hear of your most mild Oriental aversion towards me and mine? My earwax might be sticky and not dry while my breath may stink of curry rather than soy, but do not the molecules in my body issue from the same rich brown soil of Mother Asia? Do I not feel the same rage when I see one of our lovely sisters arm and arm with an undernourished Caucasian unable to secure the affections of one of his own tall wide-hipped Valkyries? (Oh, you know who you are, I'll see you Monday my Valkyrie :) Until this insult is rectified, one Mr. Eric Lien shall be denied cab service in all major cities and lodging in Motel 6's throughout the country. Indian video store owners shall refrain from renting him films that display lovely quasi-Caucasian babes swooning in the arms of well-muscled bronze gods who sing joyfully as they slay their enemies to avenge a vague wrong. All Indians shall now insist on being addressed by Mr. Lien with their full names and titles- T. K. Ram shall now be Dr. Thattamakura Kolyaslamaram Raminavasnar. How can you compare me and mine to the whites of all races? Do you not know that my own ancestors suffered the cruel indignity of collecting taxes from our many peasant tenants so that we might pay tribute to our sahibs, our pale-skinned masters who brought us their stringent law and insufferable order? Yes, they told us that in return we were given dominion over the land and that their scientific methods would allow us to control our brown brothers with greater efficiency-but it was a lie! They betrayed us and turned their backs upon us! They gave us communism and socialism, they gave us egalitarianism and libertarianism, feminism and secularism, democracy and the proud Parsi. Our ancient rishis we turn away from to worship at the false idols of their "science," the old ways of village and hamlet, where the betters would receive the homage of their lessers is gone, the sahibs tell us now that all men possess the divine spark. The Wheel of Life now turns slowly as souls do spin it with the same vigor as in the days of yore when men died with grace and fatalism, unencumbered by the vagaries of the white man's ways of "healing" and "prevention" of "illness." Do they not know that we Asians are different from the white man? Whose eyes can see any reflection of me in their faces? One people, from the Indus to the Amur, from Ceylon to Siberia! Have you not heard Mr. Lien that their way is to divide and conquer? That from one flesh they shall make two with their ragged razor of discord? Ah, those exotic round-eyes with their big noses and strong odors, sly and clever at the same time. Do not doubt my loyalty Mr. Lien. I am there for all my friends-until the million dollar price is met, which I must say is a rather high value on friendship, no? Have I not shown you by my actions how respectful and subtle are my ways? Come and embrace me my Asian brother, let not the white man come between us (though I would make an exception for the white woman-sorry, I don't follow broz before hoz).
Saturday, July 13, 2002
um, are we talking about the same Minority Report? Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
um, are we talking about the same Minority Report? I'm no film cricket, but I'm astute enough to notice something wrong with this Senate debate:
[Senator Carl] Levin countered that he, too, had seen ''Minority Report,'' but he said the film inspired him to include tougher enforcement laws ''as a tribute to the protections and civil liberties that are defended and protected'' in the film.
"I've dated a lot of black men and they don't understand me, either." Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
"I've dated a lot of black men and they don't understand me, either." The AJC has a less-PC-than-usual story about the increasing number of black women dating white men:
Robinson, who has dated three white men, says they're more romantic and willing to go on dates like walking in the park or visiting a museum. "I haven't found any black men trying to take me to the museum," she says. "I wish they would make an effort other than, 'Let's go and have a drink' or 'Let's go to the Red Lobster for all-you-can-eat crab legs on Monday.' " Another complaint about black men involves insecurity. Black beauty-shop conversations ring with the same complaints from black women who say many black men can't handle an independent, professional black woman who often has more formal education than they do.Update: (from Razib) Mickey Kaus has a comment on why black women have been avoiding dating men of other races for so long.
Neolithic villagers, intelligence, and history (past and present) In the comments section of Razib’s latest IQ/genetic engineering manifesto, a reader suggests that we run IQ tests on modern indigenous populations (I’ll henceforth refer to them as H-Gs, since many of them are still using modified hunter-gatherer lifestyles) and use them as representative of IQ tests on Neolithic villagers. Here’s why that wouldn’t work: Testing the IQ of modern H-Gs would probably be an inaccurate way to determine or even approximate the IQ of Neolithics. Today’s H-Gs have been exposed to Western culture; they stick with their traditional lifeways by choice and often incorporate elements of modern culture into their own. If g (general intelligence, IQ, what have you) is determined by genetics and environment, you couldn’t possibly extrapolate accurately, since we don’t have any way of controlling for environmental changes when testing g. The genetic component, too, has likely changed over the thousands of years that bridge Neolithics to moderns. To hold that g has remained constant in H-Gs when both components of g have changed would require some serious mental backflips. This doesn’t mean, however, that we should strike down studies that look at H-G economics and ways of life and use them as comparisons for Neolithics. In studies testing things that are less complex or more influenced by concretely identifiable environmental factors than g, the new elements of Western culture can be partially controlled for. For instance: there’s a certain tribe of Inuit that hunts seals and polar bears and such. Many of the hunters do their jobs in the traditional style with traditional weapons (which probably have improved over the years but are based on an original concept). Others go out on snowmobiles. An anthropologist studying this tribe could choose to follow only the traditional hunters. The social dynamics of the tribe change greatly with the introduction of snowmobiles—now, it’s difficult to connect the primitive technology with the social structure of the group, as there’s a new element throwing the dynamics off. But at least something can be said about the absolute, if not relative, success of the traditional hunters. And you can make comparisons of how much the snowmobiles increase the rewards of the hunt, and control for that in your calculations of how the tribe distributes the food, and how they might distribute it if there were less. But you can’t control for these sorts of things in an IQ test. Pure H-G ways of life are on their way out. Some traditions will continue to exist, but I suspect that shrinking rainforests, increased cultural interaction, and common sense will destroy H-G lifestyles in the next 50 years, and then we'll really be stuck for comparisons. The process has already begun, of course, which is why many cultural anthropologists don’t have anything better to do than sit around critiquing their biological anthropology colleagues and spouting postmodernist nonsense.
Racial profiling in my house? One of my roommates came to me today and told me he was having a problem asking me something. He looked at me nervously and asked, "OK, I'm just a bit weirded out by this, but why is it you have all those books about Islam in your room? I mean, like the Koran and everything...." [nervous twitchy gaze]. I laughed so much I couldn't breath. I uttered three words: "Know thine enemy."
Genetic Engineering, intelligence, and history (past and future) A few weeks back godless expressed his lack of concern for those on the left side of the Bell Curve. He noted that certain individuals do care (Steve Sailer, me). Why do I care? Because the majority of the human race probably has an IQ below 100-and I do think the majority matters on some level. From a selfish perspective, it matters to my economic and social well-being, and from the perspective of social science, they are the subject in question and presumptively those most effected by social movements and changes (in aggregate). I've been thinking about this for a while and mulling over ideas like the "Great Man" theory of history-weighing it against the position that history is driven by inscrutable laws and forces which Great Men happen to express themselves through (in other words they are riding the tiger). In most cases-a moderate synthesis between two extremes comes close to the truth. Was Germany destined for some sort of social impasse because of the bankruptcy of the Weimar Republic and the injudicious treatment of the vanquished German state at the end of World War I by the Allies? Yes-probably. But the charismatic personality of Adolf Hitler channeled this tendency and amplified its consequences. His personal demons and hostilities were critical in shaping World War II-even if some sort of regional conflagration would erupt out of Germany inevitably. So Great Men do matter-I believe they smooth out (Franklin D. Roosevelt's soft socialism prevented the rise of a genuine Social Democratic party)-or exaggerate historical forces. In general, Great Men (and yes-women of course) probably come from the right half of the Bell Curve. So let's focus on this right half, in particular (to be somewhat arbitrary) on those more than 1 standard deviation above the American mean IQ, those above 115. So, for now , I'm going to assume a few things. 1) I'll assume that IQ does reflect "g," or general intelligence. 2) g measures something that is absolute, in other words, the Lynn-Flynn effect has been documenting the increase of g, people aren't just becoming more comfortable with the idea of written tests. 3) g is dependent on both genetics and environment. These bright individuals are probably the generators of social dynamism in modern societies. In other words, they are the Bill Gate's and James Watson's. This neglects those who might score low on tests for abstract logic but make great social contributions-Babe Ruth or Elvis Presley for instance. But these latter folk generally still need a certain economic base to express their dynamic creativity, an Isaac Newton to shift the scientific paradigm- entrepreneur’s like Thomas Edison to apply the science (the connection between science and engineering has been sketchy until recently-but I suspect it is not coincidence that Europe took the technological lead during the age of scientific inquiry). So some questions: 1) Is it the absolute number, or relative percentage, of bright individuals that contributes to social dynamism? 2) Is there a certain threshold-again, either absolute or relative, needed for this metaphorical engine to start? So for instance, what explains the fact that Egypt and Iraq have the longest records of literate settled civilization, but their IQ is still relatively low compared to northern Europe-which lagged considerably? 1) It could be that the transition from a given stage of civilization to a more advanced stage requires a critical mass of individuals with a certain level of g. Particular historical transitions might require lower numbers of the individuals with high g, therefore factors such as geography and historical coincidence are more important in jump-starting them, while areas with greater numbers of high g individuals remain backward. For instance, imagine that the transition from the late stone age to the early bronze age did not require a great mass of educated individuals (literacy was limited to a scribal class, bronze was an elite metal and cities were demographically marginal). In this case, climate and biogeography might have played paramount roles in the transition-so you see that the first civilizations grow in river valleys in the low temperate latitudes. Once a certain level of complexity (phonetic script, widespread metallurgy and the growth of cities) was achieved, civilization could take root in colder climes where they leveraged methods from the older cultures to scale their geographic barriers against historical progress. Then, in these areas the numerical preponderance of high g individuals allowed these regions (Europe or China for instance) to surpass the initial hearths of civilization by the iron age (yes-there are many historical quibbles with this-the regress of civilization in Western Europe following the fall of Rome prime among them). 2) The average g of societies change due to sociological forces which we haven't smoked out yet. One could speculate for instance that long periods of agriculture, or a particular social structure, selected for relatively low g individuals. If intelligence is not required to procreate and spread your genes, what need is there for it? As some have pointed out, high intelligence can be correlated with mental problems such as schizophrenia and depression, so there is a cost involved that might favor lower average g without the proper conditions. Conversely, the historical coincidences or forces that culminated in the development of advanced scientific civilization in western Europe might have favored procreation of those with high levels of g (this argument can be critiqued by the fact that China, Japan and Russia have high IQs today, though the Confucian examination system might have influenced China). I don't have the answers to all these questions-as this is an expansive topic. In addition-as I've mentioned before, we'll never be able to go back and test Neolithic villagers with Raven's Matrices to see what their g is in a culture-fair fashion. Perhaps five-hundred years from now, when we have a long period of testing in diverse social settings, we'll know, but by then it might be a mute point due to genetic engineering. And speaking of which. Both godless and I favor genetic engineering to raise g. There are those who are skeptical this will ever occur. But biology has advanced a lot in the past 20 years, from PCR in the wet lab to computational methods processing the data that results from it. Never say never. But I began thinking of the social consequences of genetic engineering recently after reading some science fiction (the late Gordon R. Dickson’s Childe Cycle). What if society's mean IQ was 130-in other words, a high level of g on average. Would this be a good thing? In the sequels to Isaac Asimov's Foundation series written by David Brin, Greg Bear and Gregory Benford, they postulate that the robots that manipulate the macro-historical processes that shape the galactic civilization have infected the vast majority of humans with a virus that basically lowers their intelligence. This prevents too much change and maintains the stability of the galactic civilization. David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series of novels reiterates over and over how the new world-spanning Middle Kingdom suppresses the creativity of its European subjects so as to maintain the status quo. The alternative is chaos and a more cruel despotism. Marxists attempt to analyze history through the interplay of classes. What about analyzing history through the interplay of the intelligent and the less intelligent (quite often proxy's for class anyhow)? To me-there have been no mass movements. The Nomenklatura have become Russia's new capitalists. The old communist hierarchy in China is cashing in on the new economy via graft. The prosperous middle-class Basques in Spain and the unemployed college graduates in the Islamic world are the ones that fuel terrorism and violence. The Christian and pagan elites battled for supremacy in the late Roman Empire, and the masses followed the winner. For instance, do the elites of the Democratic party and the Republican party share more with each other, or with the masses they presume to represent, or neither? The Democratic party hacks I've known personally (only one or two to be sure) and from what I've read in sociological surveys of party activists show that they are what Republicans portray them to be: secular liberals at odds with "Middle American values." On the other hand, Republican party activists are often rather wealthy (though the presence of the Christian Right might dilute the plutocracy a bit-it does not dismiss all stereotypes) and do care about the rich, insofar as they are the ones that will benefit from capital gains tax cuts (just as school principals and trial lawyers in the Democratic party benefit from its policies). Yet both these parties try to court a certain mass following, because elite parties (see the poor liberal parties of Europe as an example) without grass-roots support don't get anywhere. The Democrats portray themselves as defenders of Average-Joe-American working 9-5, while Republicans frame it as Average-Joe-American going to church. They do tend to follow-up on their programs to some extent, as well as enriching or empowering themselves of course (the elite that is). A more extreme case would be the "revolutionary vanguard" that overthrew the old oligarchy of Czarist Russia-and did give some dignity to the workers-but more effectively entrenched their own power and privilege and killed their elite and grass-roots opponents (oh, and the old problem that Communism doesn't work too well as a system caused overall social misery for decades). Elites need the masses in their battles with each other. The corrupt Nationalists lost to the less corrupt Communists in mainland China partly for this reason (and perhaps Mao was a Greater Man than Chiang Kai Sek). The elite pretends for the sake of the masses that any given movement is about the majority of the people (SPQR-"The Senate and the people of Rome" was really the powerful Senators claiming the legitamcy of the Republic for their own ends) and do enough to make it somewhat credible. This interlocking system of dependencies has resulted in the usually slow and sometimes frenetic evolution of cultures across the world and through time where nation-states and empires developed based around a common set of ideas (for instance, Rome and China were bound by ideas more than soldiers or trade-information was expensive, life was cheap). The elite need the masses to battle off rivals-while the masses need the elite to maintain order and stability. China is a case in point. Chinese history is illustrative of the role of elites and their supportive masses, in this case, call two of the major elite groups the scholar-gentry and the rural high nobility. Ultimately, both depended on the peasants, so while the former pushed for a leveling the ownership of land to make the free peasants look to the central state for protection, the latter wanted to decentralize power to the prefectures and force the peasants off their land and onto to their manors in a state of serfdom. The balance of power in many Chinese dynasties (the first Han dynasty is a classic example) goes from the scholar-gentry and the central state toward the regional warlords. A period of chaos re-equilibrates the system as one powerful individual re-imposes central authority and the scholar-gentry is re-empowered and the regional warlords eliminated or dispossessed. Of course, it's far more complex than this, but the tension between the scholar-gentry who relied at least partially on meritocratic examinations, and the rural nobility that much more somewhat resembled European aristocracy was a crucial part of the dynamics of the rise of a strong dynasty and its subsequent fragmentation (dynasties such as the Han and Ming were founded by commoners-though the Tang was founded by an aristocrat). OK, let me wind this down. What is my point after all? Let's get back to genetic engineering. What if in 50 years due to gene therapy everyone has an IQ above 130 in absolute terms (obviously there will be re-normalization on tests-but think of it as talking in 2002 dollars in 1960). How will the interplay between the elites and the masses work now? There could be a certain point beyond which people won't be manipulated and dominated by prejudices and shibboleths. Would the increased number of high g individuals lead to a proliferation of elites without mass bases and unforeseen social chaos? Now, this might not be a problem if the Bell Curve is just moved up via a gene therapy induced Lynn-Flynn effect. In other words, as long as the super-rich or successful can give their kids IQs of 200, there will be enough stratification even if the middle-class can only afford 150 for their progeny (even if there were subsidies-I think if the rich could get better therapies, they would). Society would not fly apart due to the genetically engineered egalitarianism. If there is a natural limit to IQ growth, and the standard gene therapy pushes up against it, how will social forces react to a world with uniformly high IQ individuals and no Bell Curve to speak of? I'm sure some people would think of it as a utopia, where everyone is rational. But would there be Great Men to move society in a given direction-or would the collective actions of the hyper-intelligent just cancel each other out as they can't make up their mind through their tracks of reason (or whim)? Would liberals and conservatives still exist because these tendencies emerge out of the social forces themselves, rather than being ideologies that individuals come to rationally? Granted, there are other traits that are important aside from g. Creativity, athleticism and social grace to name a few. But if we can figure out how to elevate g, and Paul Orwin for instance thinks that would be the most complicated thing we could master, we could probably do everything else. But people's creativity might lead them to different tendencies. You might get factionalism based on tastes more than anything else (alluded to in the possibly of the continued presence of conservatives and liberals). Some believe that aesthetics are in our genes, so perhaps this wouldn't happen. I think honestly a lot of modern schools of art are socially constructed rather than rooted in genuine issues of differences of taste. Would super-high IQs change that? Genetic engineering opens up a whole new world. I tend to favor it. And anyway, there will be the early adopters, countries with progressive policies. They can be places to test the effects. If certain science fiction writers are correct, and society would collapse if everyone is too smart, well-we'll know and not want to do it, maybe. One problem might be that even if we know it’s good for society for there to be a normal distribution of g, on an individual level, everyone would want to be at the right end of the curve. While we're thinking of ethical quandaries, and projecting out current class anxieties forward in time, we should consider what effects it might have on the very fabric of history and the processes that underlay it. Certainly if everyone had an IQ of 200 we would probably find out if human innovation has a natural limit pretty quickly (or one would hope). Technology would probably proliferate in all its possible forms. But technology is a means to the end. We enjoy leisure and most people like to be alone part of the time. But we're social creatures (at least right now!) and the broader social impacts are important to consider. I think nation-states might collapse. Nation-states, and our current economy, are based on a natural division of labor. If everyone has equal potentialities and predilections (the latter is not guaranteed of course) the division of responsibilities might be out-moded. Perhaps humans would revert to tribes on the order of 150 individuals, which might be enough to handle all the essential specialties needed (baker, doctor, engineer, and so forth). Or the tribes could have professional specialties. All I know for sure is that I am rather certain man will re-make himself. For the good or the bad, we need to make sure that we control the tiger that we’re going to try and ride. Let me finish with an amusing story. Back in the 9th century, a certain group of Vikings were heading toward Paris. The Frankish monarchy sent some riders out to parley with them and ask who their chief was. When the rider asked, all the Viking's started saying they were the chief.... P.S. ... I might not blog as much this weekend-enjoy the weather if it's good! Update: I'm going to respond in detail to my detractors sometime tomorrow evening/night. So until then, bring it on! I'll try and respond to every civil query and critique. Peace out....
Friday, July 12, 2002
Mac users are smarter? Says here Mac users are smarter (OK- more affluent and all that) than Windows users. Not a big surprise (I'm a Windoze user myself). Mac people are self-selected-a sect or religion so to speak.
De mortuis nil nisi bonum. Or not. The Human Nature Review has a sharp, witty review of S. J. Gould's magnum opus. David Barash is usually pretty good, but this is just great (in both senses of the word -- it may even be longer than the average Godless post.)
the oregon project Wired Mag has a curious piece on the Imbler Project to engineer better American marathoners. It's headed up by Alberto Salazar, the last US marathoner to hold the world record, and it's funded by Nike:
"If we could come in with another wave of champions," concedes [Nike vice president Tom] Clarke, "it'd be exciting for anything even related to running as a business."Runners with an "already freakish genetic gift for running fast" stay in a low-oxygen house in Portland which simulates living at 12,000 feet, use a laptop computer to measure their "Omega Waves," vibration train on a neuro-mechanical stimulator, and soon will recuperate in a hyperbaric chamber. Coach Salazar and Nike have their sights set on the 2004 Olympics, where we'll find out if the Oregon Project is scientific or pseudo-scientific.
Toumaï, the face of the deep Nature has a bunch of articles about the new find in Africa. I'm usually interested in more recent hominids-but they're touting this as the next big thing, so we'll see. Update: But is it a gorilla?
Thursday, July 11, 2002
Barbarism The story about the public rape of the low-caste girl in Pakistan has more twists and turns-it might have happened because her brother was sodomized by three high-caste men and they were trying to cover it up by having a high-caste woman fabricate a story about sexual advances. So I gotta ask-I thought guns were common in the tribal areas. Don't the Gujars (the low-caste group) have guns? And more details-it seems the whole village watched.
Who is Asian-American? Steve Sailer asks this question in his UPI story. He reports-you decide. As far as I'm concerned, I'm brown and I'm proud! What do you think? Should I say that the line is my trademark?
Geek genes I just ran across this old piece in Wired about the prevalence of Asperger's Syndrome among the children of techies. What is Asperger's Syndrome? Basically autistic kids that aren't retarded-and often rather bright. Plenty of interesting stuff in the article-but here's the gist: Children of programmers have it a lot (at least get diagnosed), many of their parents admit to some symptoms, strong genetic factors indicate problems due to assortive mating, and so forth. A mild case of the ailment might be good for you if you are going to code 14 hours a day 7 days a week. Too much might make you totally socially incompetent. One doctor asks-what if parents keep aborting kids that have the genetic markers for Asperger's? Will there be an overall diminution of those with mild versions that might facilitate the obsessive compulsive tendencies that make good techies? Something to ponder....
oh, bird, do we have to do that again Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
oh, bird, do we have to do that again It was only a matter of time before the AIDS epidemic reached Sesame Street. (Things have gone downhill ever since they went into the sex toy business.)
Christians and AIDS Instapundit points to a Christian blogger who notices the correlation between AIDS and Christianity in Africa. I've already expressed my opinion on this-the de facto culture of polygamy in Christian Africa is a big part of the problem. The African Christian seems to accept the saving grace of the Church, but doesn't internalize its moral teachings. Update: Here is a link to my previous commentary on African AIDS and its possible reasons.
fun at the NYT When the President proposes a corporate finance reform, the NYT loudly hints at hypocrisy: "Bush Calls for End to Loans of a Type He Once Received." But I can't remember ever reading a NYT headline like "McCain Calls for End to Campaign Contributions of a Type He Once Received."
Wednesday, July 10, 2002
Asthma genes Business Week has an article on possible asthma causing genes. Obviously this would be a lucrative area for gene therapy...well, unless Joel has his way!
Godless Jock This SI story indicates that Ted Williams was an atheist. First time I've heard of any professional sports legend that professed to not believe in God or wasn't particularly superstitious. Then again, all the stories about Ted Williams that are coming out seem to indicate he approached batting in a rational and almost scientific fashion, so I guess it might make sense. Thanks to Tapped for the link.
how I learned to stop worrying and oppose IP Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
how I learned to stop worrying and oppose IP OK -- I've been periodically posting anti-IP links without ever giving any real background info. So here it is: My initial IP misgivings grew out of libertarian ideas. I was strongly influenced by Roderick Long's essay The Libertarian Case Against Intellectual Property Rights, which made me appreciate that intellectual property is not a necessary reaction to scarcity (the way that, say, private property in land is) but is rather a grant of monopoly privilege in order to create artificial scarcity. What's more, intellectual property rights conflict with tangible property rights: I own my computer and my printer, but copyright law means that there are certain (say) poems which would be illegal for me to type out (on my computer), print out (on my printer), and sell. That didn't sit well with my libertarian ideals either. At the same time, one of the projects I was working on at MSFT was "licensing compliance." Through monstrous data mining and spreadsheet calculation, I would figure out that Company X owned 100K licenses of Windows 2000 but had 130K computers. (This was harder than you'd think, given Microsoft's arcane licensing schemes and sketchy data.) Armed with my analysis, sales reps would then demand 30K * (a lot of $$) to ensure "compliance." This made me feel thuggish and intuitively queasy. If I buy a CD, I figured, why shouldn't I be able to install the included software on as many computers as I want? I also watched IP laws used to prosecute/threaten Dimitry Sklyarov, Ed Felten, and and 2600 Magazine all for doing things which seemed pretty reasonable to me. So I started asking around -- why should I support intellectual property laws? -- Some people (many libertarians and most Randroids) will argue that IP is like tangible property and that "stealing ideas" is no different than stealing, say, a car. Copying a MP3, they argue, is no different from stealing a CD (even though the former preserves the original while the latter doesn't). But if that's the case, then patents and copyrights should never expire. After all, property rights in land and cars and computers don't expire. To take this point of view, you'd have to believe that using a patented idea the day before the patent expires is "stealing" but using it the next day isn't (which seems ludicrous), or you'd have to believe that patents and copyrights really shouldn't expire. (I do know people who believe the latter.) I learned not to argue with the aforementioned true believers -- it was no more productive than a "does God exist" debate between a theist and an atheist. Most people, however are not such zealots and agree with me that "Intellectual Property" is not really property, but merely a grant of monopoly privilege. The disagreement, then, is whether such a grant of monopoly privilege is a good idea. Now if the government granted me the exclusive right to sell hot dogs or operate a laundromat or sell used books, I imagine that even supporters of IP would be outraged. (Most of the ones I know would be.) It's true that none of these is my idea. But should even the person who opened the first cinema / drafthouse be given a monopoly? Should the person who came up with idea of airline hubs? I think we'd agree that this seems a little outrageous. So there must be something about writing a novel, recording a CD, coming up with the idea for an operating system with DRM built in, inventing the hyperlink, or developing a new pharmaceutical which is different from the sort of invention involved in combining movies and beer, or in routing planes through a couple of big airports. But for the life of me I couldn't figure out why some merit monopoly protection and others don't. The main argument is that -- without IP protection -- much of what's copyrighted/patented would be unprofitable and would never get created in the first place. In other words, IP is needed to "incent" the right amount of innovation. But central planning doesn't sit well with me -- when Congress tries to set the right amount of milk production, steel imports, or mohair growth, free-market types rightly complain. In my view, IP protection is no different. It's likely that without IP laws we'd have less production of music, blockbuster movies, books, and new chemicals and drugs. (Though it's not certain -- see below.) Similarly, it's likely that without mohair subsidies we'd have less mohair. Neither of these strikes me as an intrinsically bad thing. First, because I don't trust central planning to provide the "right" amount of innovation. And second, because I believe there are alternative business models which will make up for the lack of monopoly. Jim at Objectionable Content wrote a great (really long) piece about this a few weeks ago:
If you and I want to see a film of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, we have an incentive to help Tom, Terry Gilliam, Gary Oldman, and the rest of the cast and crew in making the movie. We want to make sure they don't starve while they focus their energies on creating entertainment for us. If only there was some way to share the fruits of our labor with them in exchange for their work in creating the movie... Perhaps you have heard of such an arrangement. It's called commerce.In other words, the IP paradigm is backwards. If we're interested in a new CD of Eminem music, we can decree that Em "owns" whatever info he produces and that anyone who uses the information in an unapproved way is a criminal. Or we can set up a market which allows us to pay Eminem to create a CD (perhaps through pre-orders). Both provide incentives for Eminem to create his new CD. But the second has three HUGE advantages: (1) The market decides. Maybe, after 3 CDs, we're all sick of Eminem. Under the IP system, he'll go out and waste a lot of time and money producing and (especially) promoting an album no one wants, which will then not sell any copies. But under the pay for creation system, Em will make a new album only when there's demand for it (or when he's trying to initially prove himself). (2) Enforcement costs. IP creates a class of criminals who must be caught, prosecuted, etc..., and requires pouring lots of resources into costly legal battles. As technology advances, it also requires ever more draconian restrictions on freedom to make it work. These are both huge costs of the IP system. In contrast, the pay for creation system (for example) simply requires a marketplace. (3) No deadweight loss. Under a properly enforced IP system, only those who value the Eminem CD at $17.99 or more get to enjoy it, even though it costs less than a dollar to produce. (A downloaded copy costs only pennies to produce.) Under the pay for creation system, anyone who values the music at more than the cost of downloading (or burning) will get to enjoy it. Now it's true that no one will want to pay the unknown Eminem to create his first album. (Just as you wouldn't want to pay an unproven electrician to rewire your house.) That them's the breaks. I consider that to be a pretty reasonable case against copyright. The case against patents is similar -- but rather than paying a specific person to create a cure for AIDS, instead I'd help endow some sort of AIDS cure reward fund. (The Clay Math Institute, for instance, has endowed a prize fund for the solution of several hard math problems.) Perhaps we'd use some version of the Wall Street Performer Protocol. And researchers could offer serendipitous discoveries for sale. ("I've discovered a way to make gasoline out of water. I'll make it public in exchange for $10 million.") Would this result in the same level of (say) pharmaceutical R&D we have now? I have no idea. But who's to say what is the "right" amount of R&D? It's not "as much as possible" -- otherwise we'd conscript the world's best and brightest and force them to research drugs. The "post-IP business models" I offered above are only examples; there are others I haven't mentioned (tipjars, bundling, etc...) and others still I haven't thought of. (Item #1 on my research agenda is developing such business models and markets.) Hence, faced with the costs of IP and the existence of alternative business models, I came to the conclusion that IP was a bad idea. -- The argument against trademarks is different, but boils down to the following three points: (1) There are ways to uniquely identify my product (involving, e.g., cryptography or holograms) which are Very Hard to imitate. This makes government trademarks at best superfluous. (2) Trademarks can be (and are) used to intimidate and silence criticism. (3) Sometimes consumers WANT imitation products (fake Rolexes, imitation Gucci bags, etc...). -- (I'm going out for the evening, so I probably won't be able to respond to any comments until tomorrow.)
Vegetarianism and diet-again This article in Time gives mixed reviews to vegetarianism. It's not surprising that vegetarians have more problems with deficiencies since it takes more nutritional know-how when you avoid meat (and if you are vegan-animal related products). I notice that the article does hint at the almost religious fervor that some vegetarians bring to their ... discipline? (please note-I eat meat about once a week max-so I'm not someone who's drooling blood after dinner) Here is an interesting quote though that makes some common-sense points about the animal-rights arguments for vegetarianism:
The other reason for beef eating is, hold on, ethical—a matter of animal rights. The familiar argument for vegetarianism, articulated by Tom Regan, a philosophical founder of the modern animal-rights movement, is that it would save Babe the pig and Chicken Run's Ginger from execution. But what about Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse? asks Steven Davis, professor of animal science at Imbler State University, pointing to the number of field animals inadvertently killed during crop production and harvest. One study showed that simply mowing an alfalfa field caused a 50% reduction in the gray-tailed vole population. Mortality rates increase with each pass of the tractor to plow, plant and harvest. Rabbits, mice and pheasants, he says, are the indiscriminate "collateral damage" of row crops and the grain industry.Don't let the facts get in the way though!
open source biology Here's an interesting story (via slashdot) about "open source biology."
Gilman isn't hoarding his findings, but unloading them directly into the public domain and spurning patents and copyright. He won't rely on brilliant insights coming as he sits cross-legged in a woodshed; he's going to organize a massive public brainstorm and rely on the collective wisdom of his many collaborators. Seven core labs will serve as central coordinators as the undertaking evolves, but hundreds of other people will pipe in over the Internet. Nearly 500 scientists worldwide have already lined up to design descriptive Web pages for molecules key to the inner workings of cells.(I fully anticipate that one of my more biologically-savvy colleagues will chime in with some criticism that I'm unequipped to make, but I think it sounds pretty cool.)
Big ladies Yo ladies, there might be a reason you're so chunky. No, seriously, another study showing how men and women are different-this time in how they process their perception of food. Kind of interesting. What could be the evolutionary reason for this?
Black executives survey Fortune has a survey of black executives.
Tuesday, July 09, 2002
Maritime Silk Road This New York Times article reports on the excavations of the ancient port of Berenice. Anyone who knows about the Periplus Maris Erythraei knows something of Berenice. But the big surprise? The ships (and possibly the sailors than) in Berenice might have been Indian-rather than Roman. What I find humorous is this again shows that ancient Indians were very different in their values than their descendents, for many high caste Hindus believe that it is unclean to leave Mother India (this is now not put much into practice-but it was strong enough in the early 20th century that it concerned the mathematical genius Ramanujan).
While I'm at it.... This Slate article does a good job dissecting the short-comings of the Anti-Defamation League's new survey on anti-Semitism. The most interesting point Samantha Shapiro (notice the name Who-is-a-Jew-watchers) makes is that it underestimates Left-wing anti-Semitism since it is a test for political incorrectness as much as anti-Semitism (so blacks and Latinos don't do as well since the burden of political correctness doesn't fall on them as much). For instance, the idea that Jews "stick together" seems plainly correct in my opinion. Now are the Elders are going to be on my case (wink-nod)? Hope I don't get this blog labelled a "hate-site." I better buy a bumper-sticker, "Philo-Semite onboard!"
a hollow argument Protestors at the AIDS conference in Barcelona booed HHS secretary Tommy Thompson ("Bush's Thompson") off the stage, arguing that the US doesn't give enough money to the UN Global Fund to Fight AIDS:
Protesters said Thompson continues to "make hollow arguments" that the United States is the largest contributor to the Global Fund, said Kim Nichols, an activist. [I realize that sentence doesn't parse. Blame CNN.] Protesters say Norway contributes 25 times as much per citizen, Sweden seven times and Rwanda 10 times as much (as a percentage of gross domestic product) as the United States does.You see, it's a "hollow argument" to assert that the US is the largest contributor (which it is1), since it's not the largest per capita contributor or the largest contributor as a fraction of GDP. The charming protestors also held signs accusing Bush and Thompson of "murder" on account of the small-ish contribution. 1. Sez here that the US has kicked in a cool $500M, while the next largest contributions (Japan, Italy, UK) are $200M each.
France and Islam Thanks to Instapundit for pointing me to the two great articles on Islam by Christopher Caldwell (see part 1 & part 2).
Trouble for W Robert P. George at NRO is now questioning our president's explanations. Anyone want to bet we'll see a lot more entrants into the Democratic nomination process and more talk of McCain after the 9/11 anniversary?
Let's say it again-nationalist democracy Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
Let's say it again-nationalist democracy Like it or not-we Americans seem obsessed with the Israeli situation. Before we can find a solution-we better understand the problem. One pet-peeve of mine is that there are some who frame the debate as Israel being a proxy for the United States-a liberal democratic beacon of freedom amidst heathen Araby. Well, the heathen Araby is probably correct-but I don't believe Israel is a liberal democracy. It is a nationalist democracy, and this story proves it to me. For those without LA Times registration:
The government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has endorsed a proposed law that would allow Jews to bar Arab citizens of Israel from purchasing homes or living in many Israeli communities, a move that has touched off a divisive national debate. The attempt to legalize "Jews-only" towns was swiftly criticized by numerous Israeli politicians and human rights groups, who said it was a discriminatory and racist proposal. Supporters praised the bill for protecting what they called the essence of Zionism.Personally-I accept the right of Israelis to create their own polity. I agree that Israel is far more similar to the United States than any Arab state. But, I think perhaps some Americans minimize differences when they think that the only thing that separates Israeli values from American values is the enforcement of kosher.
Fortress Switzerland Multi-ethnic, multi-religious, fiercly independent and proudly aloof-the Swiss also are armed to the teeth against invasion.
Monday, July 08, 2002
Islamic...fundamentalism Jason Soon over at Catallaxy Files has some comments about Islam (which I can't properly permlink too by the way for some reason). He is cautiously skeptical of Islam, but I take issue with the following statement:
Nonetheless I know that in practice most people aren't consistent and the same goes with Muslims - in practice the majority are no more inclined to be theocrats than Christians.Because in the next paragraph he says the following (which I agree with):
Thirdly I am more suspicious of fundamentalist Islam than fundamentalist Christianity - the former seems to be more like the real thing whereas for the latter you have to go to really wacko cults like Reconstructionism to find anything equivalent in virulence to widely accepted (by Muslim fundamentalists) Muslim fundamentalisms of the sort practiced in Iran and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and in some provinces of Pakistan.How is it that the majority of Muslims are as tolerant Christians, and yet Islamic fundamentalism is far more virulent? I think the Islamic fundamentalism ~ abortion bomber approximation does not work in the following way: abortion bombers have no mainstream legitimate support. Islamism on the other hand is a strong minority position throughout the Islamic world. Even in the home of "tolerant Islam," Indonesia, extremist groups flourish. In places like Saudi Arabia-extremists are the establishment themselves, while they must be placated in places like Pakistan and Bangladesh. In the Islamic world, the barbarians are past the gates and they sit in the halls of power. In some ways, the victory of monotheism in the greater Western world was the conquest of the semi-nomadic barbarism of the Jews and Arabs (and its subsequent taming) over the ancient settled civilizations. I try to be careful not to overgeneralize, but I do believe that those who point out the divergent histories of Christianity and Islam do have some point. Christianity has been a religion of fanatics in the past-but its first three centuries were shaped as a religion of relatively pacifistic resistance to tyranny (at least perceived tyranny-the Christians were usually a irritation to the Roman government which viewed them as seditious and political enemies). The historical coincidence of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire left the Church an independent power that always remained suspicious of submission to temporal power (even after the Protestant Reformation-the radical Protestants dissented from the establishmentarianism of their own mother churches and created their own sects independent of state power). Islam's collapse will come from within as well as without. Wholesale economic and social degeneracy must occur before they acknowledge the bankruptcy of their medieval piety in the technological age-just as the ancient pagans had to acknowledge the falseness of their magic in the literate philosophical age. But before that time comes-those of us that live in the West must never forget the irrational barbarism that can issue out of Islam. Certainly I've seen its bizarre claims firsthand, my fundamentalist uncle would sometimes take me to flag-burning rallies (United States flags) in Bangladesh. See my ealier post for why I think the "tolerant majority" is a problem as well.
not about IP, but about logic Newsweek has an OK article on Internet Radio which contains the following very curious line:
The rationale for a performance fee seems reasonable: why shouldn’t artists get some coin when Webcasters play their music?Since "a performance fee" means "artists getting some coin," the proposed "reasonable" rationale is "Why not?" This "reasoning" is easily extendable to just about any circumstance:
The rationale for cannibalism seems reasonable: why shouldn't we fry up our neighbors and eat them?
The Economist-7/4/2002 Europe: The Danish tack Right on immigration gets some coverage here. The word is out-Muslims are going to Sweden now since they can't import their sub-adult brides from the "homeland" anymore (a new Danish law states that foreign spouses that are brought to Denmark must be 24 or over in age). A friend of mine said she heard about the law on NPR, but it was in the context of a Danish man and his Senegalese partner having to move across the strait to Sweden. Needless to say-these two are not the primary targets of the law-but NPR acts as if they are. United States: J. C. Watts is leaving office. The article notes that Watts was basically a token-the word was he was OK as a politician but like fellow athlete Steve Largent (now running for governor)-insufferably dumb. Though not as dumb as Maxine Waters probably. Africa & Middle East: Something must have happened to the Africa correspondent in mid-week because this is the only only article in that section this week. What's up with that? In any case, this story about the Congo war is fascinating. I highly recommend King Leopold's Ghost for those who want a historic background on the situation that goes further than 1960. Asia: L. K. Advani is certainly an unsavory character. No doubt many Muslims fear his rise to power in India. He's like Vajpayee without the baby-fat-a lean Hindu lion ready to tear a big one into a Muslim's hide. But a renewed Hindu India might be good for the West in its battles with Islam. China seems like it's going to swallow Xinjiang and let the West tackle Islam while it bides its time. India on the other hand can't avoid a confrontation with the green colossus to its west and east. Unlike Islamic fanatics-Hindus restrict their dogmatism and idiocy to the confines of their country, their cultural realm. Just like Jewish fanatics that don't export their lunacy-Hindu reactionaries can serve as strategic allies. I agree that Advani isn't the most outstanding of characters, but is he a worse figure than Jiang Zhemin or Mahathir Mohammed? India is held to a higher standard because it is a democracy-but my ancestors have been gutting the country for centuries and the Congress party is a craven beast that relies on the votes of Muslims to get into office. So like American politicians they will deny the fact that Islam's enmity to the idol-worshipping and uncircumcised heathen redoubt that is India is part of the problem. The days will come when we need hard men. Business: The end of Vivendi? See the article. Finance & Economics: The Italians are keeping their own capital markets. Good for them! Now how about not assassinating ministers for suggesting a loosening of labor laws? Science & Technology: If developmental biology is your thing, check this out:
THE human body may be beautifully symmetrical on the outside; internally, however, it is anything but. The heart is to the left, the liver to the centre-right, the troublesome appendix lurks low down on the right—at least in 99.99% of people. The remaining few have a condition called situs inversus, in which right and left are confused and the organs are laid out in a mirror-image of the normal arrangement.Weird wild stuff. Books & Arts: A history of socialism getting a good review? Yeah. I might check read this as a cautionary tale. But look at this quote and now I wonder if the Islamic world isn't stuck in 1900 rather than 1200:
IN 1895, Edith Lanchester, a member of the Battersea branch of the Marxist Social Democratic Federation (SDF), in south London, told her upper-middle-class family that she was going to live with a self-educated fellow member and worker, an Irishman named James Sullivan. Her brothers seized her, bound her by the wrists and had her committed to a lunatic asylum—from which commissioners reluctantly released her after a press campaign was stirred up by Sullivan and some fellow members. Lanchester's cause had been taken up with some reluctance both by the SDF and the Independent Labour Party, who were all too aware that many of their members would be more shocked by Lanchester's own actions than by her brothers'.
End of History vs. The Moral Animal Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
End of History vs. The Moral Animal (the Clone Wars continue) Francis Fukuyama and Robert Wright are beginning a dialogue in Slate. I'll follow it to conclusion and probably blog it at some point-though Fukuyama has been so done I might not.
The Victims of Competition Jim Caple at ESPN2 has an amusing tongue-in-cheek column about playground games and how they affect the self-esteem of the kids that play them:
A Santa Monica elementary school principal recently banned tag, saying the game can only be played under the strict supervision of physical education teachers and not at all during the lunch hour recess. That's due to: one, the risk of injury; and two, a "self-esteem issue," because whoever is "it" could be considered a "victim." "We had some children who were not playing 'it' appropriately," Franklin elementary principal Pat Samarge said, adding that "Little kids were coming in and saying, 'I don't like it.' Children weren't feeling good about it."Caple moves in for the shot...
When you get right down to it, there isn't a competitive game in existence where there isn't a "loser," nor is there a physical activity that doesn't bear some risk of injury. Even coloring books carry dangers (think paper cuts).Shoots...
It's better to avoid that whole mess by swaddling the kids in layers of protective fleece and flannel like Randy in "A Christmas Story," doping them to the gills with Ritalin, then tying them up inside a Nerf-padded room. They can entertain themselves by playing with their Game-Boy cartridges and listening to Eminem, which is all the little bastards really want to do anyway. Of course, when the kids are all so fat, lazy and sensitive that they have to pay for two seats on Southwest Airlines, we may have to take further appropriate action by suing someone.Scores! I hope this isn't a widespread trend. I'm not sure exactly what the macro-level implications of systematically teaching kids to fear competition are, but I can't imagine that it bodes well in the long run, for the kids or humanity in general. Increases in risk-aversity so extreme that the possibility of failure is unacceptable under all circumstances can't be a *good* thing.
Sunday, July 07, 2002
AIDS-the truth is actually reported? Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
AIDS-the truth is actually reported? The New York Times has an article on AIDS-and its spread in the mid-late 1990s. Here are some choice quotes:
The rates of unawareness among minority gay men ages 15 to 29 in the study were staggeringly high. Among those found to have H.I.V., the AIDS virus, 90 percent of blacks, 70 percent of Hispanics and 60 percent of whites said they did not know they were infected. Most of these infected men perceived themselves to be at low risk of being infected, despite having engaged in frequent high-risk sex like unprotected anal intercourse, said Duncan MacKellar, an epidemiologist from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which conducted the study. .... "The study shows that the very men who are at greatest risk of H.I.V. infection are those who are least likely to think they are at risk," Mr. Wilson said. "That's a direct call to develop not only new prevention messages but also new messengers."Please note the "perceived themselves" part. This reminds of studies that show stupid people perceive themselves to be pretty smart and competent. Frankly-only an idiot would engage in high-risk sex and think-"Oh well, I know all the partners this slut has been with."
Disease centers officials, who are responsible for tracking the AIDS epidemic in the United States, reported that 55 percent of new H.I.V. infections in 25 states from 1994 through 2000 were among blacks, who make up only 12 percent of the population in the United States. Blacks have also accounted for most new H.I.V. infections in the United States since 1994. In 1995, blacks surpassed whites in the percentage of Americans who had a diagnosis of AIDS. In 2000, the latest year for which data are available, blacks accounted for 43 percent of AIDS cases, whites for 34 percent. Hispanics, who make up 13 percent of the population, accounted for 21 percent of the cases. Other ethnic groups accounted for the rest.It seems that most AIDS ads I've seen recently that weren't targeted featured straight whites in their 20s. How interesting. Remember all the talk about how we are going to have a "heterosexual AIDS epidemic" just like Africa at some point. Well-we are seeing the beginning-but not in the general population. In fact, it is occurring in the African-derived segment of our populace.
Gay men account for the largest proportion of new H.I.V. infections, or 43 percent, followed by people infected by heterosexual sex, 27 percent, and intravenous drug users, 23 percent. Among those who acquired H.I.V. through heterosexual sex, black women accounted for nearly half from 1994 through 2000; black male heterosexuals accounted for an additional 25 percent, for a total of 75 percent, a hugely disproportionate share of infections in the United States, Dr. Valdiserri said.Bingo! Now are we going to get a retraction for all the alarmist crap we've heard for 15 years? Notice how much of the article was just data. There wasn't that much analysis-and I think this is the reason-uncomfortable facts are staring people in the face. The United States has been swamped with information for 15 years about AIDS. Who doesn't know how it's transmitted here? You can't use the excuse that you use in Third World countries-that people just need to know and they'll make the right decisions. The fact is it's more than that- impulsive behavior is the problem. People smoke knowing it causes cancer. Does it surprise us that people have sex knowing it may mean their life in 10-30 years? In fact, let me bring my personal experience into the equation. As a single male in his 20s, I am in certain situations-where I could be impulsive. It takes a certain amount of will-power to not get involved in something that maybe dangerous. I even take measures to avoid being in tempting circumstances (you know what I mean). But I know that if given enough chances-enough of a bait, any human being would take a stupid risk and sacrifice their long-term heath for short-term gratification. The problem is-shall I say it-some people are just too stupid to think things out and can't overcome their appetites, and more importantly, they don't plan out their activities that will prevent them from having to make difficult decisions repeatedly. I do think opportunity is a big part of it. Gay men are (in my experience) not especially stupid (I've read that have seven times as many doctorates as the general population). But the rise in risky sex has been documented-and the continuance of the AIDS epidemic in that community has been noted despite nearly 20 years of education and fear. But unlike heterosexual men, homosexual men have constant sexual opportunities-men being who they are. I still blink a bit when a homosexual male friend of mine tells me he's only had 150 sexual partners. Of those-I'm sure the vast majority were safe, but all of them? The second part of the above statistics that weren't analyzed in depth was the racial angle. I suspect black males have fewer opportunities than gay men-but let us say that their planning and the priorities of their culture work against them making the prudent-if less pleasurable-decision in a given situation. The high rates of teenage pregnancy are a direct testament to the lack of safe sex in that community. So is education the answer? I really don't know-how much more education do Americans really need? Afterthought: Remember the circumcision data coming out a few years ago? The idea was that if you encouraged circumcision in African (and to a lesser extent Asian) countries it would reduce the spread of HIV. But there was little mention of the circumcision of Europe. Why is this? Well-because Europeans take responsible sexual measures. If they were patronizing racists-they would just come out and say that blacks and southeast Asians can't be expected to show the same level of forethought as their un-cut European brethren. So the only solution is to cut the ends of their pricks off. Related note: The BBC is reporting that the AIDS vaccine is 5 years down the road. Good news ladies & gentlemen! Get ready to spread the legs and whip off the condoms. HIV immunity?: This site has a good summation of the receptors and their affect on HIV infection. Thanks to David for pointing in the right direction.
Are we that crazy? I know many people think libertarians are wild-eyed wacks fearful of black helicopters, but check out this post by David Carr over at Libertarian Samizdata. The low-down: Farmer shoots burglar, farmer gets put in prison for manslaughter, remaining burglar sues farmer for damages. If I'm an old school reactionary for being outraged-that I happily accept it. (this is the UK by the way-so let me just give a symbolic middle-finger to anyone out there that ever wants to lecture on merits of Europe)
everything you know about healthy eating is wrong Everything you know about healthy eating is wrong, says this long, fascinating article arguing that nutritional scientific orthodoxy has systematically excluded alternative views, quite possibly resulting in our obesity epidemic. Update from Razib: Eric Raymond blogs the article.
"yes, lisa, state unfair" Friday night I went out for beers with the local Libertarian apparat, most of whom tried to sell me on the virtues of Sensible Seattle's I-75, which would "make marijuana possession by adults Seattle's lowest enforcement priority." While it's ludicrous that marijuana is illegal, state law prohibits Seattle from decriminalization, and so the initiative is effectively toothless. If the impotence weren't enough to scare me off, their webpage would suffice:
Arresting responsible adults for possessing small amounts of marijuana is simply unfair.Now, Usenet veterans may be familiar with Godwin's Law:
"As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress.Over the years, I've developed a similar rule, which I'll now enshrine as "Joel's Law":
As a political discussion grows longer, the probability of an appeal to "fairness" approaches one. And it is Joel's bias that, once this occurs, the discussion is over, and whoever appealed to "fairness" has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress.OK, so I overstated the rule to make the analogy work. Nonetheless, one of my rules of thumb is that anytime you use the word "fair" in an argument (fair trade, fair wage, fair play, fair share, fair deal, etc...), you don't have much worthwhile to say. While I accept that there's some biological instinct for "justice," most people use fair to mean "I got what I wanted," and usually the word carries no objective meaning. [It occurs to me that Mary C's blog is called Science Fair, but I think she pulls it off :) ] One could rebut the Sensible Seattle folks by claiming that, for example, allowing people to smoke marijuana is "simply unfair." Which leads to an impasse. And so I am perpetually dismayed that intellectual property arguments so often center around "fair use." For instance, there's a mini-discussion going on over on Copyfight over how to get people to pay attention to the recording industry's attempts to curtail activities which are currently considered "fair use." The EFF has even introduced a video game, in which you play a blue-green hottie navigating the vagaries of "fair" and lawful use. Joel's Law says that the Lessigs of the world, whose focus is on "fair use," have already lost. When you buy a car, or a TV, or a computer, or a sofa, it's yours. The seller/maker doesn't retain any "rights" to prevent you from, say, driving over 90mph, watching more than 10 hours of programming a day, adding an extra hard drive, or putting your feet on the cushions. To the extent you grant that the maker of (say) a CD retains the "right" to prevent you from making and selling copies of it, you've already assented that the CD-maker gets to control your use of it. And once you've agreed to that, you're in the position of whining about "fairness." This isn't the killer anti-copyright argument. It's not likely to sway those who believe that makers of music, literature, art, and software should have the legal right to control people's use of instantiations of their IP. But it does make me hyper-critical of Lessig and his ilk, who -- as far as I'm concerned -- are running around screaming "not fair!" Godless comments: The main problem, in my opinion, is that when people say "it's not fair!" they're employing a nebulous optimality criterion. Once you define exactly what you're trying to accomplish, it's much easier to weigh different policies and ask which of them best accomplishes your goal. Ideally one would choose to optimize a quantitative scalar variable as a function of the chosen policy. For example, if one's goal is to "rapidly increase the average standard of living", you would choose one policy. If your goal was instead to "reduce the differences in income between different groups", you would choose a different policy. The point, however, is that "fair" must be defined in terms of an optimality criterion. (Note that this does not preclude choosing several goals simultaneously. One can choose a weighted sum of objectives and return to the scalar case. Here's an example with regularized least squares [link in PDF].)
Is this capitalism? This Washington Post article is terrifying. Money buys power in China today-and business competition can be deterred by buying judges to jail opponents. This might be a reason why countries with relatively independent judiciaries have an edge in the long-term over China's hollow crypto-fascism (India or Brazil). China is now a culture where the exercise of raw power is all that counts-its ancient traditions were bull-dozed by Communism-and socialism has no appeal to the masses.
Michael Jackson a victim of racism? Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
Michael Jackson a victim of racism? This "black" "man" claims that he's a victim of racism. OK, it's funny on its face that Michael is claiming this, but note this about the article:
He also singled out Sony Music chairman Tommy Mottola, saying he was "mean, he's a racist, and he's very, very, very devilish." Jackson also accused Mottola of using "the n-word" when speaking about an unidentified black Sony artist. .... Jackson mentioned several black artists as victims of the industry, including James Brown, Mariah Carey and Sammy Davis Jr. Jackson alleged that Davis died penniless, although Davis' attorney said in 1990 that the "Rat Pack" member left an estate worth more than $6 million when he died.Mariah Carey's father is Afro-Venezuelan-ergo she is black. She was once married to Tommy Mottola. How is that Mottola marries a "black women" (albeit, a phenotypically ambiguous one)-and is racist against blacks? Perhaps Mariah leaving him made him bitter against the race. Certainly doesn't point to a conspiracy to keep blacks down. So here's the summary: A black man that looks like a white woman is claiming that a swarthy Italian-American man that used to be married to a "high-yellow" black woman is racist against blacks. Something to chew on.
The End is Night-sort of This story in the Observer is a sneak preview of a World Wildlife Fund report due out Tuesday. Pretty alarmist stuff-and I'll comment on the report proper when it's on their website. But here is one of the major facts to make us take note....
Shrinking Forests: Between 1970 and 2002 forest cover has dwindled by 12 per cent.I may sound a bit flippant, but 12%?!?! Are they sure they're not off in their math-to get worked up over a 12% shrinkage seems much.
Saturday, July 06, 2002
Genes and Behavior We shall soon be able to decipher the mysteries of human behavioral genetics. The most promising attack now is to begin by using statistical genetics on markers to narrow down the list of candidate genes, and then use molecular genetics to nail down the biochemistry. Once the biochemistry is understood, we can begin forward engineering the proteins involved. Here's a great little article on how behavioral genetics has come full circle since the first definitive identification of a gene responsible for a behavioral trait.
This sort of work is already being applied to humans. Are you listening, Orwin and Murtaugh - and anyone else who claims to be a biologist but denies or minimizes the importance of genetics on human behavior? It's only a matter of time before I'm proved right - there are nontrivial genetic differences between races (some of which influence behavior, particularly IQ), and we're on the verge of figuring out exactly what they are. Do you guys really want to be on the "ether theory" side of biology when the pendulum swings my way? If and when the balance shifts from denying the influence of genetics to reengineering humans, those who practiced character assassination may receive a well-deserved comeuppance. Not to say that I'd be so vindictive, but others might. It's not too late to change your mind...
Should I be flattered?
"Razib-I think Christians should be glad that you're an atheist. And I'm really glad you're a not believing Muslim-cuz you'd be one scary mother...."-A friend (?) Hey, does it say anything about me that I always say that if I was Christian I'd probably be Calvinist? Only the Lord God would know if I was among the Elect-but surely I would flagellate the sinners for their iniquity! Praise be to the Lord that I don't hew to his commandments.
the new SAT Charles Murray weighs in on the new SAT:
Intelligence tests, maligned because they fail to produce politically correct mean scores for different socioeconomic and ethnic groups, have an irreplaceable value for individual children within those groups: Just as their originators hoped, bright youngsters from bad schools can get higher scores than pedestrian students who have gone to terrific schools. [...] A content-based SAT will make life harder for every bright child who goes to a lesser school while making life easier for children whose parents can get them into good schools.
Ted Williams might not be such a great player if he played today Ted Williams died. Yes, he was a great player - in his era . But we're doubtless going to be subjected to all kinds of stuff about how Williams was one of the "all time greats", which is a curious optimality criterion. After all, if we were picking the "best players of all time", I'd bet that the list would be loaded with modern era players. If Ruth or Williams played today, I think we might find that they wouldn't be anywhere near as dominant as they were when baseball players were predominantly white and fat. As the Onion says, "In my day, ballplayers were for shit."
It seems everywhere I go these days, some young fella's jibber-jabbering about how great some ballplayer of today is. It's always Mark McGwire this or Sammy Sosa that. Well, of course they're the best. These modern big leaguers, with their blinding speed, cannon arms, and towering home runs—they've got it all. Back in my day, ballplayers were for shit!
Friday, July 05, 2002
Thank you kind reader! As a lap-top user, I thank whoever paid to get rid of that ad at the top of our blog. All of us at Gene Expression thank you. We hope to reward your largesse with stimulating banter and provoking essays. On a separate note-I took the emode IQ test today. I always get about the same result. I do this once every six months to check if I've gotten a lot smarter (no, unfortunately) or dumber (thank gods I didn't!). I decided on a lark to buy their $15 "15 page" explanation of how your intelligence maps out. What did I get for $15? Basically this: Hey, you're pretty good at logic and math. As someone that came close to a math minor and has a science degree, I could have figured that out. I thought I was going to get something like a horoscope, a lot of really interesting made-up facts that would subtlety reinforce my view of how superior I am. But no, they just gave me the standard crap about how I've got "visual-spatial logical skills". Save your money and get a psychic-reading, it would be more worth it. (most of the 15 pages was history about IQ tests and educational credentials of their psychologists) Finally, I was thinking about programming a "stupid man's IQ test." This is the theory, I set a timer and use that to calculate (in combination with percentage correct of answers) what the person's IQ is. Make the questions so obvious that only idiots will answer them immediately (and correctly) while brighter people will try to figure out what the catch or trick is and waste their time. A lot of people I know who take IQ tests stop when they hit a certain number. So if someone who normally scores 100 scores 125 on my IQ test, they'll quit their and get a boost of self-esteem. Someone who normally scores 130 who gets 80 will dismiss it and take another IQ test to confirm their braininess. How about that to all those who say I don't have any Leftist spirit of social justice towards the down-trodden? Godless remarks: Razib is, of course, joking. Just wanted to point that out for our new readers from Warbloggerwatch. As previously noted, *if* the emode test is a psychometrically sound IQ test (a big if...), then the number given can be used to predict all sorts of things about Razib. Also, I've seen the stupid man's IQ test on the web. Here's one version. It is sort of funny, but at the same time it kinda smacks of anti-intellectualism. Unlike Steve Sailer and (to a lesser extent) Razib, I've never championed the cause of the stupid nor thought it particularly worthwhile to set up "snares" of this kind to "prove" that those smarty-pants kids who try on tests aren't so smart after all. It's fine to have jokes like this...but in the end, it's no contest - nerds win. I think it's regrettable that the stupid are stupid, and we should work to make it possible for all individuals to choose to be more intelligent (via, say, genetic engineering or cybernetics), and that it's not the "fault" of the stupid that they do stupid things. None of this implies that it's a good idea to romanticize idiocy. (Note - Yes, it may happen that some people may not choose to have their intelligence boosted...but will this fraction be much higher among the low IQ? Maybe, maybe not. It's an empirical question.)
only the good die young Want to live longer? Abstain from sex:
The beetles which mate die sooner than the beetles which don’t mate. The mechanism is not the same in humans, but the principle is the same. In beetles, mating released hormones needed to produce sperm in a male or eggs in a female and that had a negative effect on the immune system.(The original article is here, though you need a subscription to read it.)
Need I say more? This article at Genome Biology: "Categorization of humans in biomedical research: genes, race and disease" has a nice little review of why it's important to consider race in medical research. (And no, I'm not one of the authors.) Here's the abstract - full access requires a subscription.
Update: Note that you can register for a free trial in order to view the article. It's quite an excellent site - I think that it will be considered a good journal in a few years time, especially considering the heavyweights on the editorial board. Here are some nice clips:
A major discussion has arisen recently regarding optimal strategies for categorizing humans, especially in the United States, for the purpose of biomedical research, both etiologic and pharmaceutical. Clearly it is important to know whether particular individuals within the population are more susceptible to particular diseases or most likely to benefit from certain therapeutic interventions. The focus of the dialogue has been the relative merit of the concept of 'race' or 'ethnicity', especially from the genetic perspective. For example, a recent editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine  claimed that "race is biologically meaningless" and warned that "instruction in medical genetics should emphasize the fallacy of race as a scientific concept and the dangers inherent in practicing race-based medicine." In support of this perspective, a recent article in Nature Genetics  purported to find that "commonly used ethnic labels are both insufficient and inaccurate representations of inferred genetic clusters." Furthermore, a supporting editorial in the same issue  concluded that "population clusters identified by genotype analysis seem to be more informative than those identified by skin color or self-declaration of 'race'." These conclusions seem consistent with the claim that "there is no biological basis for 'race'"  and that "the myth of major genetic differences across 'races' is nonetheless worth dismissing with genetic evidence" . Of course, the use of the term "major" leaves the door open for possible differences but a priori limits any potential significance of such differences. In our view, much of this discussion does not derive from an objective scientific perspective. This is understandable, given both historic and current inequities based on perceived racial or ethnic identities, both in the US and around the world, and the resulting sensitivities in such debates. Nonetheless, we demonstrate here that from both an objective and scientific (genetic and epidemiologic) perspective there is great validity in racial/ethnic self-categorizations, both from the research and public policy points of view. ... Probably the best way to examine the issue of genetic subgrouping is through the lens of human evolution. If the human population mated at random, there would be no issue of genetic subgrouping because the chance of any individual carrying a specific gene variant would be evenly distributed around the world. For a variety of reasons, however, including geography, sociology and culture, humans have not and do not currently mate randomly, either on a global level or within countries such as the US. A clearer picture of human evolution has emerged from numerous studies over the past decade using a variety of genetic markers and involving indigenous populations from around the world. In summary, populations outside Africa derive from one or more migration events out of Africa within the last 100,000 years [5,6,7,8,9,10,11]. The greatest genetic variation occurs within Africans, with variation outside Africa representing either a subset of African diversity or newly arisen variants. Genetic differentiation between individuals depends on the degree and duration of separation of their ancestors. Geographic isolation and in-breeding (endogamy) due to social and/or cultural forces over extended time periods create and enhance genetic differentiation, while migration and inter-mating reduce it. With this as background, it is not surprising that numerous human population genetic studies have come to the identical conclusion - that genetic differentiation is greatest when defined on a continental basis. The results are the same irrespective of the type of genetic markers employed, be they classical systems , restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) , microsatellites [7,8,9,10,11], or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) . For example, studying 14 indigenous populations from 5 continents with 30 microsatellite loci, Bowcock et al.  observed that the 14 populations clustered into the five continental groups, as depicted in Figure 1. The African branch included three sub-Saharan populations, CAR pygmies, Zaire pygmies, and the Lisongo; the Caucasian branch included Northern Europeans and Northern Italians; the Pacific Islander branch included Melanesians, New Guineans and Australians; the East Asian branch included Chinese, Japanese and Cambodians; and the Native American branch included Mayans from Mexico and the Surui and Karitiana from the Amazon basin. The identical diagram has since been derived by others, using a similar or greater number of microsatellite markers and individuals [8,9]. More recently, a survey of 3,899 SNPs in 313 genes based on US populations (Caucasians, African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics) once again provided distinct and non-overlapping clustering of the Caucasian, African-American and Asian samples : "The results confirmed the integrity of the self-described ancestry of these individuals". Hispanics, who represent a recently admixed group between Native American, Caucasian and African, did not form a distinct subgroup, but clustered variously with the other groups. A previous cluster analysis based on a much smaller number of SNPs led to a similar conclusion: "A tree relating 144 individuals from 12 human groups of Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania, inferred from an average of 75 DNA polymorphisms/individual, is remarkable in that most individuals cluster with other members of their regional group" . Effectively, these population genetic studies have recapitulated the classical definition of races based on continental ancestry - namely African, Caucasian (Europe and Middle East), Asian, Pacific Islander (for example, Australian, New Guinean and Melanesian), and Native American. ... Two arguments against racial categorization as defined above are firstly that race has no biological basis [1,3], and secondly that there are racial differences but they are merely cosmetic, reflecting superficial characteristics such as skin color and facial features that involve a very small number of genetic loci that were selected historically; these superficial differences do not reflect any additional genetic distinctiveness . A response to the first of these points depends on the definition of 'biological'. If biological is defined as genetic then, as detailed above, a decade or more of population genetics research has documented genetic, and therefore biological, differentiation among the races. This conclusion was most recently reinforced by the analysis of Wilson et al. . If biological is defined by susceptibility to, and natural history of, a chronic disease, then again numerous studies over past decades have documented biological differences among the races. In this context, it is difficult to imagine that such differences are not meaningful. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of a definition of 'biological' that does not lead to racial differentiation, except perhaps one as extreme as speciation. A forceful presentation of the second point - that racial differences are merely cosmetic - was given recently in an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine : "Such research mistakenly assumes an inherent biological difference between black-skinned and white-skinned people. It falls into error by attributing a complex physiological or clinical phenomenon to arbitrary aspects of external appearance. It is implausible that the few genes that account for such outward characteristics could be meaningfully linked to multigenic diseases such as diabetes mellitus or to the intricacies of the therapeutic effect of a drug." The logical flaw in this argument is the assumption that the blacks and whites in the referenced study differ only in skin pigment. Racial categorizations have never been based on skin pigment, but on indigenous continent of origin. For example, none of the population genetic studies cited above, including the study of Wilson et al. , used skin pigment of the study subjects, or genetic loci related to skin pigment, as predictive variables. Yet the various racial groups were easily distinguishable on the basis of even a modest number of random genetic markers; furthermore, categorization is extremely resistant to variation according to the type of markers used (for example, RFLPs, microsatellites or SNPs). Genetic differentiation among the races has also led to some variation in pigmentation across races, but considerable variation within races remains, and there is substantial overlap for this feature. For example, it would be difficult to distinguish most Caucasians and Asians on the basis of skin pigment alone, yet they are easily distinguished by genetic markers. The author of the above statement  is in error to assume that the only genetic differences between races, which may differ on average in pigmentation, are for the genes that determine pigmentation.
Answers to the Creationists John Rennie of Scientific American rips into Intelligent Design theorists. Please note that he avoids answering the Young Earth folks at the ICR, but rather those of the Discovery Institute.
Alexander's soldiers Did you know Kandahar was actually one of the ancient Alexandrias founded by Alexander the Great? And did you know that Alexander made it all the way to the border of modern day Pakistan and India-and that Caesar wept when he was Alexander's age at death for he had done nothing of note and Alexander had conquered the civilized world in 15 years? In any case, this article talks about the possible descendents of Alexander's soldiers, and an expedition to collect DNA from Afghans to compare them with sequences from Phillip of Macedon, Alexander's father (unless you believe he really was the son of Zeus-Ammon). I'm skeptical that the fair-skinned Afghans are descendents of Alexander's soldiers-I suspect that they are within the phenotypic range of the ancient Indo-Iranian peoples (ancestors of the Pashtuns and Tajiks). There are blonde freckled Persians after all, and no one wonder's if they are the scions of the ancient Macedonian hoplites. Also, the author of the article contrasts "European" and "Asian" genetic signatures, but Afghans are basically Caucasoid, an affinal branch of the western Eurasian race that stretches from the north Atlantic and into India (where it blends in various degrees with other strains). Amd using Phillip's DNA might not be very accurate if the Macedonian aristocracy had intermarried heavily with Greeks from the south while the mass of Macedonian's were only semi-Hellenized (as seems the case) and from a different group of Indo-European tribes (granted, the Balkan peoples were all probably close genetically).
Thursday, July 04, 2002
My views on the Jews Many people expect arguments concerning the biological reality of race to be followed with a dollop of anti-Semitism. This is because of people/organizations like the John Birch Society, Strom Thurmond, American Renaissance, David Duke, and others of their ideological ilk. However, it's my opinion that this association only holds for one of the two classes of people that aren't afraid to talk about race. I've previously said that the only ones who regularly stand up to the inevitable slur of racist are real racists and rationalists . I've gone into the many differences between these two camps before (Summary: rationalists are interested in facts, and racists are not), but I want to state that in my opinion, rationalists are not anti-Semitic. There are people on the message boards who regularly inveigh against the Jewish control of academia. Indeed, I think the one substantive claim that can be levied against the Jews as a population is that they have a lot of crazy left-wing intellectuals who like to stir things up. (Most readers already know my position on Israel - suffice to say that I support Israel in the main, if not on every detail.) But the assuredly negative effect of these intellectuals has to be balanced against the unmatched contributions of Jews to science and engineering. I mean, subtract the Jews from history and out the window goes much of mathematics and physics as we know it...along with the attendant applications that make our technological world go 'round. From their contributions to science and engineering alone, I doubt any other single population has contributed as much to the welfare of humanity as the Ashkenazi Jews. Now, I think that there are Indian and European and Asian subpopulations who can probably hang with the Jews intellectually, but the promise of future performance notwithstanding, I don't know whether these subpopulations have achieved anything comparable to the Jews. Pound for pound, perhaps the only population on earth that can match the Jews' "accomplishments per capita" are the Kalenjin of Kenya (albeit in an entirely different arena). Finally, I think much of the animosity to the Jews is really "player hating"...much as many blacks dislike whites largely because the latter have supposedly undeserved material wealth/affluence/power, many whites dislike Jews because the latter have supposedly undeserved material wealth/affluence/power. Of course, these are the inevitable features of any comparison of populations that are a standard deviation apart in IQ. Disclaimer: I am not Jewish or related by blood or marriage to Jews. Even if I was, I think the facts presented above stand for themselves independent of the qualities of the speaker. Correction: I've been advised that the Birchers and AmRen are not anti-Semitic. I shouldn't have grouped the Birchers there - their official position contains a repudiation of anti-Semitism. It's been my experience that Birch members don't always abide by the organization's precepts, but one can't well condemn an organization for the positions of some of its members. (The link I pointed out is a case in point - many wannabe-fascists are sympathetic to the Birch anti-communism stance, though this isn't Birch's fault. Look at the glowing adjectives with which the IHR writer describes life under the Third Reich...) AmRen, on the other hand, is a different matter. While 20% of AmRen writers may indeed be Jewish, I don't think that the organization is fully rational on the topic of race. I think it likely that the 80% non-Jewish contingent mutters about the 20% Jewish contingent when they aren't around...my views on Amren are here.
Happy 4th! [if you're American-if you live in Oz or on the World Island enjoy work]
Wednesday, July 03, 2002
On the trail of the schizophrenia gene Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
On the trail of the schizophrenia gene They smell it in the air-the genes that "cause" schizophrenia may be "discovered" soon. The article seems to be trying to avoid hyperbole for once. That's good. But OK, we know it runs in families. We might be on the way to finding the genes that cause it. Maybe we'll get a cure and Jason Soon will be left with a world without the god-intoxicated! (OK-some of you know that my cousin is schizo-but as a college freshmen a friend of mine was ill but on mediation. He didn't tell any of us and stopped medicating himself. One day he accused his roommate of raping his imaginary friend and started beating the crap out of him. A dozen guys had to pile on the schizo to restrain him. Schizophrenia can be scary)
A stereotype is timeless-sort of Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit
A stereotype is timeless-sort of I'm re-reading The Oxford Illustrated History of the Roman World. Pretty readable-it's more of a cultural history. Here's a section that amused me in the beginning (From the chapter Hellenism in Rome page 57):
One must not exaggerate the depth of Greek influence at this period. There is evidence that Greek medicine was regarded with suspicion still, and in general the Romans were intellectually, as also artistically, clumsy and immature. Poetry was more developed than prose, though even poetry was crude, as Horace complained. Cicero thought that it was only toward the end of the century that orators really profited form the study of rhetoric, which taught one how to organize and argue, as well as ornament, a speech. What we know of prose literature suggests that the Romans, like many primitive peoples, found generalization and abstraction hard. It was only from about 100 BC, too, that they began to use traditional Greek logical structure in treatises, with explicitly definitions of a the subject and all key concepts, and careful division of the material into parts or aspects, instead of piling up information hugger-mugger.... [my emphasis]If you changed "Romans" to say Zulus in the 20th century this would sound extremely patronizing and racist. The implication would be clear-blacks needed to learn the basics of logic and linear thinking from whites. Of course, since Romans and Greeks are both white, this subject can be approached and addressed without excessive political controversy (though I'm sure this is open to academic contention). But a second point is that do we today imagine Italians as inarticulate fools incapable of forming cogent arguments? Of course not, our perception of Italians has changed, and by the 15th century they became to other Europeans what the Greeks had been to them, an ancient civilized people fallen into anarchy and chaos. They were disputatious and violent-bent on faction and politically ineffectual. The Italians of the Renaissance were the pioneers in the arts and sciences, and yet they had little to teach Europe politically (one can make the argument that Machiavelli and the Italian plurality of polities had some influence on the balance of power theory that commenced with the Peace of Westphalia). The analogy to the ancient Greeks is striking. And yet in ancient times, Greeks like Polybius lionized the mixed political structure of the Roman Republic (somewhat like Montesquieu admired the checks and balances in the British monarchy). Throughout antiquity, the Romans, later to become Latin speakers, and Greeks, never truly gave up their differences that seemed to run deeper than language. As the emperors became progressively less focused on a Roman as opposed to imperial identity (In 306 Constantine was elevated to the purple in York in northern England, his father was Illyrian and his mother was Bithynian [southern Anatolia])-they still tended to be Latin in speech and therefore culture. Though there were a few exotic emperors in the mid-3rd century from the east of the Empire (I doubt any could be termed Greek except in the broadest of definitions)-the emperor Anastasius was the first true Hellene to wear the purple, in the early 6th century! Yet the Greek dominated east was not marginal economically or culturally. The scientists Ptolemy, the philosopher Plotinus and the most brilliant of the early Christian theologians Origen, were from the Greek east (think of Alexandria as New York, Athens as Boston and Rome as Washington D.C.). Ideas still tended to proceed from the east to the west-whether it be religious or philosophical. Christianity itself was rooted in the east of the Empire, not the west. Sixty years after Constantine's death during a succession battle the pagan west even reverted to the old religion! (the Senators in Rome and much of the western military remained pagan until their final defeat late in the 4th century at the hands of Theodosius, who himself was from Spain). Even the character of the Church fathers was different-Origen was basically a philosopher who was also a pious Christian, while Latin-speaking Tertullian declared "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" (another Latin-speaker, Augustine turned the west away from Tertullian's thinking and cemented the position of Greek philosophy in the Western Church). Now the intellectual brilliance of Greece is a memory and Italy is a byword for political mess. Italian fathers are far more likely to let their 40 year old son live at home rather than execute him for sloth. History changes everyone. It is a cautionary lesson for those of us who pay close attention to presumably immutable properties such as genetics (who can say what 2,000 years has done? Perhaps we'll never know). Even without genetic engineering-perhaps peoples who today display little propensity for formal logic and math could become the technical pioneers of the future. Anything is possible. On the other hand, anyone care to take a bet? godless is always up for a good wager. And I wonder, was the Lynn-Flynn effect operative on the ancient Romans when they conquered the city-states of Magna Graecia in southern Italy and were exposed to a welter of new ideas? Something to ponder.
A Green wedge This article over at Tech Central Station is a fascinating account of the ties between the Eco-Fascist movement and Fascist ecologists of the Nazi era. I've done a fair amount of research into the religious and mystical underpinnings of the Nazi "ideology." Himmler was something of an exemplar of the belief in the Natural Religion. Christian evangelicals are correct when they say that the Nazi regime was fundamentally anti-Christian. But, what they fail to often note is that it was not atheistic. Officers in the SS were often professors of "God belief," a generic theism suffused with nature worship. National Socialist religion had tendrils of Jungianism, Theosophy and Ariosophy. The Nazis-if they had won would have instituted the most brutal sort of ahistorical paganism of their own creation (this is not to say that Nazis were going to go about it as the Communists did-attacking the old religion head on-instead they would most likely have digested it piecemeal-see the case of the German Christians). Like the Deep Ecologists-they yearned for an era that never existed and looked forward to the day when the world was in "balance." The Nazis-unlike the Communists-did not look forward, but back toward an idyllic German peasantry that they wanted to somehow recreate in the industrial age. One important thing that the current Deep Ecologists and the Nazis share is that they were overwhelmingly white (OK-the Nazis were all white!). In my arguments with environmentalists with Deep Ecological tendencies (tip off-if they talk about human beings as a virus you know where they're coming from)-I always tried to play the race card to see how it would work. Sometimes they backed off while other times they would explode at me. The current radical Green movement considers itself Left-wing and racially progressive despite the overwhelming paleness of its complexion. When faced with the suffering of the people of color if organic farming was to replace industrial farming and animal protein was removed from the diets of those that didn't have access to protein via processed soy-they encountered an intellectual dissonance within themselves. It was all rather satisfying, seeing the Deep Ecologist tearing at the Ethno-politics sympathizer. Update: Ron Bailey of Reason on those wacky neo-Luddites.
Tuesday, July 02, 2002
The southern wall.... Steve Sailer suggests putting up a fence. Not much to say-but the man has the numbers at his fingertips. And read all his other articles (and here) while are you're at it.
Survey of American Jews Check out this survey of the American Jewish community (lots of stuff for all the data hogs out there!). The general conclusions are pretty obvious-the more secular you are, the more likely you are to intermarry, etc. etc. But here is something that caught my attention: There are three major groups they surveyed, Jews by religion (practicing Jews), Jews of no religion (non-practicing Jews) and Jews of other religions (presumably mostly Christian). The interesting thing is that while the number of college graduates among the first two groups was about same-there were far fewer in the last group. This group is heterogeneous-Jews who convert to other religions, those of Jewish parentage (one or both) who were raised in another religion, and so forth. But their relative lack of educational achievement compared to the former categories is a tantalizing clue to possible assortive mating. What am I getting at? Perhaps those most likely to leave the Jewish community are those most out of step socially and intellectually-the sibling that didn't have the grades to go to Harvard (25% Jewish) but went to the local state college where the prospects of finding a Jewish boyfriend or girlfriend are far lower (and running into Christians and Christian proselytizing organizations greater). It could also be that overachievers are least likely to be affected by social pressures to conform to American norms-in other words explaining the rather high rates of atheism among Jews with no religion (25%) despite the stereotype that they are assimilating toward the general population (where 1% are atheists-and around 10% of those with "no religion" are atheists). Many of the Jews with no religion are products of mixed-marriages-just as those with other religions are (to an even greater extent), and yet this group shows no drop off in educational attainment. Today with intermarriage rates around 50% these tendencies are easy to note. But what about the past? There have always been Jews that fell away from their people. Who were they? The best and the brightest? Or the social outcast who wanted to find acceptance? Where the marranos that remained in Christian Spain and over the centuries became Catholics in fact as well as name socioeconomically different than those that left for the Netherlands and the Ottoman Empire?
the Riemann Hypothesis The NYT has a cool, accessible-to-the-layman article on the Riemann Hypothesis (sort of the Holy Grail of mathematics).
"merely" a money grab Jeremy Lott, writing in TechCentralStation, describes the Seattle espresso levy as a "sin tax," declaring,
it was only a matter of time before financial necessity collided with public health arguments about the dangers of caffeine.Now, it's almost certain that an espresso tax will (slightly) reduce caffeine consumption. But I can find no evidence that that's the intent, nor any news coverage (besides Lott) which even mentions "dangers of caffeine." Lisa Moy, the campaign manager for the initiative, claims, "we have nothing against espresso." Listen to how she describes the motivation:
Moy said taxing espresso drinks is a guaranteed source of income in Seattle, where many residents can't get through the day without a caffeine hit. Drip coffee would not be taxed and espresso seemed the most obvious choice that would not burden any particular economic group, Moy said.Now, I suppose it's possible that some anti-caffeine health crusader wanted to decrease espresso consumption through a 5-cent-a-cup tax and spun it as "for the children" to mask his (or her) diabolically puritan agenda. But it's much more likely that this is "merely" a money grab.
New AIDS report UNAIDS has another report report out. Commentary later-when I've read it (mighty hard on my 600 X 800 screen laptop). Update: OK, so I read it. Standard stuff-young people need to be educated so that HIV can be prevented. This seems to work-Uganda and Zambia were cases in point. The report (which is titled Young people and HIV/AIDS: Opportunity in crisis) starts out pretty generically:
HIV spreads rapidly within countries and across borders. It affects people regardless of gender, geography and sexual orientation.Well, actually the report indicates that the pandemic in the developed world and the Islamic world, East Asia and Latin America still skews towards males who have sex with men and drug users. So gender and sexual orientation have something to do with it outside Africa and to some extent South Asia. As far as geography goes-around 90% of the high prevalence nations seemed to be Sub-Saharan African. The balance was filled in with a few Caribbean countries with large black populations and Estonia, the Ukraine and Cambodia. As I've noted before, Uganda can be deemed a success at 5% HIV infection prevalence while the potential of 1% infection in China in the year 2010 is cause for panic. On to Africa-yes-there is the gross amount of ignorance that people seem so concerned about. But when mapped across the continent young people in the southern region most recently afflicted with the highest infection rates are more well informed that those in other parts of the continent that are less riddled with HIV/AIDS. So knowledge is power-but the power to destroy yourself or save yourself. It seemed peculiar that the report would point to broad trends-ie; high STD rates in Africa-and then be organized in a jumbled manner juxtaposing studies from India the Ukraine and Malawi in a nonsensical fashion in the same paragraph. Are they trying to speak in some Straussian code here? Another interesting fact-that surprised me-is that the initial age of sexual activity of females is pretty variable throughout Africa-and overlaps pretty well with the spread in the developed world (where the United States at 17.2 is pretty low, and Italy at 22 is rather high). The report does make the make point that delaying sex and marriage have a positive affect on HIV negative status, seeing as how girls are as likely to have sex with older men as they are with their classmates in much of the developing world. But it seems to neglect the difference between the multiple epidemics even though it acknowledges they do exist distinctly. East European societies that lose junkies to AIDS have a different problem than Zimbabwe-where the best and the brightest (schools having to close because of dying teachers) seem to succumb. It is clear that HIV/AIDS creeps into a society through the backdoor-through the marginal drug addicts and promiscuous homosexuals (not that there's anything wrong with these activities in my opinion). But in certain societies-to some extent the United States and Europe, and even southeast Asia where the "next AIDS pandemic" was supposed to break out in the 1990s-the disease doesn't spread that far out of the marginalized groups. Rapid reaction by the government and social awareness seems to create a sexual cordon. No doubt the veritable black death that homosexual men faced in the 1980s will have an effect on the arts scene for decades to come-but society was not crippled by hundreds of thousands of children from nuclear families orphaned by the disease. Why is the epidemic so easily spread in African countries? We can add political instability and poverty into the mix-but that doesn't explain South Africa and Botswana, prosperous and politically stable, but with rates of infection between 25% and 35%. So I'm going to cut to the chase and assert that it's the pattern of sexual relationships. It is due-in my opinion-to the de facto polygamy of both men and women in African societies-especially the non-Islamic ones where male polygamy is not socially acceptable anymore. The report above notes that HIV/AIDS tends to be prevalent in cities in Africa-more so than rural areas. Cities are the very places where the mix of western culture and African values come together in a lethal mix. Remember, country folk are much less likely to be Christian than relatively educated city dwellers with degrees-and so traditional acceptance of polygamy for males would hold. But in the cities men who have one official wife often have "girlfriends" on the side. These girlfriends have multiple "boyfriends" to help support them since most of these men can't afford to fully take care of multiple women in various locations and they can't reduce the fixed costs by housing them under one roof. (I use quotations because some of the literature indicates that the men and women in question will attempt to pass off their relationship as that of spouses to those out of the loop). Obviously this web of sexual relationships makes it far more likely that someone at a nexus will encounter a marginal individual with HIV. It could be a man who visits a prostitute, or a women who has a boyfriend who's a junkie. In any case-the subterfuge that these relationships involve allow the disease to spread unchecked. The old mantra-education, education, education and development can't be the only solution. If that was so-rural and isolated areas of Africa would be the loci of the epidemic. Instead-it's the economic engine of the continent, South Africa-where transients working in the mining and industrial sectors come and go-where there are teachers taking sexual advantage of their students, where men are wealthy enough to attract multiple girlfriends but can't legimatize their relationships because of the western values that now suffuses their world-view. With one leg in their African past and looking toward to a transnational future-it seems that the continent is being torn asunder. On another note-it seems South Asia might be repeating the same pattern. I say might because I heard about the coming AIDS epidemic in India a few years after we started hearing warnings about South Africa-and at 0.8% India isn't nearly as dire as even the African success stories such as Senegal and Uganda. On the other hand-it is the only part of the world where more women than men have HIV/AIDS (according to the above report) indicating a disturbing pattern of transmission. India is not surprisingly the part of the world where Sub-Saharan levels of destitution and poverty are most easily found (in fact it is rather easy to argue that South Asia surpasses all but the most violent and war-torn regions of Africa in terms of poverty). But India-unlike Sub-Saharan Africa-does not have the same strong tradition of polygamy. Hindus are generally monogamous-and widows (traditionally) do not re-marry. Also-the injunctions against inter-caste relations might limit the epidemic to certain sectors. We'll see. The report indicated that the HIV/AIDS rates are jumping in southern India-the very region that is the economic powerhouse of South Asia (while the north lags).
Of the people? I've been thinking about suicide bombers and their attacks on civilians in Israel. Of course such behavior is repulsive. If their cause is just (something which I don't necessarily grant)-does that mitigate their actions? I don't know, I tend not to think so. But are their victims innocent? Certainly ordinary Jews-many children-haven't done anything to the Arabs. And yet the state of Israel has dispossessed many Arabs and won a large part of greater Palestine by right of conquest. Is this injustice? Again-I tend not to think so. Arabs speak the language of force and history-not diplomacy and negotiation, so their pleas to me sound disingenuous. But I am curious, what responsibilities do individual Israelis have for the plight of the Arabs, if any? Let us look at it from the perspective of an Arab. All the land from Gaza to Jaffa and beyond is under Jewish hegemony-land rightfully theirs. Generations of Jews have inhabited this territory, one after another, laying claim to the soil that once Arab. If upon reaching adulthood-a Jew does not vacate their unlawfully gained land, perhaps the Arab thinks that it is acceptable to treat this person as a combatant, as someone who by force is residing upon the lands of his ancestors. I know, far too simple-I'm distilling and disentangling far too many threads. And yet I was thrust into this line of thinking by a CBS special where Arab students and American citizens discussed the ramifications of 9/11 and the reasons for it. The Americans claimed that they hadn't done anything to the rest of the world-to which the Arabs responded with a litany of accusations. The American government has overthrown governments and possibly engaged in acts of political brutality. America is no saint. I do personally believe that actions of the American government tend to come off well when compared to other regimes-even western powers like France. But the American eagle does have blood on its talons-that much no one can deny (though many can justify it). Does the blood on the hands of our government flow to the people who make up this nation? We are a democracy-we elect our leaders. What responsibility do Americans have for the actions of their leaders? If leader x commits atrocity y, do all Americans suffer morally-or only those that voted for leader x? Can those who voted against this individual disavow any actions-while those who didn't vote occupy a middle ground? Americans take pride in FDR-they reelected him three times. He was a great man. But what about the insidious presidency of Richard Nixon? Did Americans hang their heads in shame for having voted him into office (I'm too young to remember)? Conversely, are subjects of a dictator immunized from these accusations of perfidy by their lack of power? Many Germans claim such a defense. I have argued for clarity in our moral vision. I do believe that what we are fighting is a battle against the last gasps of a great civilization. On our side lay individualism, equality under the law and pluralism. Arrayed against us in the ancient power of moral authoritarianism that so appeals to human nature (remember how Weimar served as a pupae for a barbarity orders of magnitude more brutal than the regime of the Kaiser). And yet I also would say it is not treasonous to be introspective-for that also sets the West apart. Just as we take pride in our accomplishments as individuals-we should acknowledge our sins and faults. And we should think as to the choices we make with our political freedoms-because we wield great power via the most powerful military in the world. One single vote will help touch the lives of many, so we better make sure the one doing the touching has a soft gentle hand.
Monday, July 01, 2002
Marijuana and schizophrenia This article makes you think twice about getting baked. Especially for people who have a family history of the illness (including yours truly-no jokes please).
Liberals care about IQ! First the death penalty and now this this. Read to the end of the article.
10 questions for....
Heather Mac Donald
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza
James F. Crow
Adam K. Webb
Justin L. Barrett
Judith Rich Harris
Armand M. Leroi
The GiveWell Blog
Your Religion Is False
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Principles of Population Genetics
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Mathematical Models in Biology
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Narrow Roads of Gene Land 1
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Mapping Human History
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Evolution for Everyone
Why Sex Matters
Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language
R.A. Fisher, the Life of a Scientist
Sewall Wright and Evolutionary Biology
Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics
A Reason for Everything
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Dragon Bone Hill
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
The Selfish Gene
Adaptation and Natural Selection
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Out of Thin Air
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In Gods We Trust
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Keepers of the Keys of Heaven
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Europe After Rome
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From Plato to Nato
China: A New History
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Children of the Revolution
When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World
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The Horse, the Wheel, and Language
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Power and Plenty
A Splendid Exchange
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Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations
A Farewell to Alms
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