Thursday, October 31, 2002
Blackpeopleloveus.com Perhaps I will comment on this site at length at a later date. I do find it amusing, though probably not for the reasons the site proprietors intended. A particularly interesting part of the site was the "serious" page, a set of links to organizations that reflect the real views of black people. I have to say that this set of links piqued my interest. You see, the point of the site was to skewer the patronizing attitudes of guilty white liberals and puncture incorrect generalizations about blacks. This is a goal that I'm personally quite sympathetic to. In the interests of contributing to the issues raised on the site, I humbly suggest that the following links be added to their list: FBI Uniform Crime Reports WSJ Statement on IQ The Color of Meritocracy Taboo : Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It Affirmative Action: Two Standards, one for Blacks and one for Whites and, last but not least: Distinguishing Black Syntax:
PS - Speaking seriously, I recognize that the compilation of this list could be viewed as inflammatory if presented without context. But it is meant as a response to the charges brought by the blackpeopleloveus.com site. It's one thing to remain quiet about unpleasant truths when both parties agree that the topic is too controversial to discuss. It's quite another to stand by when baseless accusations of bias are tossed around. We cannot deem the topic to be Mokita.
Another victim of PC Letter from Gotham has a frustrating account of the standard racial "whitewash" applied to perpetrators of violent crimes:
I've commented on this before, but it bears repeating:
More on extremism in warblogging Daily Pundit thinks that I'm overreacting to the "Most Bloodthirsty" warblog competition. He believes that this is basically a joke. And I agree that many - probably most - of the bloggers in the "contest" are joking. But at least three - Misha, Laurence Simon, and Cato the Youngest - are at least semi-serious. 1) Misha and Simon are not joking. A sample: The Gazans have worn their humanity away with their self-inflicted media assaults and lessons of hate and destruction, their self-deprivation and social suicide to garner attention like a teenager slicing their wrists as an empty cry for help, and they've engaged in population-expanding programs to intentionally inflate their numbers to sink the life raft they are piled on so as to force the nearby ships to pull them out of the water. No more of this madness. It's time to just fire up the D-9's and start up a systematic campaign to wipe out all buildings from Gaza, period. Rip out the evil machine underneath the skin and see if the corrupted flesh can endure on its own. Bury all evidence of the homicidal civilization called "Gazan." Let all million of them go back to the Stone Age with their Stone Age ways of behavior and utter lack of civilization and see how far they get before Mother Nature ends their little death cult experiment. 2) Cato has not repudiated his earlier comments and/or said that they were entirely in jest. In other words - he was not completely joking. Now, I happen to agree that ending state sponsorship is the key to ending major acts of terrorism, and that Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran must be dealt with. But I emphatically do not believe that it is wise or desirable to advocate the leveling of Riyadh (or Baghdad, or Teheran). There are really only two permanent solutions to state sponsorship of terrorism: a) Continual US military occupation of the worst Middle East offenders. This would be a state of perpetual war. b) Democratic or semi-democratic (e.g Turkey) Middle East governments that take care of radical Islam within their borders and keep the oil flowing. Obviously, solution b) is far more desirable than "solution" a). I do not want the US outpost in the Middle East to become another Israel, involved in a costly and endless guerilla war against fanatical Islamists. Some use of military force will be inevitable, and I support the invasion of Iraq - but pragmatically speaking, it will be far easier to democratize a relatively intact country than a shattered one. Destroying cities indiscriminately will polarize even moderate Muslims. Yes, power talks in the Middle East, but a scorched earth program of untrammeled destruction will cause the Arabs to fight to the death. And though we would still win, the pyrrhic victory will make it difficult or impossible to reeducate/reform the defeated populace. This does NOT mean that we should eliminate the option of force for fear that we will offend the natives. It does mean that we should be judicious in our application of force, as befits the fact that we have learned the lesson of Vietnam. Remember that one of the major problems with Vietnam was that we were attempting to fight a war against a guerrilla force with widespread popular support. In such an environs, events like My Lai are inevitable. There is one crucial difference, however, between an extended battle with partisans in the Middle East and in Vietnam: the Vietnamese never threatened American soil. Of course, the Vietcong wouldn't have gotten very far without Chinese backing...but can we really keep the Muslim countries and/or oil sheikhs of the world from covertly funding terrorism? I don't think that would be possible without outright occupation of every oil-producing Muslim state, which would likely provoke a backlash from the industrialized world. It's for these reasons that I think it is counterproductive to seriously advocate nuclear strikes/razing of cities/terror bombing of civilians. Our goal is an end to major terrorism, not the destruction of the Middle East or the extinction of its people.
Head size and IQ Let me do my impersonation of Godless and draw your attention to this old article from the Independent reproduced by John Ray
Warblogging degenerates into self parody The "most bloodthirsty warblogger" competition used to be mildly amusing when it was merely a joke at Tom Coates' expense. Though he seems to be a generally fair-minded writer , Coates recently made the ill-advised move of criticizing the "MOST HAWKISH AND BLOODY-HUNGRY" warblog while refusing to name exactly which blog that might be. This blog was most likely LGF, which has attracted quite a bit of criticism (some deserved, some not ) as of late, but Coates' reticence prompted a bit of a pissing match among the more frenzied of the warbloggers, who began competing to see who could be the most bloodthirsty. At first I thought this was satire, and that the point was that warbloggers were NOT bloodthirsty, but rather were choosing the war on terror as the least-bad choice from a set of undesirable options. While this is still likely the view of many of the "contestants", the competition has now been hijacked by those who think that any and all violence deployed in the name of fighting the war on terror is inherently justifiable. Witness comments like this from Cato the Youngest:
and this from Laurence Simon:
I doubt Mr. Simon would be so chipper if those gassed were his coreligionists. Not to be outdone, Misha (who used to be more reasonable) posted this:
I'm not sure to what extent he's serious about the latter (3 days, even for a good faith effort?), but I fear he's all too serious about the former. I mean, maybe it's obvious, but I don't think that threatening mass murder on a genocidal scale is a reasonable way to resolve the conflict. Now, the annoying thing about all this is that I actually agree with some of the more reasonable warbloggers (Instapundit, Volokh, and Den Beste) on most "war-on-terror" issues, and I don't like having the waters muddied by calls for indiscriminate bloodshed. Our goals in the war of terror are twofold: to end state sponsored terrorism and prevent a recurrence of 9/11. The more bloodthirsty of the warbloggers would do well to realize that we can achieve these aims without advocating genocide.  Disclaimer - I'm not a regular reader, and I didn't spend the time to trawl through his archives.  I think that Charles Johnson should ban some of the people who leave comments on his blog, particularly the nontrivial fraction who fail to make reasonable distinctions between all Muslims and Muslims sympathetic to/engaged in terrorism. It's clear that Mr. Johnson monitors the content of his blog and bans the occasional rabid anti-American/anti-Israel troll, so it's not as if he has a policy of allowing unfettered non-profane discussion. The selective censure of commenters indicates (to me at least) that Charles is at least somewhat sympathetic to the extreme views voiced on his site. I am loath to say it because I am more sympathetic to Johnson than I am to his critics, but I think that Johnson feels that there are no enemies on the right. That said, I don't think that Johnson himself has ever voiced anything I'd consider "over the line". And I do think that Johnson does some excellent original reporting, particularly in his weekly roundup of sermons delivered by fanatical imams. As I said once on LGF:
Johnson himself does an excellent job of keeping this balance in his public blogging. It's the deafening silence on the subject of the extremists on his site that provides the opening for critics like Anil. Note that Anil et. al. are farther from the truth on fundamentalist Islam (see above quote for my take on what the "truth" is) than Johnson is, so do not take this as an endorsement of Anil.  In fact, I actually agree with Misha himself on many - but by no means all - of the points in this manifesto, so I think it's doubly unfortunate that he's competing - even in jest - for this dubious honor. Update: However, as Jason Soon points out, I had not read his post on Paul Wellstone. It's more than a bit inconsistent to declare "the Children" off limits in this manifesto, and then use them as Misha did to push the Iraq Attaq. And it's also pretty inconsistent to pour scorn on the Democrats for not obeying societal decency after a man died, when flouting said conventions himself...
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
Free Touchdowns for Fragile-X Footballers From Instapundit - check it out. All must have prizes, of course... I don't know - maybe I just have a cold heart -but does an achievement mean anything if it's given to someone on a silver platter? I suppose one could counter this with the fact that the smart or the athletic or the hard-working wouldn't be successful without their genetics...but still, this just seems stupid to me. Oh well. Update: Note - I'm not upset at this. I'm not *mad* that this happened...I just think it's kind of dumb. I mean, this kid is "playing" football w/o contact? with free touchdowns? It's just an elaborate lie, in my opinion...but heck, if it makes people feel good, I don't really have a *problem* with it. Make believe has a way of making people feel good...sorta like religion, I suppose. To each their own...
Monday, October 28, 2002
"Asian-Americans are natural Republicans!" The above refrain is common among Republican operatives and intellectuals. And yes, Asian-Americans have "conservative values." They also come from societies knee-deep in graft, nepotism and state paternalism. Any wonder why new immigrants from Asia see something familiar in the Democratic party? "Conservative" means different things in different contexts. American conservatism is derived from classical liberalism. What has classical liberalism to do with the bureaucratic state Confucianism that was the status quo in eastern Asia or the colonial feudalism that is the legacy of south Asia??? And what do Asian-Americans with strong families to begin with care about "family friendly policies." It is surely a matter of diminishing returns for those secure in their own lives. I'm not saying that Republicans shouldn't target Asian-Americans, they just need to get serious and stop prattling about how they are the "natural" party of ethnic group "X" because of misconception "Y."
Immigration-the bad kind.... My dad paid a lot of money to his lawyer when he was sponsored by the college he worked for when I was a kid. Lots of paperwork, hoops to jump and what not. So illegal immigration kind of makes me grumpy. Back in 1986, a guy my dad knew who had jumped ship and was living with some woman for many years (he was from Bangladesh) got amnesty and was normalized. My dad joked he should have come as an illegal, would have made life much easier on him. Anyway, here's an e-mail I just got from Robert Locke, pass the word....
Dear FrontPage Reader: I am writing to you because you wrote to me in the past. I regret to inform you that there is a bill in Congress that would legalize many illegal aliens. These are people who have broken the law, and they should not be rewarded. For details, please see: http://www.fairus.org/html/07418210.htm I urge you to contact your congressman on this issue and forward this message to anyone you can. You can contact your congressman here: http://www.numbersusa.org/contactcongress.html Much thanks, Robert Locke Associate Editor FrontPageMag.comI suggest anyone that cares about these issues should cut & paste the above text, and forward it on, or if you have a blog, just put it up.
"People of Color" I recently received an email from a colleague that made reference to the term "people of color". I seem to see it everywhere nowadays. Oh, how I loathe this term...it builds in so many idiotic assumptions that it's hard to know where to begin. A sample: 1) It's inherently oppositional. The essential characteristic of those of non-European descent is that they are of non-European descent. Of course, this is the ONLY material distinction, as whites are the ONLY oppressors of note in all of world history. You'd never see those friendly non-whites like the Japanese or the Zulus or the Aztecs or the Arabs invading and/or oppressing their neighbors...no sir. 2) It elides all-important distinctions between non-white groups. This is particularly true on elite college campuses. I find myself restraining a chuckle whenever I see an East or South Asian-American on a podium denouncing the oppression of people of color. East Asians don't have slavery to harken back to, so they bring up the railroads (Chinese) and internment camps (Japanese). South Asians really have nothing to point to, except to remark upon being classified as "black" before 1965. (Never mind that the "people of color" term does just that.) Of course, Europeans also suffered indentured servitude and internment camps, and these "oppressed" East and South Asians have parents who are doctors/engineers/professors/etc., but they're non-white , you see! They are thus eligible to drink deep draughts from the goblet of bitterness, filled with the ferment of past wrongs (real and imagined) perpetrated against non-whites by those white devils. I mean, come on...The real gap in modern America is between high-IQ whites, Jews and East & South Asians on one hand, and low-IQ blacks and Hispanics on the other. See here for more details. It is the height of insistent blindness to claim that East & South Asians have more in common with blacks and Hispanics than they do with whites. 3) It leads to idiocy like this. Gah - enough said. 4) It means that one "person of color" can stand in for another when it comes time to hide job performance. Witness, say, Anil Dash's recent post, where he says:
As I said on his site
Anyone familiar with the affirmative action lobby will recognize this technique. Asians can be either white or "colored" as is convenient. Ah...that felt better. Blood pressure returning to normal levels... Update: Anil clarifies - his point concerned the weblog medium rather than the internet backbone itself. My point stands, however. Anil said "not just in creating content", implying that a substantial share of technical development was done by women and "people of color". I'm sure there are high profile exceptions among females, but I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that most of the major weblogging applications were coded primarily by males. The "people of color" involved were also probably predominantly South or East Asian - not black or Hispanic. Update 2: Anil says that 2 of the 3 major weblogging apps were developed by 50/50 male female teams. I'm assuming he means Blogger, Movable Type, and Greymatter. Technically speaking, this doesn't disprove what I said - the development was done primarily by males, if primarily means more than 50%. But we need not split rhetorical hairs to prove my point. If we examine the descriptions of each company's founders, we see for MT:
and for Blogger:
As far as I can tell, Greymatter is just one male's work. So, let's recap: 1) Blogger coded by two males in a week. Unclear whether Megnut was a programmer or not. 2) MT has male (programmer) and female (content generator/designer). Again, Anil's initial point was that females and "people of color" were contributing "not just content". That means technical stuff - involving a bit of mathematics and a lot of coding. 3) Greymatter coded by one male on his lonesome. Now, I don't know what the composition of that seven member team at Blogger was like. Perhaps it was a tapestry of heteroflexible-handicapped-people-of-color. But were women primarily involved with programming? With "not just content generation"? It's possible because we're dealing with small sample sizes, but somehow I doubt it.In any case, if we expanded the category of "tools for webloggers" to include most programs written for webloggers (such as the LiveJournal source or Dave Winer's Radio), we'd rapidly hit a statistically significant sample of programmers and people involved in "not just content generation". And it's a sure bet that they're primarily male.
Sunday, October 27, 2002
John McWhorter says it, and he gets adulation, but a white guy.... Killer article over at VDARE by Steve Sailer (he's going to write a weekly Sunday night column, so check your VDARE bookmark every Sunday!). Here's his finale:
Teachers should be evaluated on how much value they add to their students' native ability. But these policies encourage bright teachers to get the heck out of schools with dumb kids and into schools with bright kids, so they can cash in. This exacerbates the inevitable tendency for kids at inner city schools to be taught by teachers who are there only because they themselves are too dumb to get jobs at suburban schools. Bottom line: Policies built on self-evidently wrong ideas about humanity end up hurting the children they were supposed to help. And their teachers. No surprise – except to school administrators and other politicians.At the school in question, 50% of the students were African-American, a large portion "underclass." One of the elementary schools I went to in upstate New York when I was a kid was about 5% black. Even at this low percentage, young black males can (and did) terrorize everyone else and assert their dominance in the halls. The fact that they seemed larger and more well developed than the other kids gave them a built in advantage, but they also seemed less averse to using violence to resolve conflicts. You can posit whatever explanation you want, but this sort of dynamic has to be addressed and talked about or no one will ever be able to resolve "white flight" or "fear of a black planet."
The truth about gun violence! I can't believe that a mainstream film critic had the courage to say what I've been saying all along:
I'm shocked, shocked. (And no - not "shocked, shocked!"). If Instantman is linking to this (oh yeah - link from Instapundit) - he may know the score as well. Like Nick Wade at the NY Times, he may be quietly getting the truth out. As I said before:
Like many of today's key domestic issues (e.g. education, affirmative action, welfare, violent crime), gun ownership cannot be discussed in public because it would mean embracing the third rail of race. I'm gratified that this author had the courage to state the truth in print...
Saturday, October 26, 2002
Early Americans Some more details about possible pre-Clovis people in Chile.
About 14,600 years ago, humans first appeared in south central Chile. But the arid regions of the Atacama desert in northern Chile were not populated for another 2000 years, and human occupation of this region subsequently remained intermittent. In his Perspective, Dillehay highlights the report of Núñez et al., whose integrative archaeological and paleoecological study shows that climate was the key factor in these human migrations. The study illustrates the power of an integrative approach to understanding the relation between human societies and climate change.An abstract and a longer summary.
Adoption and GSA I've been thinking about adoption recently, mainly because I find both the human and genetic  aspects interesting. I might post on this at length later, but until then here's an interesting - and somewhat disturbing - link on "Genetic Sexual Attraction"
Perhaps chemical conditioning and socialization at an early age are all that prevent us from following the dictates of our assortative mating urges...a more-than-mildly upsetting thought for many of us...  Meaning both the drama that accompanies the various stages of adoption (giving up the child, taking him/her in, reunion) and the genetic questions (can we establish maternity/paternity, can we understand adoption in terms of Hamiltonian kin selection in small genetically close tribes, etc.)
Friday, October 25, 2002
special ed The LA Times [login: laexaminer, password:laexaminer] has an incredible (meaning "hard-to-believe") piece on the court-ordered plan to include special education kids in "mainstream high school classes":
Moji Duenas cannot read and may never learn to. Nor can the 18-year-old walk or speak or feed herself. She is incontinent. Convulsions sometimes rattle her body. Yet Moji is a high school student in the San Francisco Unified School District, taking most of her classes with teens en route to university. [...] Her teachers at George Washington High School, a 1920s-era campus with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, said she has little hope of ever being communicative, much less independent. Still, her mother, Juno Duenas, insisted that Moji (whose given name is Marjorie) spend most of her time in regular classes with a full-time special aide — and also be given speech and physical therapy. [...] Moji's favorite class, Duenas said, was drama. Teacher John Propster said he sometimes worked Moji into scenes by asking her schoolmates to wheel her around the stage and recite lines for her. [...] When other children in art class are drawing faces, an assistant will help Moji draw a circle and then help her place paper eyes, noses and lips.It reads almost like an Onion article. Godless remarks: This is just another manifestation of the "all must have prizes" mentality (aka the "every child can succeed" attitude) - and, as usual for leftist idiocy, it can be traced back to the fallacious axiom of equality:
What I don't understand is why leftists will acknowledge the meaning of IQ when it means exonerating retarded murderers ...yet deny the meaning of IQ when it comes time to put retarded children in mainstream classes! But it's a thought crime to bring up the contradiction, of course... One other (characteristically insensitive) observation: has anyone ever noticed that there's a blurry IQ threshold below which it becomes impolite to mock stupidity? The threshold is infinite for blacks, as it is impolite to call an individual black "unintelligent" - even if he or she is unintelligent.  For whites, however, the threshold is very real. Those who are really dull get mercy and compassion and all the crayons they can eat. Calling them idiots is offensive, but only because they're so unintelligent that everyone feels sorry for them. The slightly less unintelligent, who aren't mentally retarded, are fair game to call idiots. (The link's a joke, people....) I suppose this is because the truly retarded can't even make a pretense of self-defense, while the merely slow-witted can flail about helplessly for an appropriate comeback...but on closer inspection, that's hardly a great rationale. Am I missing something here? P.S. - Don't get me wrong - I don't get my jollies out of insulting retarded kids. However, I do think that the sensitivity towards the unintelligent often moves from a well-meaning paternalism to a combative maternalism, turning "don't make fun of them for what they can't control" into "don't acknowledge or mention that they're different from normal people". That's the sort of slow shift that's responsible for this debacle. My position: we need to be aware of why boundaries exist lest we be exploited by those intent on blurring them.  Of course, I understand why this is so - it's too close to the truth (for evolutionary realists) or a stereotype (for evolutionary non-realists) for it to be comfortable as a joke or even as a statement of fact. But it's still worth commenting on. Razib adds: I did a term as a special ed teacher's aide in high school (one of those electives). One thing that this article notes, and must be remembered, is there is a big range of retardation, and they are all thrown into class together. Some of the kids with physical retardation, like cerebral palsy, aren't really unintelligent, though often they are intellectually held back by low expectations and inability to interact in a conventional manner. One of the kids I worked with had cerebral palsy, and he was a joy to work with (he died at the end of my senior year and the principal announced it over the intercom and dismissed classes for the day). On the other hand, there were the total intellectual invalids. One girl, the daughter of one of the vice principals, had a small shrunken head and never verbalized aside from blowing spit bubbles. I never once saw her initiate any act-she was totally a reactive being to a limited range of physical stimuli. There were of course the trashy inbred types that were frankly stupid, not retarded. In many ways, they were the most objectionable to interact with as they were too intelligent for others to clean and dress them, but too stupid to do it themselves. Finally, there was Ben. Ben was a kid with severe Down Syndrome. I helped him with shop class. This basically meant doing all the work for him and making sure he didn't get himself killed by messing with the machines. The shop teacher made it clear to me that he was my responsibility, and there were some sticky situations where Ben escaped my control and I had to track him down as he'd burst into an advanced math class and was attacking some guy (he had a habit of physically battering taller males-we learned very quickly to never allow him to be near basketball players as he'd try to climb them and slap them in the face). Frankly, we only tolerated Ben because he was kind of a dumb 3 year old (really dumb). Was any of this good for Ben? I don't think so. He was an annoyance for most students, and one of my friends that had been punched by him many times lost it one day started beating on him (Ben only punched me twice, he was a little taller and fatter than me, not too strong, but very persistent, and though he did not have a high g, I have to say he was possessed of some cunning). Anyway, just another argument for getting government out of education.
Black Christ? I just finished The Next Christendom by Philip Jenkins, and will admit to being pleasantly surprised by the book's depth and the author's breadth of knowledge. The article in The Atlantic Monthly last month was a poor (if somewhat accurate) distillation of the nuance and subtly of his ideas. Jenkins' ideas aren't revolutionary. Scholars have been predicting (warning?) of the browning of Christendom for years. The Pentecostal religious movement has injected pluralist competition into the previously stagnant religious marketplace of Latin America while Africa is a God(s) intoxicated continent. The numbers Jenkins presents are pretty undeniable in the generalities: while European and to a lesser extent North American Christianity will desiccate due to secularism, Africa, Latin America and Asia will bloom as the centers of Catholicism and Protestantism. The author notes clearly that the coming transnational Christendom is a recapitulation of the faith's ancient roots. Jenkins makes a good case that there were more Christians outside Europe than within during the High Middle Ages . In the Dar-al-Islam of the age of the Crusades that raged in the Levant and Spain it is likely that Christians were about half the total population in the Muslim Middle East! Even into the 19th century Christians formed as much as 20% of the population of Arab Muslim lands (and were the majority along portions of the Syrian coast and the highlands around Mt. Lebanon). He points out the antiquity of Christianity both in Armenia and Ethiopia, as well as giving much ink to the Nestorian Diaspora that was swallowed by the expansion of Dar-al-Islam . So Christianity is returning to its roots, no? Yes and no. The initial expansion of Christianity was more like the slow baking of a cake, the current growth of the faith is more like flash frying. Let me elaborate. Christianity waxed and matured in the eastern Mediterranean between 30 and 300 of the common era. Even around 400 the faith was weak in the Western Empire, and in the middle of the 5th century the regent of the Emperor was a follower of the old religion. Eventually though, paganism died in the Mediterranean. The philosophers were expelled from Athens by Justinian early in the 6th century, and the rustic pagans were of little consequence. Around 600 St. Gregory the Great initiated the great missionary endeavors that eventually brought northern Europe into the fold. Christianity reached its peak in the eastern Mediterranean at this time (the queen of Persia, Shirin, was a Christian as well) and solidified its position in the western portion of the Roman Sea. Ireland was Christian and coaxing Scotland toward that path and the Anglo-Saxons of England were finally beginning to convert. The Franks held the line at the Rhine. Between 600 and 800 the peoples of continental Western Europe (the Dutch and west and south German tribes) were converted to the faith by Irish and Anglo-Saxon missionaries (who in their turn had been converted by Welsh and Italian missionaries). Between 800 and 1000 the Poles, Bohemians, Saxons (the mainlanders), Danes, Bulgarians, Russians and south Slavs joined the faith. Between 1000 and 1400 the last peoples of the Baltic and Scandinavia were baptized. The Christianization of Europe took 1,400 years, in starts and stops. Simultaneously Christianity lost first its political power, and later its demographic vitality, throughout the Dar-al-Islam. By 1500, Christianity was a European religion. And Europeans have critically shaped Christianity. The Coptic Church of Egypt and the Jacobite Church of Syria have had little impact outside of their local regions . It was the Greek philosophers and Roman administrators that made the worldwide church what it is today. Concepts such as the Trinity owe much to the Greeks while Roman law and politics pervaded the body of the church. The book The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity makes the case for the Germanic impact on the faith, but remember that the first German people converted were the Goths early in the 4th century, the last were the Swedish tribes around 1100. Christianity's putative Germanization was a gentle and subtle affair. Now let us look to Africa. Jenkins notes that in 1900 fewer than one in ten Africans were Christian. Today half are, and the number is rising. He makes a believable case for the vitality of African faith. It lives and breathes in a way that the sterile steeples of the North can not match. These are people who feel the message of Christ deep in their bones, for they live in the times of the cruel Pontius Pilate, the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the arrogance of the Saducees. Jenkins makes no apologies for Africa's grinding poverty and abject squalor. And he argues that this is the very source of its religious vigor because faith knows no bounds when faced with the crushing deprivation of life that parallels that of the ancient Christians. African Christianity for Jenkins resembles the Primitive Church, before its assimilation by the temporal powers to be initiated by Constantine. Its emphasis on faith healing and ecstatic worship, the allusions to the End Times and rather high rates of sectarianism all highlight its similarities to the chaotic but vital early church. It seems to me that in fact it has little resemblance to the more controlled march of Christianity through pagan Europe. Europe was won by the Universal Catholic Church. Africa is being converted by thousands of sects. Christianization in Europe was the work of generations, in Africa that of decades. This leads to one critique I have of Jenkins' book: he consistently argues that indigenous practices absorbed into the faith are as old as the faith itself. True, but the change was gradual before. The traditional European model was for a conversion of the aristocracy. Christianity would penetrate to the masses slowly and over many generations. It was the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation that finally resulted in the extirpation of pagan practices from much of Europe, hundreds of years after its final Christianization. On the other hand, Africans might be born pagan, convert to Catholicism, and then convert to Pentecostalism. The slow ebbing of practices from generation to generation is not analogous to this sort of change within one's lifetime. One can not look to history to predict the future, because historical parallels are few and far between for a massive continent-wide religious shift on this scale. It is as if centuries of cultural evolution are being compressed into a revolutionary life. As to whether African Christianity is Christianity, the author makes a good case that it is. But he also makes it clear that it is a different sort of religion, more like the Christianity practiced in Europe in 300 rather than 2000. While we in the West might find the rantings and ravings of Falwell and Robertson rather peculiar, they pale in comparison to the charismatic preaching of African God-Men and prophets. African Catholic bishops have revived exorcism and faith healing, and some clerics have mooted the idea of animal sacrifice. The rather higher levels of sexual activity by African priests as reported by The National Catholic Reporter also makes us wonder what kind of Christianity is developing in the Third World. Jenkins is skeptical of the stories of rape and sexual abuse, and clearly wants to give the benefit of the doubt to the African clergy. Though his tone is generally objective, I do feel he sympathizes greatly with Southern Christianity, and feels that it is more authentic than Northern Christianity. Certainly, he is correct if he means that Southerners believe in an active personal God, while Northerners do not (I speak in generalities, but even the most traditional of Northern Christians pale next to the literal faith of Southerners according to this book). I have focused on Africa primarily because Jenkins has. He gives much space to Latin America, and to a lesser extent Asia. But these two regions are different, because Latin America is nominally Christian. Asia on the other hand is predominantly non-Christian, and seems likely to remain so in the foreseeable future. Jenkins is more sober in his assessment of Asian Christianity than most American observers. Many commentators speak of the coming Christian China, but while Jenkins assumes Christianity will grow robustly, he does not foresee that it will become China's majority faith in the near future. I believe that those who overestimate Christianity's impact on China are blinded by one factor, their own Christian faith. Many are fervent Christians who wish the Chinese would accept the Gospel (and laudably sound the alarm for persecution on a scale unheard of since Imperial Rome), while others are Chinese dissidents, a disproportionate (the majority?) of whom are Christian. South Korea, the most Christian country of East Asia, and similar in many ways to China (a small 1/20 scale model?) is 25% Christian . Japan is 1-2% Christian, while Taiwan and Hong Kong are 5-10% Christian and Singapore is 15% Christian . Christians have room for growth and maturation in these nations, and are overrepresented in the elites, but the percentages above indicate that the situation is different in kind from that of Africa, where only Muslims stand in the way of a mono-religious landscape on the order of Latin America or the Middle East. In India, the census records that Christians form 2-3% of the population. This is likely an underestimate, as Christian and Muslim Dalits do not receive government benefits (while Hindu and Buddhist ones do), and so will often not report their true religious affiliation. The cancer that is caste in Hindu India certainly gives an opportunity for Christians, but Dalits and Tribals together form no more than 25% of India's population, so I suspect that a Christian India is very far off in the future (if at all). Jenkins points out that Christians in northern India are 90% Dalit while those of southern India are 60% Dalit. Those of Pakistan are almost all former Hindus of low caste. This concentration amongst the lower classes in India does not bode well for the future of the faith, as it stigmatizes it. Jenkins also notes that Pentecostal Christians derive from the lower classes in Latin America. The author seems to believe that this spread of Christianity amongst the dispossessed is a repeat of the ancient pattern. I believe he is incorrect, and that most modern scholarship disproves Nietzsche's contention that Christianity was a slave religion. In fact, Christianity was the religion of the middle-class, the bourgeoisie, in the ancient world. The rustics and the political and intellectual elites were latecomers. Later Christianization of Europe occurred from the top-down, with the conversion of the ruling class. This bottom-up pattern that is occurring in India, and the Pentecostal growth in Latin America, contrasts with the historical precedent and also the mode in Africa and Asia . Christianity is the religion of the upwardly mobile middle-class in Asia and the urbanized elites in Africa. This makes Jenkins' attempts to forge the idea of a "Southern Christianity" less tenable and to me explains part of the reason he avoids detailed descriptions of Asian Christianity. But the relative poverty of many converts makes the relevance of Southern Christianity open to doubt. Pentecostals form 25% of Chile's population, but the elite is firmly Catholic, as is the middle-class. Similarly, Protestants are concentrated among the Maya in Mexico. Guatemala has had a Protestant President, but they may form 40% of that country's population, so demography does overrule socio-economic status in this case (they are mostly Maya but the military is pro-Protestant because of issues with Catholic Liberation Theology). Jenkins talks much about the growth of African Christianity, which is true, and most thorough among the elites. But we all know the continent is a basket-case . Does anyone expect Northerners (or Asians or even Latin Americans) to take the spiritual lead from a region so devoid of political order and economic dynamism (the eastern provinces of late Imperial Rome were economically more advanced and secure, and more Christian)? In the United States, the Southern Baptists are the largest Protestant denomination. But many more Presidents have been Episcopalian than Baptist. Class matters. As one climbs the social ladder, religious affiliation changes. The hostility toward John Ashcroft is much more about class and culture than religion, for he is a member of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God. Their religious beliefs are frankly no more kooky than any other Christian sect, but they actually take their magical faith seriously! Jenkins asserts that the United States is a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes (in terms of religiosity). I see no reason why he can't make the jump toward a world of Swedes ruling Indians. Social capital matters as much as demography. If it is one Christian group that will rise to the fore in the next century, it will be Asians. Though somewhat smaller numerically than Africans, the large population of Asia means that they will be in the same order of magnitude. Traditionally, the Chinese have been Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist. I think they may have to add Christian to make it a quartet. Japanese Christians have always had influence above and beyond their numbers, it is an open secret that many female members of the royal family in Japan in the first half of the 20th century were Christian. The Philippines may finally join the "A-list" of Tigers while the Christian Chinese of Indonesia will almost certainly spearhead that nation's economic rise if it so occurs. In addition, Europe will be even more thoroughly de-Christianized. Jenkins makes the case that Christian immigration will halt and possibly reverse this, but it is weak. He notes that half the practicing Christians in London are black, and that Christianity and blackness are becoming closely associated in that region (hampering outreach to the majority white community). But he does not deny the rise of Islam. North Africa, Turkey and South Asia are the primary sources of European immigration, and they are all strongly Muslim in flavor (the Hindu segment among South Asians is not inconsequential, but not proportionate to their numbers in South Asia). The African Christian presence is smaller and less assertive. The European elites, and even the commoners, are settling into an apathetic theism that borders on agnosticism. With the European Union rising to become the New Babylon, one can be safe in saying that Secularism is not a spent force. Mind is as important as matter, and though their numbers are low, Europeans are a technologically sophisticated people who will do fine without the grace of God. Speaking of intellect, the Greeks showed that theology matters. What theological insights will the African Christians and Latin American Protestants offer ? There are more Latino Protestant seminarians than Catholic ones in the United States in large part because the former have lower standards. This is a clue as to the relative low state of intellectual ferment of the South, as opposed to religious fervor and ritualistic innovation. Smells and bells does not a religious revolution make, and the foundational base of Southern Christianity owes much to the North, and I don't see that changing. As Southerners modernize, Jenkins admits that they may abandon many of their magical God-intoxicated ways. He notes that Africans often shift to more traditional denominations with increased literacy and education. In the end, after foretelling the tale of a religious century that will resemble the 3rd more than the 21st, Jenkins seems to backtrack and offer that the model of secularization might not be totally bankrupt. Finally, let me end on a personal note. Southern Christianity terrifies me. Its juju and fervor are alien to my every bone and being. The tame and well-behaved Presbyterianism of Scotland and stuffy Catholicism of Ireland I can abide, I can understand, and I can dispute. What would I have to say to someone who wishes to perform a faith-healing on me? Someone twitching from the power of the Holy Ghost? A century of religious wars, a century of Enlightenment, a century of Muscular Christianity and a century of unspeakable barbarity have brought us to the age of Secular Humanism in the West. The Christian Fundamentalists know the truth and call a spade a spade. Christopher Reeve (a born-again Unitarian-Universalist) recently stated that "...I began to answer by saying that I'm not sure if there is a God, but I try to behave as if He is watching...." Well Mr. Reeve, perhaps, but I have long felt that many "Christians" live lives as far removed from the faith of the Church Fathers and the generations after Christ, one predicated on a living breathing God that works miracles and condemns those outside his saving grace, as I myself do, one totally bereft of religious feeling from birth, and likely to my death. Yes, they go to church and take communion and utter the public pieties necessary to fulfill social convention and expectation, but in the West God has died, and I thank Him everyday that He has. In Southern Christianity I see His rise, and I fear it a great deal. If that doesn't convince my fellow secularists of the need for an immigration pause, I don't know what will.  He loads the die though-he notes that Lithuania was pagan until 1387, and that it was Europe's largest state at that point. Very true, but though Lithuania was not a Christian state, it was a state of Christians. By this, I mean that though the military aristocracy that ruled it were pagans of Lithuanian Baltic extraction, most of the subjects under their dominion were Christians of Orthodox and Catholic professions. Lithuania was religiously tolerant, and the ruling family intermarried and prayed with the Catholic and Orthodox aristocracies of of the west and east Slavs respectively, before their final turn west toward the Catholicism of the Poles. In any case, this case just illustrates that I think Jenkins overplays his hand in specific cases to make his general overarching theme-the diminution of the importance of Europe in Christendom's history, past and future-more airtight.  Quibble here, but Armenia's Christianization prior to Constantine's Edict of Milan has been disputed. Jenkins accepts uncritically the date of 300 for Armenia's Christianization, but I have read works that indicate the king of Armenia simply rewrote the histories after he became Christian to curry favor with the newly baptized Roman Empire. Prior to his Christianization Tiridates III was in fact likely a persecutor of Christianity ... to curry favor with the Emperor of Rome, the fanatic traditionalist Diocletian.  Syrians were crucial in spreading the faith east and south, to Persia, India, Central Asia and Ethiopia. But only Ethiopia remained Christian, and for most of history it has been a hermit kingdom.  Also the Orthodox Church, but remember that final schism did not occur until 1054, by which time most of Europe was already Christian.  The torrid growth of the South Korean churches seems to have ceased in the 1990s. While Seoul is a Christian city, Pusan is a Buddhist one. And 50% of South Koreans still don't give a religious affiliation.  Singapore is mostly Chinese, so I add it to the list of East Asian nations on ethnic grounds.  Latin American Catholicism is often very nominal amongst the lower classes, and it seems likely that in Catholic nations such as Chile or Brazil, that most practicing Christians are Pentecostals, not Catholic!  Jenkins predicts that religious conflict between Christians and Muslims in Africa will become endemic, while tension between Protestants and Catholics will flare into violence. Southern Christianity will bleed itself into the Enlightenment perhaps, just as Northern Christianity did centuries ago.  On the other hand, the Koreans, a scholarly people, do seem to be getting together and hashing out serious issues.
Thursday, October 24, 2002
The changing face of America.... Check out this picture foreshadowing the coming racial apocalypse over at the Nordic nationalist site Racial Compact.
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
Human biodiversity knowledge test For all you human biodiversity enthusiasts out there, this test might raise the ire of some of the PC crowd but I found it entertaining and interesting. It purports to test how well you can tell Chinese, Japanese, and Korean people apart (link courtesy of Bargarz). I got 11 out of 18 correct which is above the (then) average of 7 but I suppose you could say I have a natural advantage. Just about the strangest comment about my racial origins I received was from an Indian national who said I could pass for someone from the north of his country. Wasn't quite sure whether he meant I look Nepalese or Hazara or perhaps like a Bengali with unusually fair skin (for the curious, this is what I look like). Razib notes: I can't tell the difference, scored a 7. Here's a picture of me about 4 years out of date. Razib's postscript: They're analyzing my racial heritage over at the Racial Myths board. The funniest thing to me is that someone declared me "brachycephalic" based on the grainy picture I posted earlier! (I am dolichocephalic last I checked about 10 years ago-though head shapes do change according to Franz Boas....) Also, check out this post titled Chapter 5 in Alex's book March of the Rednecks.
Monday, October 21, 2002
Who you calling a house slave? Am I the only one who finds the "house slave" controversy between Belafonte and Powell amusing? I mean, which of these "high yellow" guys has more of "masa" in his blood-lines (ergo, "house slave" history)???
OK, I'm not being totally fair, but I think you get my point....
Clarification: My point was not that Harry is white and Colin is black, they're both mixed (more or less). Just funny that one mulatto who was no doubt rewarded for his Caucasian features back in the 1960s in the entertainment industry would call someone else a "house slave." Someone like Sidney Poitier would have been more plausible.
Also, if someone wants to post a link to a young picture of Colin that's more flattering, please do so on the board and I'll switch the pics. I couldn't find one, and only have a moderate amount of time I can devote to this weblog right now....
Sunday, October 20, 2002
An Imperial Republic, not an Empire? Check out the dialogue between Lawrence Aster and Michael Ledeen over at Frontpage. Here is Aster's exposition of the position of the cautious hawks (my own personal inclination), and Ledeen's response. This is an important debate, because war will come, and we need to decide what to do about the aftermath.
A reply to my yokel critics Seems like I hit a nerve! Here are facts readers of this blog might find interesting: 1) I lived in rural eastern Imbler for five years 2) I've worked on a mule ranch as a hand (in close proximity to "cowboys") 3) My high school had two major cliques-"Mormonites" and "Cowboys" (usually the latter were guys who wore the hats and undersized pants, but lived in town) 4) One of the local towns were notorious for inbreeding (they all did look the same, honest) etc. etc. etc. I know "red America," I lived it. Folks were polite, crime was low and everyone knew everyone else. People greeted strangers with a smile and a wave. The trucks didn't foul the country air (not enough people) and guns didn't go off into the homes of neighbors (they were for hunting deer and the practice range, not people). Red America is not a utopia, but I know and appreciate its virtues. Being an unread yokel who doesn't think much beyond the next can of beer and the looks forward to hunting season isn't something to spit at. Diversity is the spice of life. Conversely, the wild gay culture of San Francisco or the goth scene of Portland have their virtues and add color to this country (and all the other permutations and variations of America). My comments were meant to imply that I tire of debates that are rooted in foundational principles. My high school didn't teach evolution in biology class because the teacher didn't want to be harassed at school board meetings and have to grade essays that quoted from the Bible. When 75% of the students sneer at the thought of being "descended from a monkey," bringing the topic up is futile and often counterproductive. Anatomy and botany might be peripheral areas of modern biology, but they are subjects that people can study without being swamped by political controversies. I know it sounds depressing, but sometimes you have to cave because of the practical realities of life. Those of us that chose to take AP Biology or knew where the library was didn't have a problem finding out what we needed to know about evolution. On the issue of "brainwashing." My parents are both Muslims, and though my father has a doctorate in physical chemistry, he doesn't believe in evolution (see below). I have never really believed in God, and always found Creationism laughable. Perhaps I'm projecting my own intellectual independence on other people, but I don't think I'm that unusual. 90% of the human race is prone toward magical thinking, true. Many liberal religious people have strange New Age beliefs that substitute for the Big Man in the Sky while the majority still accept Big Man in the Sky . The other 10% don't need support from the culture, they can distinguish reality from crock with a little effort. The "diamonds in the rough" will find out what they need to know from the Internet and library. As I've said, the vast majority of people will become mechanics, accountants and insurance salesmen. Evolution and the scientific method will have little impact on their lives through their own works, but rather through products that other individuals will create applying a different sort of education and training. From a practical perspective, allowing ID to be taught in certain localities might actually make it less appealing. It think it will be somewhat like the situation that occurs when fundamentalists govern, their popularity declines as the bankruptcy of their beliefs becomes evident to their former supporters. I read once that someone contacted geologists who had received their undergraduate education at fundamentalist Christian colleges but now had careers in the oil industry. When asked if they still accepted the Creationist paradigm, they either said no, or refused to talk about it on the record. In my experience many of the educated Creationists are engineers and to some extent physical scientists. My father has never taken a course in biology (his work was in covalent bonding theory), and freely admits he knows little about the field. Similarly, I have spoken to many people with degrees in mechanical or electrical engineering that find evolution implausible. But is it a coincidence that engineers see design in nature? Their occupations are immediate and practical applications of the most basic and reliable scientific theories (mechanics, electromagnetism, etc.), but they do not necessarily study nature itself. Engineers interact with science via human creations. Structure imposed in their world comes from intelligent agents. I asserted that non-evolutionists tend to correlate with the left half of the bell curve, but I know there are many brilliant people that reject evolution. The software that geologists use to model subsurface geological phenomena (magma convection in the mantle for instance) was designed by a geophysicist who rejects evolution and accepts Flood Geology. He is a Christian fundamentalist who freely admits that without guidance from the Bible, he too would be an evolutionist. This does not negate the fact that the vast majority of geophysicists do not accept Flood Geology (likely on the order of ~ 99%). Though the software was designed in part to show the validity of Young Earth Creationism, most geologists don't use it for that purpose. As far as intelligence and evolution go, see this poll for some data. The more educated you are, the less likely you are to accept Biblical literalism. Now, the fact remains that a large minority continue to accept Biblical literalism, but let's keep going up the bell curve. A 1996 study by Witham & Larson showed that 40% of scientists with doctorates were theists. If you assume that half of these theist scientists are literalist in orientation (as in the general population), you have 20% who are Creationists. I suspect that this would be the high end number, as religious scientists would likely be more inclined toward theistic evolution rather than Creationism. A follow-up study by Witham & Larson that surveyed Nation Academy of Science members showed that a little less than 10% of them were theists. Again, using the same method, you get around 5% of these being Creationists. This is a rough measure, but I think my point holds, the further you go up the bell curve the less reliance there is on magical thinking, ergo the variations of Creationism. The cultural elite accepts evolution (which is why few conservative Republicans make a big show of pushing Creationism, though some do). As far as science and technology are concerned, they are the ones who matter. Those in Red America who reject ID and Creationism will be independent individuals, who wouldn't need the coddling and encouragement of the school system. Those "misled" by bogus science almost certainly won't be working in pharmaceutical companies anytime soon in any case. The upside can be that any semi-intelligent student will see how sophomoric ID texts like Of Pandas and People are. Most people don't think about evolution, and associate it with atheism. When faced with the idiocy of Creationism, parents might rethink their opinion of "atheist evolution." It will also close down the whole ID & Creationism industry and might allow scientists to go about their business without having to deal with the nuisance of know-nothings who try to debunk their "theories" as a way to vent their frustration with the lock-out of ID from the mainstream. In addition, there is the point that local people pay taxes for schools that teach ideas inimical to their values. People have a right to decide what their children believe, no matter how idiotic. It is a free country, and to close your eyes to reality is a choice that should be open to individuals. I understand that parents who accept the mainstream scientific world-view might find this distressing, but perhaps they should wonder if they shouldn't sit down and speak to their children about these issues instead of allowing the school to indoctrinate them. The laughter heard round the world would also quickly induce many school districts with CNN feeds toward second thoughts about pushing ID. The problem might be the philosophy of the American educational system. It supposedly exists to churn out citizens with common values. Well, it isn't doing that very well at this point. As a libertarian who believes in local control, let's allow a thousand flowers to bloom. Local control can be a nasty proposition in regions filled with easily manipulated under-educated individuals. Ultimately, it might lead to the realization that not everyone's child needs to be educated much beyond elementary school levels, and perhaps the politics could be taken out of public education if it was privatized. OK, yokels, that's all for now. I'm just proposing a little Zen, break your enemy's back by bending in their direction, get it? (I'm writing this from a town of 18,000 in the mythical state of Jefferson)  I don't mean to imply that all religious people are so unsophisticated, but as Aquinas noted, the vast majority of humanity will have to take the path of faith and guidance from their clerics.
Saturday, October 19, 2002
Equal Time-again.... This piece from NRO is titled Inherited Debate. An interesting excerpt:
Those in the scientific mainstream say there is no genuine dispute over evolution — at least not within scientific circles. They cite such phenomena as antibiotic-resistant bacteria as proof that species change in response to environmental stressors, with nature weeding out the weak and favoring the strong. They hold that students in public schools should be taught evolution — and evolution only - and that religious views on such matters should be restricted to the home and the church. But the public disagrees. According to a June poll conducted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 82 percent of Ohioans said they believed teachings on the origins of life should not be restricted to evolution. The board received 20,000 letters urging that multiple theories be taught and, in a packed room on the day of the vote, the overwhelming majority of public speakers urged the board to be open to theories that challenge Darwinian evolution. Ohio's numbers mirror the national consensus. A recent Zogby poll showed that 71 percent of Americans supported the proposition that "biology teachers should teach Darwin's theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it." Nationally, 160 scientists recently signed a statement calling for "careful examination" of Darwin's theory.Two facts that one can confirm rather easily: 1 - In the scientific mainstream, evolution is simply accepted as the only viable paradigm 2 - In the general public, skepticism of evolution is accepted as a valid and alternative position 50% of Americans regularly reject evolution, either theistic or naturalistic, in any form, while only 10-15% accept naturalistic evolution. The balance is made up of "theistic evolutionists," who believe that evolution is simply the mode that expresses god's creative energies. On the other hand, scientists, and biologists in particular, simply have no use for the Intelligent Design paradigm, which is the least bizarre of the anti-evolutionary theories (most of the 50% that reject evolution in the regular Gallup surveys will also agree with the statement that the earth is 10,000 years old, beyond the lunacy of the ID proponents). As schools are publicly funded, local control is something that obliviously matters. In certain regions of the country the populace, pitchforks and all, are obviously rather hostile to the idea that humans are descended from other primates. And yet scientists, and much of the educational and political establishment, tend to overrule public wishes and impose their own theories in the classroom. Though I tend to agree with the evolutionists, I have to admit that I don't see much of a point in explaining the intricacies of natural selection and genetic drift to the 50% that reject evolution and almost certainly tend to correlate with the left half of the bell curve. Some people are uneducable in my opinion, and will always adhere to magical thinking. These are the types that need vocational schools, not A.P. Biology. I'm personally skeptical of the of publicly funded schools in any case, as local property taxes make the idea of their quality being independent of personal means somewhat of a joke. Creationism and Intelligent Design will never invade the schools of Fairfax county or Berkeley High School. Do we really care if future mechanics aren't taught the details of evolutionary science in the hills of West Virginia? That being said, though I think it is fair that Intelligent Design proponents contest the political forum, they need to stop lying and pretending like they have any traction in the scientific arena. What infuriates defenders of evolutionary theory isn't that Intelligent Design proponents are so good at tearing down evolution, it's that they misrepresent the scientific consensus to the general public. They seem to be rather willing to deceive in the name of a Righteous Cause.
Wednesday, October 16, 2002
And people wonder why the Democrats are seen as weak on crime... As Kaus says:
If I get around to it, I'll dig up the actual statistics on Democratic proportion of the prison population. I do know that it's very high, though I'm not sure if it's quite at 95%. Can this be explained by pure h-bd considerations? No - blacks vote monolithically Democratic anyway, but their disproportionate representation in the penal system is not enough to account for this phenomenon. For such a high percentage of *all* prisoners to vote Democrat, prison must act to move whites leftward. Since Democrats are easier on criminals than Republicans, it is of course in their best interests for criminals to vote for lenience - particularly if they intend to offend again. Hey - you know - I just realized that this is a nice zinger to counter people with when they bring up the fact that more educated individuals tend to vote Democratic. Rather than launching into a long diatribe about liberal bias in academia, just hit them with the fact that most prisoners vote Democratic too...
Open standards in a really, really, small world.. Nano-devices now have a new open-source communication language . Or do they?
NanoTitan Inc. aims to do for nanocomputing what Netscape did for Web browsers. Just as Netscape helped spur growth of the Internet by enabling Web surfers to download its browser for free, NanoTitan wants to create a similar ripple in the small tech community. The company has written an open source software code, known as nanoML, and made it available to engineers who are working to build integrated nanocomputing devices and nanosystems.Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be a schema for inter-device communication, yet. From what I can tell, it's current incarnation is mostly about allowing engineers to share product meta-data, and doesn't address device interoperability yet. Heck, it hasn't even been submitted to the W3C yet.. Still, pretty exciting stuff, and is the right way to go. Given the immense range of nanodevices, a open-source device communication standard would almost be mandatory. The software engineer daemon sitting on my shoulder is rubbing his hands in byteful glee as I contemplate a possible career change.. Enterprise yadda-yadda-yadda systems are killing me! Time to go small and beautiful. Of course, if nano-tech commercialization skyrockets over this decade, and there is no reason to suppose it won't, steel yourself for a nauseating barrage of nano-this and nano-that.. kind of like the overuse of the letter "e" tacked on to everything..
A contrarian view on Arab democracy Capital Influx takes a shot at the Iraq Attaq, mocking the notion that Western-style capitalist democracy could realistically become widespread in the Middle East in the near future. I share her skepticism on this issue, though I think that some states (namely Iran and perhaps Iraq) could make the transition within a decade or so. But both of us take (took?) it for granted that democracy doesn't have much of a intellectual foothold in the Arab world. Jonah Goldberg has an interesting take on this assumption. He feels that "capitalist democracies" in the Arab world may not be such an alien idea after all:
We can see a mild expression of this dissatisfaction with the electoral farces of undemocratic regimes in some of the cartoons of M. Kahlil, a cartoonist for the Arab News. And certainly Iranians and Iraqis realize that they're being sold a lie in Khatami and Hussein respectively. As long as the Islamists can be kept in check, perhaps this discontent could lead to real change - given an appropriate catalyst. True democracy might bloom after all in the deserts of the Middle East - albeit slowly! Incorrigible skeptics would do well to recall that democracy has taken flower in climates formerly thought inhospitable, such as Japan and Russia...albeit only after military defeat.  Is democracy even theoretically feasible from a human biodiversity standpoint? I'm pretty sure that the Iranians (who are Persians, not Arabs) have enough human capital to sustain a capitalist democracy. But that only takes care of Iran. A democratic Middle East is only possible if the Arabs have the human capital to sustain a capitalist democracy.  They had a shining civilization hundreds of years ago, but they currently have very high inbreeding coefficients. That's a technical term, but it means what you think it means: lots of cousin marriages and general clannishness/high incidence of birth defects. Inbreeding alone makes it questionable whether the Arabs have a large enough smart fraction. I suppose we'll find out...  Credit to Steve Sailer for this.  Though Russia is a semi-democracy right now, it's on the road to real democracy and far further along than anyone thought it could be during the Cold War. And though I count the loss of the Cold War as a military defeat, I don't think that's much of a stretch.  In my opinion, the jury is still out on the (modern) Arabs and on most ethnic groups other than sub-Saharan Africans. See here for justification of this statement if you find it outrageous: (first, second).
It's crazy to say it Some people might construe this as an offensive parallel, but I'll say it anyway. More and more, this sniper thing reminds me of Grand Theft Auto 3. In the game, as you commit increasing levels of mayhem (hijacking cars, gunning down civilians, blowing stuff up, etc.), the forces deployed against you by law enforcement get stronger and stronger:
And the final star level - 6 stars - means that they call in the military. Just like they've done in DC! I never thought I'd see this sort of thing playing out in real life. I wonder if the terrorists (and I'm pretty sure they are terrorists now, and that there is more than one of them) plan to start blowing shit up and gunning down police officers? That would be surreal...but then again, Al Qaeda has trained for just this sort of thing...
A treasure trove If you like reading about the future of the US military, look no further than here. Plenty of interesting articles to sink your teeth into (and waste hours of time with), particularly this one: "Future Warfare and the Decline of Human Decisionmaking". I'll blog my thoughts on this later if I have the time...
Tuesday, October 15, 2002
Hallelujah! And watch out for the black helicopters! This article from The New Republic illustrates why the Left is not liberal:
The Bush administration's proposed Department of Homeland Security is stalled in Congress. It is stalled not, as one might expect, because the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate fear the bill would threaten civil liberties in the United States by vastly increasing the national security state--rather, the Democrats worry that it would create a class of nonunionized federal employees. Instead, the most vocal critics of the bill's impact on American liberties are not Democrats at all but a group that used to be among George W. Bush's most reliable allies: libertarian and religious conservatives. ... At a time of national trial, this alliance has done more to check executive overreaching and to defend individual liberty than the big-government liberals running the Democratic Party, who have been all too happy to respond to demands by the public and the president for security above all. For this we have the paranoid strain in American politics to thank.
After Iraq? Guess who's next?
For those who don't get it - this is a joke. That said, I wouldn't be averse to a peaceful USA-Canada merger. Of course, as I blogged some time ago, the Canadians may have other plans. Witness this illustration from a Canadian children's textbook:
What a farce
Monday, October 14, 2002
Bali I don't have much to say on this that isn't being said by Tim Blair. All I can say is that the Islamofascists are fools for picking a fight they will not win. The people on the far-left & far-right who think that this will end without the crash of toppled governments and the blood of Islamic fundamentalists are simply fooling themselves. In the words of Tacitus: "Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit, because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure. "
GE as enabler of "winnable" nuclear war? I just had an interesting/awful thought. Recently the sequence of the radiation resistant bacteria Deinococcus radiodurans has become publicly available.
Now, bacteria & humans are different enough that the chromosomal repair mechanisms of Deinococcus probably won't be amenable to simple recombinant cut & paste of the relevant genetic material. But it's not at all out of the question that the study of Deinococcus could tell us how to engineer partial radiation resistance for our enormously more complicated eukaryotic chromosomes. If the Chinese engineered radiation resistance into their GE children, they could conceivably gain the ability to launch a nuclear first strike without suffering too badly from the aftereffects of the inevitable reprisal. In other words: they could use genetic engineering to wage a "winnable" nuclear war....
Sunday, October 13, 2002
Thinking outside the paleoanthropological box for a second.... I recently mentioned the great book The Eternal Frontier. It tells the tale of North America's natural history from ~ 60 million years ago to the present. As the author approaches 11,000 years BP-he has to address a conundrum. It goes like this. Before 11,000 years ago North America was filled with mega-fauna that roamed the wilderness without the fear of "man the hunter." Then the ancestors of modern Native Americans crossed Beringia and a "blitzkrieg" occurred. Over 300 years most of the mega-fauna became extinct . Many of the large mammals that we associate with the American west, the grizzly, bison and wolves, almost certainly fill niches vacated by the extinct ungulates and their predators. In fact, they pushed south from Beringia in the wake of the Clovis people. This theory was the dominant paradigm for several decades, and its elegant simplicity is bewitching. The presence of pre-Clovis sites such as Monte Verde were long dismissed. No more. They can not be ignored, and have to be accounted for. The author of The Eternal Frontier acknowledges this. But he can't think of any way to square the circle-so he simply ignores the pre-Clovis sites and tells his tale as if the Clovis blitzkrieg still held (he admits this)! The author states quite sincerely that the mega-faunal extinction is simply too closely associated with the Clovis people to have any other explanation. He can not imagine why the pre-Clovis populations would not have caused the same extinctions, as the example of ancient Australia illustrates that even populations with primitive tool-kits can decimate the indigenous biota. One point to make is that new theories postulate that the large ungulates might have been killed by diseases that the Paleo-Indians brought with them. This might explain why the pre-Clovis people did not cause any extinctions: they came before the potent pathogens had evolved in Asia. But there is something else that we might consider: human biodiversity. Let me explain. The author of The Eternal Frontier can not imagine that pre-Clovis people were any different than the Paleo-Indians. Perhaps they looked a bit different, and had different technologies, but their needs and potentialities would be the same. Given the same context and stimuli, they should have had the same effect on the indigenous wildlife as the Paleo-Indians. But they obviously didn't. But what if one reason that the pre-Clovis people had a less deleterious effect on the American biota was that they themselves were different in some essential fashion? The individual than runs a website devoted to the Andaman Islanders has noted that an ancient pre-Clovis skull found in Brazil looks to him like a pygmy. If the pre-Clovis people were pygmies, to use one example, their nutritional needs would probably be lower, and so they would have been far less likely to over-exploit or even target the mega-fauna. In addition, the aforementioned website catalogs in detail the physiological peculiarities of the Andaman Islanders, so it would not be wholly implausible that they were not carrying the same suite of pathegons as the Paleo-Indians. In any case, this is just speculation. But the diversity of the pre-Columbian people is only beginning to be explored. Cut off from the homogenizing brutality of Eurasia, who knows what sort of wondrous micro-races might have developed before being swept away from the view of history by the Paleo-Indians?  Modern Native Americans south of the polar regions are divided into two groups, the Na-Dene, who represent the Indians of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska as well as a few splinter groups such as the Apache and Navajo, and the Amerinds, who are all other Native American groups. The Na-Dene are relative latecomers, while the Amerinds are probably the descendents of the Clovis people.
yes, but... The Saudi government has told children no longer to listen to the Islamic teachings of ObL. Is it because he's a terrorist? No. Is it because he's an evil guy? No. It's a matter of credentials:
"A man like him, who has specialized in business administration and economics, may be pious, may love Islam or may be generally familiar with Islam, but that does not qualify him to issue edicts and talk about big issues that determine the destiny of people,'' said [deputy minister of Islamic affairs Tawfeeq] al-Sediry.
On euphemisms? I was reading this article from Reuters on the weekend box office results. And Brown Sugar is called an "urban comedy." What's up with that? What's wrong with saying it's a "black comedy"? I mean, the idea of using "urban" in place of "black" just seems to be stereotyping-reinforcing the idea that all black people live in urban areas and experience the ghetto life. Another example where the "logic" behind PC escapes me....
What does the Finland bomber tell us about our future? OK, so they are saying that the Finland bombing wasn't terrorism. What if that's true? What if he was just deranged? It doesn't bode well for the human race as each individual human being becomes more and more powerful in their personal destructive capability.
Zen acting by not acting didn't work this time We all know about the Bali explosion now. In a country where Islamic radicals are waging a jihad against the Christian minorities in the eastern islands this shouldn't surprise us. Megawati Sukarnoputri has been keeping her hands off the radicals for fear of aggravating them. Islamist parties are a strong minority in the parliament, and though fundamentalists are not numerous, santri, or orthodox observant Muslims, are now approaching half of Indonesia's population (and growing). Mega allowed the fundamentalists relative freedom because she is already suspect in their eyes: her political party was originally a vehicle for Christians, and still reflects a far greater proportion of that faith than the general population (~10%), she is a woman head of state and her paternal grandmother was a Hindu from Bali. But appeasement didn't work. 200 people are dead, and Bali's economy, a nice source of foreign exchange in a period of economic troubles is probably going to be diminished. The Indonesian military will probably be pressured to get involved, and crack down on thuggish groups like Lakshar Jihad. A lesson that appeasement doesn't work, and that Islamic governments are simply putting off the day of reckoning when the big green Islamist bomb explodes in their face. Update: Check out Jason's main blog for updates on the Bali situation-he's Ozzie so he'll probably have more information.
Saturday, October 12, 2002
Sex & "the French" Excerpts of an article from The New York Times:
...The alliance behind Mr. Chirac won parliamentary elections in June on a platform that pledged a return to law and order, amid news reports of an increase in violent sex crimes, particularly gang rapes in the lower-class suburbs of Paris, and of pedophilia. ... Other unsettling factors in the debate are reports of a rise in gang rapes by teenage boys and the breakup of pedophilia rings that are sometimes also involved in the distribution of child pornography. ... Some French psychologists and sociologists believe that boys are acting out the scenes they witness in pornographic films.Anyone wonder who inhabits these "lower-class suburbs" of Paris?
Intelligent Design An acquaintance pointed me to the following study that surveyed science professors in Ohio. It tested the idea (common among proponents of Intelligent Design) that evolution is losing favor among scientists. The short of it is that over 90% of scientists that responded (31% response rate, with the sample size being 460) believed Intelligent Design was a "religious theory," and not part of the scientific discourse. The context is of course a proposal in Ohio to give some legitimacy to Intelligent Design in the secondary educational curriculum.
Patently idiotic It seems that IBM had patented a "restroom reservation" system. You have to read the article to believe it. Luckily for those of us who saved a spot in the bathroom line, they've dropped their claim so we don't have to pay royalties (higher fees for #2 rather than #1?). Check out this excerpt:
The patent system has seen its reputation sullied in recent years. Critics have charged that too many patents don't pass the smell test because they cover "obvious" inventions that can't be patented under U.S. law. Earlier this year, for instance, the office was criticized for issuing a patent for a method of swinging sideways on a swing.
It's the fault of the pagans, witches and abortionists! Brown people are rioting because Jerry Falwell made some comments about Muhammed that weren't very nice . This is the reason that my family left these sort of countries and came to the sedate north-people don't riot at the drop of a hat (when I was three or four, I was vaguely conscious of the concept of political killings since my family would talk about it sometimes). We Americans are civilized-we riot when our sports teams win!  I happened to be visiting Bangladesh in 1989 when the Salman Rushdie affair was a big deal. We were in my mother's ancestral village when some fundamentalist preacher came up to my brother and I (he was 7, I was 11) with some photocopies. He wanted us to translate the pamphlets/broadsheets. Basically it was talking about how the The Satanic Verses declared that Muhammed's wives were whores. Needless to say, I didn't exactly know what I was going to tell this guy, so I pretended that I had an upset stomach and had to leave (highly plausible in the hyper-pathogenic environment). Update: "ks" on the message board has a link to this article that gives more information on the craziness going on in India. It seems clear that one of the problems was that the Muslim community-or a faction of it-was trying to impose their outrage on the society as a whole by trying to close down Hindu businesses to protest the remarks by Falwell. Now, I have to ask this-because I've seen this sort of thing before, can you think of any other community that forms 12% of a country's population that is so brazen about trying to impose its norms on the society around it?. India's political leaders always have to sensitive to Muslim feelings-from banning The Satanic Verses to mouthing a negative attitude toward Israel (though this is changing under the BJP). Can you imagine what would happen if Hindus were 12% of a country's population? Oh, wait, there is an example, Bangladesh! I doubt Khaleda Zia (the Prime Ministeress) is always solicitous of the Hindu community lest they explode in violence and outrage. To be fair, there is a reason I think that India's Muslim community is so arrogant, Muslims ruled India for 1,000 years. Update #2: Falwell apologizes. Interesting. Now, Muslim fundamentalists that criticize Western women as whores and Christianity as a debased infidel religion probably aren't going to apologize anytime soon. Of course, Christians wouldn't demand one.
Friday, October 11, 2002
And they might call it prophetic....(well, not really) I just had a conversation with a friend where I expounded on my idea that the West's long term rival is China. My opinion is that because the Han people tend not to be encumbered by the same ethical limitations due to individual rights they will make great advances in human genetic engineering. I even think they'll tailor soldiers-and create something of an army of clones . What can the West do to respond? I believe that the liberal order always has more potential for innovation and creative energy, but the means do not justify the ends. We will never equal the Chinese on the level of manipulating human biology via the brute force methods we have now, and so they'll have a head start. But, we don't suffer the same limitations in the field of non-biological technologies. I suspect that if humanity will evolve to the "next level," cybernetics will play a crucial role. Because of our qualms with manipulating the germ line and/or experimenting on post-fetal human beings, Chinese and Western progress in the fields of transhumanism will diverge. In the end, it might be the clone army vs. the borgs. Kind of funny in a creepy way. Update: Futurepundit responds, I'll address his points later tonight. Response to Futurepundit
The first economic consideration is the higher living standards in America. Initial technologies for genetically enhancing progeny will be very expensive...So the first businesses that start up to offer progeny genetic engineering services will probably be started in the USA. Of course higher US regulatory barriers could easily cancel out that advantage.I agree, the US has more potential in this area, but the Chinese government simply has more scientific opportunity. For instance, cloning is now possible in theory. But what would it require? Hundreds of women likely who would have to be impregnated with full knowledge that they would most likely miscarry, and if they do carry the child to term it will almost certainly have serious genetic defects. Who would voluntarily involve themselves in such a project? Who would subject their own children, or any children, to this sort of life? The Chinese government might I think. Our own dear government has done work on disease using marginal populations or exposed soldiers to nuclear weapons. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Chinese government could for instance offer a pardon for female prisoners, many probably imprisoned on "political" grounds. In exchange, these individuals would would have to serve as surrogates. What choice would you make in this scenario? By trial and error they might be able to advance this sort of brute force cloning technology. Once cloning does become safe, I suspect that individuals would willingly start to utilize it. But what if the Chinese reach only 50% rates of non-defective pregnancies? What if one can't test for whether or not the child's genome is not a "perfect" replica (and god knows what epigenetic factors play into this)? What is the threshold? Again, the Chinese government, and their corporations might be willing to take such risks on human cattle. Western values though rule this out, cloning technology and the like will only be used when it is safe-which might be never.
At first glance the regulatory advantage appears to be in China's court. The Chinese government probably will not stand in the way of initial attempts to provide genetic enhancement for higher IQ children. But there is one reason why this may not turn out to be the case: High IQ people are harder to politically control. Also, if Chinese parents decide they want to have children with more aggressive personalities the mainland Chinese regime may see these personality types as an additional threat to autocratic regime stability. By contrast, higher IQs and more assertive personalities pose less of a threat to the US political system (anyone want to speculate about what the US political system would be like with higher IQ and more assertive people?). So will the Chinese regime choose stability over competitive edge? It is possible.Is this true? Are the Russians, Chinese and Germans low IQ peoples? And yet these are peoples who have lived longest under the yoke of totalitarian terror in our age. The Japanese and South Koreans have higher IQs than Americans, or European nations like the Irish or Greeks (see Lynn & Vanhanen). Are they more restive? I think the empirical evidence on this is very mixed. I don't think high IQ people are more aggressive or assertive. I think they are more rational. In fact, that might make them more susceptible to the enticements of amoral behavior. While low IQ individuals commit crimes because of impulsive needs, high IQ individuals tend to break the law in their own long-term enrichment or exploration of personal perversions (white collar crime and serial killing). IQ is certainly one factor, but whether a polity is stable and subservient is caused by many variables. Hubris has no bounds, I think the Chinese oligarchy would be willing to roll the dice, so long as they always had the best treatments. Unlike African kleptocrats, the Chinese ruling class has a sense of race and nationhood that overlays their personal greed and aggrandizement.
The competitive forces in the US favor the choice to genetically engineer at the personal level. Once suburbanite competitive urges come to the fore only one overwhelming Congressional vote could dissolve the regulatory obstacles. You can bet that the US national security establishment will line up with the ambitious suburbanites. Then the American per capita GDP advantage will do the rest.Well, this is the "age of princes" in China because of the one-child policy. To spoil and lavish attention on a child is human, to have the income to carry out one's wishes is American. Very true. On the other hand, when I speak of "genetic treatments," I don't speak of something so benign as gene therapy to aid those that may have cystic fibrosis or a predisposition toward cancers. What can the negative consequences be of preventing the expression of a dangerous homozygous recessive? The costs are minimal, the possible benefits accrue for a lifetime. On the other hand, what about "positive" enhancement? Take IQ for instance. I think most of us would agree there is a genetic component, and almost certainly g is a phenotype that is the product of multiple regions of the genome. How many? We don't know. Murtaugh & Orwin are skeptical we'll ever been able to untie this scientific knot. godless and I have a higher opinion of the progress of science in this area. Tinkering with regions of the genome that are found to effect IQ might be a rather risky enterprise. In fact, let me take this further, and assert that many high IQ individuals are the products of the fetal environment as much as genetics. Almost surely many of the factors that cause high IQ probably would also increase the risk for other problems that parents might not be particularly excited about (Matt Ridley notes that mathematically precocious boys have many immune deficiencies in Genome). These costs would probably make any individual parent cautious about the risks. Chinese parents would be just as intimidated as American ones. On the other hand, the Chinese government might not be so intimidated. The cost for a nation is not the same as an individual. They could kill any unwanted children produced in their experiments, and since it had government sanction, who would stop them? Though I hope you're right Randall! I fear you aren't.... P.S.: I don't mean to imply that Chinese are a diabolical people. The line between good and evil is crossed by all peoples in all times. I simply believe that this is the time and place for the Han to shine in such a dubious fashion.  Orson Scott Card has ridiculed the idea of a clone army, but genetic uniformity might lend an advantage in the military arena where individual self-sacrifice is important and communication is crucial.
Links instead of blogging! I'm a bit blogged out-and since I'll be out-of-town/on the road (with laptop mind you) I'll be more sporadic starting Monday and until the first week of November. Until then, I suggest you guys check out the links on Steve Sailer's webpageroll (he's not quite a blog). Randall Parker has a bunch of sites that I've blurbed before, but this post from Parapundit comparing Canada to the US is a pretty nice sample. You can also go to that blog via Futurepundit on my blogroll (no, I'm not going to link to all four of your blogs Randall!). Also-if you have any interest in biogeography, I suggest you read Eternal Frontier:An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples. It was quite a page turner.
Prudence This Scientific American Online story about using phytoplankton as a massive CO2 sink screams the law of unintended consequences.
Thursday, October 10, 2002
Slate hits close to the truth Slate has another ridiculous article with an ad-hoc explanation for why "wide receivers are such jerks". The only thing remarkable about the article is its inadvertent candor:
The Sniper Letter From Gotham and Cut On The Bias are on the case. At first I thought it was a Islamic terrorist trying to cause panic, but now I'm not so sure, maybe some people trying to start a race war?
From The Economist Since I conceded the pill might be bad for you, here's something that says no, it ain't (and this isn't an argument for using it either-it should stand on its own merits, which is my point-as this won't change the minds of those who oppose it or favor it). Contracontraception Oct 10th 2002 From The Economist print edition Contrary to popular belief, using birth-control pills for many years does not impair a woman's ability to conceive—in fact, it may enhance it USERS of contraceptive pills have had to put up with a lot of worries over the years—deep-vein thrombosis scares, unwanted weight gain and migraine headaches, to name just a few. Women who stop taking the Pill are often advised to “detox” themselves for a few months before trying to conceive. They are further warned that getting pregnant may be harder than it would have been had they never taken chemical contraceptives. Not so, suggests a study just published in Human Reproduction. Alexandra Farrow, an epidemiologist at Brunel University, in London, and her colleagues, looked at planned pregnancies in 8,497 couples. The couples were asked to fill in a questionnaire that inquired about such matters as age, drinking and smoking habits, Pill use and how long it took to get pregnant. It turned out that, far from being less fertile than normal, women who had taken the Pill for at least five years were more likely than non-Pill users to conceive within 12 months of starting to try. Some 90% succeeded, as opposed to 85% of those who had not taken the Pill. In fact, the longer a woman had taken contraceptive pills, the more likely she was to conceive quickly, even after other factors were taken into account. These findings support the idea that the Pill keeps a woman's ovaries young. Chris Ford of the University of Bristol, one of Dr Farrow's co-authors, speculates that by preventing ovulation and the stresses that it puts on the reproductive system, Pill-using women may, in effect, be cheating time. Pill use may also maintain a woman's limited store of eggs, which some people think are ovulated in order, from best to worst. The researchers cite work carried out a few years ago in Australia. This found that women who had taken the Pill for years were less likely to suffer age-related miscarriages, which are usually caused by bad eggs. Pill-using women over the age of 30 cut their risk of miscarriage from 28% to 7%, according to that study. The next phase will attempt to find out if prolonged Pill use pushes back the menopause, as this theory suggests it should. All of which is an amusing twist to a tale that began in the 1950s, when a gynaecologist called John Rock first administered oestrogen and progesterone—the main components of the Pill—to a group of women. Rock's goal was not contraception, but conception. His patients were having trouble conceiving, and he reckoned that their ovaries might do better after a short break from ovulating. He appeared to be right. But the preparation he was using was then reformulated as the birth-control pill. What goes around, it seems, comes around—eventually.
Wednesday, October 09, 2002
My Joel impersonation.... Reason has a fascinating article on intellectual property. It's ostensibly about the inventor of television, but this is the part I found interesting and disturbing (though not surprising):
Farnsworth is a footnote to history, but the issues his case raises are not. Consider the Texas programmer Evan Brown, who dreamed up a procedure to translate old computer code into new languages and has spent the last six years fighting for the rights to it. Because Brown worked on the idea while DSC Communications was his employer, the company (now owned by the French telecom group Alcatel) claims the rights to it, as per the contract Brown signed when he joined the firm. Brown replies that he first conceived the idea years before he went to work for DSC, that he worked on it during his own time, that it had no relation to his job at DSC, and, most important, that he didn't write it down until after he left the company's employ.I've heard of this sort of stuff before. Sounds like these corporations basically own you. Hell, could they demand your shit as work-product since you had lunch on company premises? Or would they just assume if you were salaried that any shit you produced is corporate property by implication of you being their slave, oops, employee? How about children you produced while having sex in your office with your wife? Don't get me wrong, America is rich and prosperous in part because of corporations. But much of our recent economic growth has come from small and medium-sized businesses. In addition bureaucracies, and that's what corporations are, are rarely friends of liberty. And in the end, money is just a means toward exercising liberty. Many Saudis have a fair amount of money, but with no liberty, they need to go out of the country to enjoy it. For conservatives and libertarians who (like me) don't have a natural suspicion of the free market and corporations (well, until recently), I suggest Robert Locke's two part series on "Corporatism" (part 1 and part 2) .  Fascism by any other name if you ask me....
The death touch of Dowd This piece by Maureen Dowd lambasts a M.D. who might head a powerful committee at the FDA. Now, the guy sounds kind of kooky to me . But man, the snide manner of Dowd make's me want him to be confirmed to his position. I'm not one to criticize snideness towards what I perceive as excessive supernaturalism in one's world-view, but for god's sake, this is The New York Times. It seems unseemly and petty for the "journal of record" to be publishing this kind of material more fit for a blatantly partisan publication run by a non-profit foundation. The kind of liberals that think Dowd is funny are the mirror-image of conservatives that see Rush Limbaugh as a comic genius .  If you read the text of the piece you note that Dr. Hager seems to have qualms about the safety of the birth control pill, though he's not an extremist about it. I wouldn't be surprised if the pill has some deleterious effects, but the key is do the costs justify the benefits? I suspect many young women today would assert yes, a slight increase in the risk of cancer later on in life might very well be worth the peace of mind and the choice to engage in worry-free sex for the 10-20 years of one's youth without a layer of latex between you and your lover. I think those of us who believe in personal freedom should be open about the individual costs freedom comes with, there is no free lunch. Of course, this does not address the issue of the collective social costs of this sort of behavior, rather than the individual ones. I'll leave that for another time.....  True humorists like P.J. O'Rourke can make those who don't agree with them politically laugh anyhow.
The glass is always half-empty for the paleo-Left The American Prospect has a heart-felt piece on the expansion of the circle-of-tolerance toward homosexuals in the past 15 years. But it concludes on this sour note:
Compare that with anything else on a progressive's wish list: universal health care, a livable minimum wage, progressive taxation, racial equality, environmental preservation, comparable worth, subsidized child care, public housing. These ask Americans not for freedom from one another but responsibility for one another -- responsibilities that are most costly for those most likely to vote. "To what extent is the gay and lesbian movement overall a progressive movement?" muses Cathcart. While most self-identified lesbians and gay men are Democrats and many work actively on other progressive issues, there's a reason gay Republicans feel no contradiction between their two group memberships: Liberty and justice based on sexual orientation would redistribute not a penny.Oh, the horrors! I read The American Prospect regularly, it makes me think less and less of the "progressive" nature of the Left. How can they make liberty and justice seem like inimical values? Another one of the articles in the current online issue is titled Cold Comfort: For-profit health care has failed in the U.S. So now its sponsors hope to export it to Canada. I'm joining the Samizdata boycott, let's call a spade a spade, these aren't liberals, they're Leftist Socialists. They march under the banner "Three cheers for Hobbes, Marx and regulation!" No point in telling the Leftist homosexual activists that collectivization didn't seem to help the gay subcultures of Cuba or the Soviet Union .  The Communist response to homosexuality was often perplexed and more mixed than one might suppose, but too often they believed homosexuality was a manifestation of bourgeois decadence. I believe sexual freedom is most at home in the culture of plenitude-not one of enforced egalitarianism and central control.
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
Schwarzenegger vs. Granholm in 2008? TNR has an interesting article on the charismatic Jennifer Granholm, a rising Democratic superstar who's a shoo-in for governor of Michigan. As an attractive female centrist and a former prosecutor, she appeals to several demographics simultaneously and would be a strong candidate in a national election. There's only one problem: Granholm's Canadian birth means that she won't be able to run for the presidency without a Constitutional amendment. Only individuals born in the United States are currently eligible for the office of the presidency. The question then becomes: might we get bipartisan support for an amendment that set the residency requirement for the Presidency at (say) 20-30 years of American citizenship? It's impossible to pass the requirements for a constitutional amendment without bipartisan support, and obviously the Republicans would block any such amendment if they felt that only Democrats would benefit. But I think that the Republicans may correctly realize that Arnold Schwarzenegger would be a strong Republican candidate, and that the proscription against foreign-born candidates may cut both ways. In other words, such an amendment is not inconceivable. A Schwarzenegger vs. Granholm race in 2008 would be very interesting indeed...
This is not from The Onion Check it out:
Naturi Naughton, a former member of the platinum-selling teen group 3LW, claims in a lawsuit that she was forced out of the R&B trio because she was not "ghetto enough" ... In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Newark, the East Orange resident charged that the "purported" manager of the group, Michelle Williams (news), said Naughton "did not present the appropriate 'project girl' image,'" and berated her as "Ms. Two Parent Household."
To bend, but not break-my vision of cultural change In a conversation with a friend of mine recently we found common ground (he's a moderate liberal) in our suspicion of the centralizing tendencies of the EU. I said with some passion, "I want the English to remain English, the Germans to remain German, the Spanish to remain Spanish, and yes, even the French, should remain French." I value diversity and I believe it adds color to our lives. But is diversity necessarily fostered by mixing inimical peoples in a cocktail that is as likely to foam over in an orgy of violence instead of imparting a pleasant cosmopolitan flavor? But that begs the question, what is "German," or "French," or for that matter, "American." In fact, I wondered, what is it to be "Southern?" Fried Chicken? NASCAR? Being of the "Bible Belt?" We know that the American South has its own culture. Just as New England or the West Coast have their own distinct regionalisms. But these cultures have changed greatly. Consider the South for instance. Before 1860, it would not have been characterized as particularly soaked in Christianity, especially in comparison with Puritan New England and New York's Burned-Over District. But the past 140 years have witnessed the explosive growth of the Baptist sect as it became the South's dominant denomination (numerically if not culturally) and the gentle decline of New England Protestantism in the face of Irish Catholicism. It seems likely that Cotton Mather would have feel more at home in Mississippi than Massachusetts. Or would he? The book Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America argues for the continuity of American regionalisms, even back to Merry Old England. There is something that is ineffably "Southern" or "New England," that remains the sum of its parts, though the constituents may evolve and shift over the generations. Similarly, the Mediterranean littoral of Europe still retains much of its ancient character despite its many changes. Though the peoples are Christian (Catholic and Orthodox) instead of pagan and their diet has changed in the details (pasta), they still preserve a continuity with their forefathers. Italian culture is no longer Roman culture, but it is not unrecognizable, and a Roman of the past might very well be able to assimilate after baptism into the Church and acculturation into the pasta consuming habits of moderns. Italian is a lineal descendent of Latin and olive oil still figures large in their cuisine. In addition, the Italians self-consciously view the Romans as their ancestors, and cherish their cultural relics and artifacts. Much the same can be said of Greeks, with their Koine dialect and the resurrection of the Olympics. This stands in sharp contrast with the peoples of the southern Mediterranean, the North Africans and Egyptians. Though the Berber peoples still have ancient ties through the language of their forefathers, the southern Mediterranean is now an Arab shore. Modern day Algerians have little in common with St. Augustine or Tertullian, North African Church Fathers remembered more often along the Mediterranean's north shore. Egyptians do not speak the tongue of their ancestors, though Coptic is preserved as the liturgical language of the Coptic Church. These people now look to Arabia as their mythological ancestral home, and are cut off from own genetic heritage. Between the 7th and 9th centuries a cultural revolution occurred, and peoples from the strait of Gibraltar to the Sinai "switched teams" so to speak. Similarly, California after the American conquest went from being part of Hispanic civilization to being the westernmost extension of the Anglo world. Today, Hispanic civilization is reclaiming it. But this is not an evolutionary transition but a revolutionary one. The character of the people is changing so fast that the next generation may very well look to Mexico City and not Washington D.C. for their foundational myths. Cultures are not static. Neither are races or civilizations or humanity as a whole. We step gingerly into the future and shed old coats for new. What it means to be "European" or "Chinese" is highly dependent on historical context. But the tenuous bonds of shared myths often connect these long-lived civilizations to their previous incarnations. Chinese and Indian civilization still retain their distinctive characteristics despite their many transformations. On the other hand, areas where Islam has won converts often seem to revolt against their own pasts and instead tie themselves to the myth of the Arab peoples . Pakistan looks toward its Islamic heritage, its membership in the Ummah, rather than the Indus Valley civilization or its pre-Islamic Hindu maharajahs. For those of us who care about the character of Western culture, it is important I think for us to communicate that we don't wish to stop the march of history. Myself, I cherish the West's liberalism, but liberalism is just the most recent child of Western civilization, and certainly did not characterize the Roman Imperium or the feudal monarchies. The West will change, but it must be allowed to evolve more slowly at a natural pace. The post-Modernist critique of common norms and values, and the economically and politically fueled growth of non-Western cultures within Western civilization tend to lean toward the outbreak of revolutionary rather than evolutionary changes. Certain Islamic communities, and to a lesser extent Latinos in the United States, seem almost hermetically sealed off from the dialogue of the West. If one projects birthrates in places like the Netherlands, one can see an Islamic rather than a Dutch future. This is will result in a shift in civilization, a revolution of ideas and foundational myths. Just as Anatolia moved from the Greek world to the Turkish world in a few centuries, so the Netherlands might become an outpost of the Dar-al-Islam in northern Europe. The key is that a culture evolves by picking up singular traits from others, but retains most of the pervious incarnation's characteristics. For instance, though Italians became Christian, they retained their native tongue. In contrast, the Muslims of North Africa Islamicized and Arabicized simultaneously, discarding the suite of cultural traits that characterized the Latin-Punic complex that centered around the urban areas of North Africa. Similarly, many Latino immigrants to the United States seem intent on preserving the whole suite of cultural tendencies that manifested themselves south of the Rio Grande. Obviously on can not be Catholic and Protestant simultaneously, one can not claim both English and Spanish as first languages, one can not (plausibly) assert both Santa Anna and Winfield Scott as military heroes. The multicultural project in the modern West is leading us down the path of North Africa, not Italy. Two hundred years from now, George Washington may matter as much to "Americans" as St. Augustine mattered to the Maghrebi Arabs that were trekking to Al-Andalus to join the service of the new Caliph in Cordoba in his battles against the Christians of Europe.  See Ibn Warraq's Why I am not a Muslim. Also, Christianity has done this periodically in the context of European cultures, but the tendency has been mitigated by the rather slow Christianization of Europe which resulted in its greater assimilation and accommodation with native habits and mores.
Monday, October 07, 2002
The great brown hope??? I've been involved in an e-mail correspondence with another fellow South Asian on the lack of athletes from my ancestral region. He pointed out the pathetic medal count from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in proportion to their population at the recent Asian Games. Is there a possible genetic factor in this? I'm an agnostic on this issue, though it wouldn't surprise me if there were. I do wonder if nutrition might be a problem. Look at these tables (courtesy of the World Bank), and the sheets sorted by low birth-weight and low weight for age in particular (you need MS Excel to view this). It is clear that South Asia gives Africa a run for its money in being the arm-pit of the world. In fact, though some African countries rival Bangladesh and to a lesser extent India in terms of malnutrition (Niger for instance), many like Zambia, Zimbabwe or Kenya come off as almost prosperous. This could be due to human biodiversity differences in that Africans are on average larger and heavier and so it seems as if they are healthier than they are when judged by a one-size fits all criteria. But nevertheless, the proportion of Indians that are well-fed multiplied by their raw numbers should be enough for them to medal more frequently than they do. What I find curious is how badly South Asians perform in comparison to East Asians, let alone their putative distant racial kin, Europeans. One could assert that cultural factors discourage high-status well-fed South Asians from putting as much of their time into sports as people of other nationalities. There might be something to this, and looking at South Asians in places like the UK might give some insight into this. The one sport where South Asians have made any impact is Cricket. Pakistan fields a good national team, and the captain of the British team was a Muslim of South Indian origins, Nasser Hussain. India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have all won the World Cup in the past 25 years (1983,1991,1995). I looked at something called Wisden's Five Cricketer's of the Year, and a fair portion of recipients are South Asian (I quickly counted 22 out of the 160 winners, with a disproportionate share from Sri Lanka and Pakistan as opposed to India) . I am curious as to the experiences of people from the British Isles. South Asians there exist as a larger community and have a critical mass in certain areas where racial patterns might show themselves on the secondary school level.  The greater success of Pakistan and Sri Lanka points to some cultural deficiency in India. Pakistan is dominated by Punjabis, but there are almost as many Punjabis in India, they just happen to be Sikh and Hindu instead of Muslim. Nasser Hussain is of Indian Tamil origin, but a Muslim! Does anyone know if Sri Lankan Buddhists are vegetarian? I have always wondered what effect vegetarianism might have had on the Indian upper castes, perhaps lack of athleticism might be one (the lower castes might eat meat, but they don't get enough to be very athletic).
Uh, for the eugenically inclined? Recieved this in an e-mail from a friend....
I think I may have sent you this a year ago, but here it is again http://www.goodgenes.com/Pages2/frameset1.html Also if you want to date only ugly chicks http://www.sciconnect.com/
Rose City vs. Sprawl City (?) I'm going to be in Houston probably at the end of the month for a few weeks. So this article in The American Prospect got my attention. It notes that Measure 7 passed in 2000 could cause a roll-back of Imbler's wide-ranging urban planning laws . Seeing Houston up-close-and-personal might allow me to ascertain the virtues of central planning vs. the free market. I like Portland's "smallness." It is a city, but also a town (I'm a small town boy, though born in Dhaka, which today is a megalopolis, Portland is the largest city I've lived in since then, and I've spent 7 years in towns with fewer than 20,000 people). I am skeptical about our light rail, the Max, which bleeds money. And the The American Prospect smiling upon the fact that the Metro government doesn't plan to do much highway construction despite projected population increases is scary (I live in the city so it's not a big concern for me personally, but I have sympathy for those who live in the burbs). I'm a beneficiary of "controlled growth," but look at the property values in the city of Portland and you'll see the flip-side of high density living (rent isn't too expensive compared to NYC or San Francisco, but jobs can be hard to come by). As a libertarian-of sorts the planning irks me though. On the other hand, no one is forcing me to live in Portland, if I wanted to experience the bliss of unincorporated subdivisions galore I suppose I could move to Houston or some other Sprawl City. Diversity is the spice of life, and certainly this country. One reason I support the right of each individual state to have more control in setting the tone for its own way of life. Also, compare Portland to Houston. Doesn't seem like Houston is that bad-but I guess I'll see.  In my opinion the best thing about Imbler is our direct democracy via ballot measures. So easy to say "fuck you" to the legislature that way....
Friday, October 04, 2002
Whose blood will be shed? Debunking of conventional wisdom over at NRO. Blacks will suffer most when we go to war, right? Wrong!
The fact is that blacks disproportionately serve in Army combat-service support units, not combat units. When Ricks wrote his piece, such units had become "majority minority," with more black soldiers than white. By contrast, he observed, the infantry, which generally suffers the most casualties in wartime, had become "whiter than America." African Americans constituted nine percent of the infantry, compared to 11.8 percent of the age eligible civilian population. In 1995, 79 percent of the new troopers were white, compared with 74.3 percent of civilians. There is little evidence to suggest that these figures have changed much over the last five years Why is this the case? Ricks pointed out that the new demographics of the Army have to do with the dynamics of an all-volunteer force — Blacks and whites join the military for different reasons. On the one hand, white youths are frequently looking for adventure while they try to raise money for college. As a result, they tend to flock to the combat arms, especially elite units like the Rangers and airborne. On the other, young black males, "are generally seeking skills, and so gravitate toward administrative and technical jobs. Because they often find the Army a fairer and better place to live than civilian society, blacks tend to stay enlisted longer: Though only 22% of today's recruits are black, the Army itself is 30% black." In addition, most pilots are white, as are most special-operations forces, e.g. Navy SEALS and Army special-forces. This leads one to the conclusion that in a war, middle-class white kids, not minorities, would be at the greatest risk, since they make up the bulk of the combat arms. So much for the conventional wisdom.Steve Sailer pointed this out to me long ago....
The predictive power of economists.... I'm not going to make too much of this, but all week I've been reading reports of the new jobless recovery, and today we find that the unemployment rate has dropped. It is only one point on the bigger trendline, but talk about amusing timing (they thought it would rise to 5.9%, but it dropped to 5.6%). A funny quote:
"This [report] makes no sense, but it gets the Fed off the hook; [there will be] no intermeeting ease," Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics Ltd., said in a note.If the facts don't fit the theory, maybe something is wrong with the theory....
Of Hitler, Vishnu and gullible Nazis This has got to be about the weirdest life-story I've ever read. It's about a lady by the name of Savitri Devi, of Greek and English descent, who married a pro-Nazi Bengali Brahmin and ended up as an international Nazi icon:
This reminds me a bit about the brouhaha that arose when it was revealed that Heinrich Harrer the mountaineer who befriended the Dalai Lama and who was portrayed by Brad Pitt in the movie Seven Years in Tibet was also a Nazi. Apparently some Nazis like Harrer believed that Tibetans were the sole remaining 'pure Aryans' because of their geographic isolation. Then there is the Nazi gullibility for Eastern mysticism and theosophy. Update from Razib: Not too surprising. Though the Nazis were contemptuous of the Indian Aryans, seeing in their dark skins race mixing with their subject peoples, Devi and her ilk looked with envy at the Hindu masses worshipping white Aryan gods. They believed that ancient Aryans had accomplished what they only dreamed of. The book Hitler's Priestess is all about Devi. Also, British administrators did sometimes feel when they visited India that they were walking amongst their own ancients, the pagan philosophers and devotees of old. But India is far more complex than Devi and the early 20th and 19th century Aryanists perceived, as its synthetic culture owes as much to pre-Aryan and post-Aryan thought as it does to the people of the Vedas .  The primary gods of the Vedas become marginal in orthodox Hinduism. Vishnu, Shiva and Brahman owe more to the pre-Aryan heritage of India. Similarly, other Indo-European peoples were influenced by the indigenes, only Zeus of the Greek gods is Indo-European without dispute, and by the Hellenistic and Roman eras, the Indo-European people of the Mediterranean were worshipping pagan deities of non-Indo-European origin such as Isis, Magna Mater or Christ as often as Sol Invictus or Jupiter Optimus. Also, some find in the division between the Aesir and Vanir among the Norse gods a reflection of Indo-European and non-Indo-European (the latter are fertility deities, primarly Frey and Freya).
Is this God-bashing? This article (free registration) discusses the marginal island nation of Tuvalu wrestling with the issue of global warming. Here is a quaint excerpt:
Today, many Tuvaluans have a literal faith in the Bible and don't believe any harm will come from global warming. Shopkeeper Lutelu Kofe, 46, is typical. He is more concerned about harm to the community from rising alcohol levels than rising water levels. "I read the Bible, and God said to Noah, 'No more floods,' " Kofe said. "So I'm not worried. When I see the sea, it's the same as before."European missionaries really did a good job in some parts of the world. They replaced juju superstition with juju superstition overlain by the more authoritative bedrock of biblical literalism. Africans with their faith healings, Koreans with their factious fundamentalism and Latin Americans with their excessive idolatry and Marian cultism, certainly they are bending the spirit of Christianity, and doing away with what little letter of the law was followed....
Amusing article Ok, I promised I'd lighten up on the Iraq stuff. But this article is just too amusing to pass up. It's written from the point of view of a semi-leftie, and though it misses a few key facts , it gets the brunt of the American public's emotion right. A sample:
The last paragraph in particular is dead on. Deterrence is a last resort - you only use it if you've already failed by allowing your enemy to become as powerful as you. Only a fool would embrace deterrence when prevention is on the table, because deterrence is uncertain. What the left doesn't realize is that the choice now is between deterrence and prevention, while the choice during the Cold War was between deterrence and unilateral capitulation. And the author is also correct that the American public's motivation has a large component of hot vengeance alongside the stated motive of cold prevention. The desire for vengeance is the flip side of the "golden rule" (one of the universal components of human morality) and must have had adaptive value to become ubiquitous. Most likely this "adaptive value" arose from revenge's tendency to eliminate those who posed a threat to us in the past so that they will not pose a threat to us in the future. In other words, revenge should not be sneered at as a somehow "impure" motivation. Note also that we can no longer sustain hatred in good conscience...so revenge is all we have left. As for the inevitable incantation that "Al Qaeda is our enemy, not Hussein", I submit that every Arab state that funds terrorism and is hostile to our interests is our enemy, and controlling Iraq's oil gives us the leeway to deal with Saudi Arabia on our terms rather than theirs.  The author is totally wrong about the the possibility that "friendly governments would erupt in revolution". First of all, most Arab governments (e.g. Saudi Arabia) aren't really "friendly", and second of all, they won't erupt. As for the claim that "oil prices will shoot through the roof", that only might be true in the short run. In the long run, oil flow from Iraq will break the back of OPEC and result in far lower oil prices.
Thursday, October 03, 2002
What if there was no Saudi Arabia? What would we call Saudi Arabia if the Saud family is overthrown? What would they call it? Godless comments: I've never understood the fuss over the Saudis naming Arabia after themselves. Think about the places we live: Washington , New York , and the United States of Amerigo de Vespucci. Renaming a place after a ruler is a common occurrence, and I can't see why Jonah Goldberg et. al. think the practice is reprehensible only when the Saudis do it.
A heartless thought Who wants to wager that the spate of AIDS cases in India aren't primarily in the low IQ castes? Not me...
What this prediction omits is that the ones afflicted by AIDS in India will not be the ones central to India's economy. Even if the AIDS rate is high among some groups, the programmers, scientists, and businessmen will generally be unscathed by the disease. They're the ones with the money and the clout, and are often indifferent or worse to the plight of the lower castes. (This hard-heartedness is a necessary quality when you regularly pass shanty towns on the way to work at your software park.) This indifference combined with the puritanical strain of Hinduism promulgated by the ruling right-wing BJP will translate into a reluctance to pass laws calling for socialized AIDS treatment. In other words, the wealthy/high IQ will probably not care enough to spend a "major amount of their budgets" cleaning up after the poor decisions of their low IQ countrymen. This sort of thing plays out often in India, because the caste system has saddled/gifted the country with perhaps the highest IQ variance/inborn inequality in the world. The pattern of endogamous intermarriage has effects that reach beyond the maintenance and promotion of inequality. Unlike (say) Finland or Sweden, the lack of relative genetic uniformity means that there's less "brotherly caring" between groups. And if one is not expected to be one's "brother's keeper", one can't expect to be an unrelated-low IQ-AIDS infected-individual's keeper... Razib comments: I'm not as sanguine on this issue. Africans don't have a well developed welfare state either, but HIV/AIDS has affected their economies considerably. Certainly wandering unsocialized orphans in the countryside serve as a drag on social development as people have to spend more money on security and won't venture into certain areas. Also, ethnic differentials do occur in Africa as well. The Zulu have a much higher proportion of HIV infected than the Xhosa or whites (circumcision among the Xhosa and Afrikaaners certainly contribute to this) in South Africa, while the Luo in Kenya have much higher rates than other groups (again, circumcision is said to be the primary reason for this difference). In addition, from what I have read of Indian society, high caste males do exploit low caste women sexually. Over the past few years I have also encountered stories of closeted males having sex with many men but still remaining married. Though I suspect that the frequency of sexual encounters is probably lower in Indian men, this sort of furtiveness does not bode well . Overall, I think that the issue is whether India follows the Thai or African pattern. I suspect India will follow the Thai pattern, with HIV rates staying below 5%, and therefore not dragging the economy that much as most of the effect will be on marginal members of society, rather than whole cross-sections like parts of Africa.  Unlike Africa, India has a long tradition of valuing the power of celibacy, Vajpayee for instance is a celibate bachelor due to a vow he took as a young man.
Speak not ill of the dead-is not something we honor here.... Paul Gross, co-author of the anti-postmodernist tract Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels With Science, reviews the career of Stephen Jay Gould in The New Criterion. Some excerpts:
Alternative accounts? In 1972, Niles Eldredge and S. J. Gould, paleontologists, published “Punctuated Equilibria: an Alternative to Phyletic Gradualism.” By this they meant that macroevolution—effectively, speciation—does not happen slowly and continuously, but rather by abrupt large jumps separated by long periods of stasis. This was contrasted with Darwin’s (supposedly) mistaken emphasis upon “gradualism”—evolution via the accumulation of small changes over time. Erected into theory, belabored, “punk-ek” became familiar in the business. Unfortunately, it is not a contrast or an alternative to the standard science ... As description, punk-ek was interesting; as a revolution in theory, well, it wasn’t. ... Among examples of sham inquiry were Gould’s celebrated assaults on IQ. The opening broadside was his 1981 book, The Mismeasure of Man. Everywhere except in reviews by qualified psychologists it received frantic acclaim, and in due course a National Book Critics Circle award. Gould exorcised the psychometricians, who study the meaning and heritability of cognitive performance—intelligence—as measured in tests. Gould’s late re-issue of Mismeasure had more demons from cognitive educational psychology, as used for example by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray in their widely denounced book The Bell Curve. Journalists and non-specialist critics, writing in lay journals, affixed the laurels to Gould’s brow. Their relief was exquisite upon learning that there is no such thing as measurable intelligence. Experts, on the other hand, offered as usual mixed opinion, negative predominant. ...On an aside, one of the science teachers I had in high school basically presented punctuated equilibria as the "next big thing" and "Darwinism" as old news.
Losing weight-what is "natural"? I've lost about 20-25 pounds since the beginning of April . I lost 15 pounds while staying at my parents' place for about a month, and the rest since then more slowly. I've cut down on how much I eat, especially carbohydrates, and increased my protein intake. But what I was wondering the other day-how "natural" is it to feel "stuffed." I am basically practicing portion control, and though I'm not starving myself, I am hungry during the day. Before, when I was hungry, I'd eat to sate it. In fact, I had a tendency to gorge to point of getting that pleasant full feeling. I still eat large portions sometimes-just to feel full, but it is the exception now. When our ancestors were hunter-gatherers (or even more recently), how often did they feel "stuffed." Is this just part of the peacock effect ? I don't know enough about nutritional paleoanthropology to comment. What is "undernourished" and "overnourished" exactly? Is feeling somewhat hungry our natural state? Is the "stuffed" pleasantness around simply so that we maximize our intake when there is enough food around? What I'm getting at is this: we all know overeating when we see it, but do we really know what normal levels of consumption are? What was normal in the evolutionary context?  My BMI has gone from 25.5 to 22.4. Though I've been hovering in the 23-24 range since I was about 21, I started gaining more weight the past year, likely due to a more sedentary lifestyle.  Female peacocks go for big tails, and in fact, when artificially long tails are put on male peacocks, they are even more attracted to them. Of course, there is a point in nature when a long tale is deleterious to survival, and so there is a natural limit. The female peacock has no mental upper bound because reality sets it for her. Similarly, I am suggesting that we like to eat because we know more food is better chance at survival, in our natural state we were always "undernourished." This is an easy explanation for obese people, but I am starting to wonder if even the 2,000-3,000 calorie a day diet is "normal." If it feels good, does that count against it???
The Bachelor-episode 2 3 out of the 4 women I predicted for the "final 4" ladies made it through the first cut where 10 out of 25 were culled. I said that the Asian girl would be the only non-white making it past the first cut, but I was wrong, the brown chick made it too! He didn't choose either of the two black girls, though I thought one of them was pretty attractive, I won't ascribe racism as the motivation. It seemed like both the girls had strong personalities. Boy were the women catty! The initial contact involved a "party" where the 25 women had to impress him with their conversational skills so he'd select 15 of them to move on. Some of the morons were already fainting with the image of marrying the lug (who by the way has a degree in engineering, so he can't be a total idiot). One of the women was Miss Idaho, and here an exchange she had with another contestant: Other woman: You were Miss Idaho? That's so cool. Miss Idaho: Yeah, I was. Other woman: There aren't that many women in Idaho though! One woman to watch: Helene. She's a brunette so she stands out from the flaxen-haired crowd, and she's got a nice smile. The picture isn't too flattering in my opinion.
Jokes from pole to pole A friend sent me a link to this story about jokes around the world. The most puzzling thing to me: "Of the countries rating the highest number of jokes, Germans, perhaps surprisingly, laughed the most. Canadians laughed least." The Canadians I can understand, all their comics come to the US and get famous, but Germans???
"Facts" of life Michelle Cottle rages over the a priori commitment to abstinence pushed by the Bush administration. It seems that it's not only Leftists that will allow their ideology to overwhelm any concern to the facts on the ground.
The Post piece details accusations by sex-education advocates and HIV-prevention groups that the Bushies are "waging a widespread campaign of disinformation and intimidation that is hampering AIDS prevention work across the country." The groups--including Advocates for Youth, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the Gay Men's Health Crisis--expressed concern that a Health and Human Services (HHS) review of all grants to AIDS prevention, treatment, and research groups is in part motivated by the administration's hostility toward any form of sex ed that does not focus solely on abstinence. HHS has also launched an investigation to determine if several AIDS programs either promote sexual activity or are too sexually explicit. By contrast, the head of Advocates for Youth told the Post, HHS has refused to conduct audits of abstinence-only programs--even after a federal court ruled that the state of Louisiana was illegally using its federal abstinence funding to promote religion.I don't know where I stand on the abstinence only stuff really as far as whether it works or not. I don't know many people that abstained before marriage as I'm only in my mid-20s and don't know many people that are married yet. This is probably a reflection of my social circle, as many people from my high school that I have had no contact with (especially Mormons) got married right after they graduated from what I hear (and many of them have now divorced in their mid-20s!). Maybe abstinence only works for people too stupid to think about the consequences of casual sex with strangers. But certainly its outcome seems like it is something that should be allowed to play out on on the local level before federal decisions are made. From what I've seen in my own life abstinence only works if one has an expectation of getting married before 20 (as many conservative religious youth probably will), but it's pretty unrealistic for people that want to get their college degree and settled in their careers before they get married. Of course, it is the latter group that probably doesn't need "sex education" to tell them when to do the deed. Maybe people should change it from "abstinence only" to "abstinence only for teenagers." Telling people to wait on sex is going up a rather steep hill. Might be better to tell 12 year olds to get engaged before they graduate from high school. That might prevent pre-marital sex.
Wednesday, October 02, 2002
Ah, multitasking I can't believe it took years of internet time before someone came up with this. What a brilliant, time saving concept. [Warning - Parental advisory, explicit links...]
What hath globalization wrought? This article talks about the cultural transformation happening Nigeria with the success of a thin Miss World. An excerpt:
Among the Calabari people in southeastern Nigeria, fat has traditionally held a cherished place. Before their weddings, brides are sent to fattening farms, where their caretakers feed them huge amounts of food and massage them into rounder shapes. After weeks inside the fattening farms, the big brides are finally let out and paraded in the village square.This kind of sounds hilarious. I wonder how popular buffet chains would be in Nigeria if it ever became prosperous enough to sprout a consumer culture. On an aside, many extremely thin women aren't particularly attractive to heterosexual men. It happens to be that women and gay men tend to care more about fashion and pageants than straight men and so the women that are successful in these fields don't necessarily reflect the preferences of straight men. Take a look at the women in the SI Swimsuit issue and take a look at some tape of the runway, and you'll see that the former are a subset of the latter. The more cadaverous of the runway models would only be the fantasies of deviant males.
Sowell's wrong I don't have time (for a few days at least) to deal with Thomas Sowell's column 1 and 2 on race and IQ, so I'm going to post a letter I wrote to a interested correspondent on the topic. I want to begin by giving Sowell major credit for mentioning the race/IQ issue in public in the first place. Even though he's wrong (as I'll briefly detail), he's done us all a service by daring to broach the issue at all. Ok - let's get to the nitty gritty:
Ancient Egyptians-in black and white.... Letter from Gotham e-mailed me this link to an article on the reconstruction of Tutankhamen's face. Diane thinks that the face looks Negroid. What's your opinion?
I think the face looks racially mixed-and probably on the Negroid side for ancient Egyptians. Here is one qualification from the story:
Robin Richards, a facial rebuilding expert from University College London, scanned the features of people of the same age, sex, build and ethnic group as Tutankhamen to create an approximation of skin type, which was wrapped onto the 3D digital skull.So there are some assumptions being made.
Dumb as a blonde? Well, seems the blonde extinction story was a hoax or something. Funny though, everyone was reporting it. I can now relax. And yeah, klemps was right, don't trust the NY Post!
Tuesday, October 01, 2002
Peek-a-boo creationism In a triumphant hurry to discredit the liberal (read non-scientific) press, John West on FoxNews.com sticks both his feet headlong into his mouth as he tries to explain why we should go to bat for some idiot educators who want to reintroduce creationism into the school curriculum.
On Sept. 26 the Cobb County school board unanimously approved a policy encouraging teachers to discuss "disputed views" about evolution as part of a "balanced education." Critics of the policy are already crying foul, asserting that the policy is a thinly-disguised attempt to smuggle the Bible into science class. ... The only problem with this contention was that the school board explicitly said the opposite-- but the media didn't bother to report that fact! "We expect teachers to continue to teach the theory of evolution," said school board chair Curtis Johnston at the meeting during which the policy was adopted. "We do not expect teachers to teach creationism... Religion has no place in science instruction."You might think West is on to something, but this snarky little commentator is not finished leading you down his devious little garden path. He first enlists the aid of local scientists who, believe it or not, have something new to replace Darwinism.. Argumentum ad novitatem piled high on top of a thin layer Argumentum ad verecundiam..? (yes I can mangle Latin with the best of them) West then proceeds to very carefully sets up a straw-man, by phrasing this as a science vs. religion debate, and then pulls a rabbit out of his hat to prove that it isn't. It's all about scientific dogma, that is just as bad as religous dogma..! see..? You know where this article is headed, don't you. In case you didn't, here's the suspenseful giveaway. I have to admit I read until the very end and if I didn't know any better, would have easily been fooled..
Today, growing numbers of scientists are raising serious questions about Darwinian theory. Some of them, like biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University and mathematician William Dembski of Baylor University, are proposing a "scientific" "alternative" to Darwinism known as intelligent design. Other scientists are simply pointing out that the underlying "evidence" for Darwinian "theory" is a lot more "complicated"--and "controverted"--than is usually presented to students. (emphasis and scare quotes all mine, I'm afraid)Someone should send West to remedial Philosophy 101, failing which, he should at least be forced to re-examine the argument by design fallacy. UPDATE: Oh, did some digging into the Discovery Institute, and understood where West was coming from. It just happens to be the hotbed of ID panjandrums looking to, er, rule the world or something
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
Razib at Comment is Free
Principles of Population Genetics
Genetics of Populations
Evolutionary Quantitative Genetics
Molecular Markers, Natural History, and Evolution
The Genetics of Human Populations
Genetics and Analysis of Quantitative Traits
Epistasis and Evolutionary Process
Evolutionary Human Genetics
Mathematical Models in Biology
Evolutionary Genetics: Case Studies and Concepts
Narrow Roads of Gene Land 1
Narrow Roads of Gene Land 2
Narrow Roads of Gene Land 3
Statistical Methods in Molecular Evolution
The History and Geography of Human Genes
Population Genetics and Microevolutionary Theory
Population Genetics, Molecular Evolution, and the Neutral Theory
Genetical Theory of Natural Selection
Evolution and the Genetics of Populations
Genetics and Origins of Species
Tempo and Mode in Evolution
Causes of Evolution
The Great Human Diasporas
Bones, Stones and Molecules
Natural Selection and Social Theory
Journey of Man
Mapping Human History
The Seven Daughters of Eve
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
The Ancestor's Tale
Dragon Bone Hill
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
The Selfish Gene
Adaptation and Natural Selection
Nature via Nurture
The Symbolic Species
The Imitation Factor
The Red Queen
Out of Thin Air
The Origin of Species
The Descent of Man
Age of Abundance
The Darwin Wars
Of Moths and Men
The Language Instinct
How We Decide
The Black Swan
Fooled By Randomness
In Gods We Trust
A Theory of Religion
The Meme Machine
The Mating Mind
A Separate Creation
The Number Sense
The 10,000 Year Explosion
The Math Gene
Origin and Evolution of Cultures
Dawn of Human Culture
The Origins of Virtue
Prehistory of the Mind
The Nurture Assumption
The Moral Animal
Born That Way
No Two Alike
Survival of the Prettiest
The Blank Slate
The g Factor
The Origin Of The Mind
Defenders of the Truth
The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition
Before the Dawn
Behavioral Genetics in the Postgenomic Era
The Essential Difference
Geography of Thought
The Classical World
The Fall of the Roman Empire
The Fall of Rome
History of Rome
How Rome Fell
The Making of a Christian Aristoracy
The Rise of Western Christendom
Keepers of the Keys of Heaven
A History of the Byzantine State and Society
Europe After Rome
The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity
The Barbarian Conversion
A History of Christianity
Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople
The Sacred Chain
Divided by the Faith
Pursuit of Glory
From Plato to Nato
China: A New History
China in World History
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Children of the Revolution
When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World
The Great Arab Conquests
A History of Iran
The Horse, the Wheel, and Language
A World History
Guns, Germs, and Steel
The Human Web
Plagues and Peoples
A Concise Economic History of the World
Power and Plenty
A Splendid Exchange
Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD
Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations
A Farewell to Alms
The Ascent of Money
The Great Divergence
Clash of Extremes
War and Peace and War
The Age of Lincoln
The Great Upheaval
What Hath God Wrought
Freedom Just Around the Corner
Throes of Democracy
Grand New Party
A Beautiful Math
When Genius Failed
Catholicism and Freedom
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