Friday, December 13, 2002

Quote of the day Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Quote of the day
"One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words socialism and communism draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, Nature-cure quack, pacifist and feminist in England... "We have reached a stage when the very word socialism calls up, on the one hand, a picture of airplanes, tractors and huge glittering factories of glass and concrete; on the other, a picture of vegetarians with wilting beards, of Bolshevik commissars (half gangster, half gramophone), or earnest ladies in sandals, shock-headed Marxists chewing polysyllables, escaped Quakers, birth control fanatics, and Labour Party backstairs-crawlers. "If only the sandals and pistachio-colored shirts could be put in a pile and burnt, and every vegetarian, teetotaler and creeping Jesus sent home to Welwyn Garden City to do his yoga exercises quietly. As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents."

~George Orwell Thanks to Professor Bunyip for reproducing this quote....

Lot of Lott Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Bill Maher semi-defended Trent Lott on Leno's show. Or at least he was not comfortable with the idea of someone being pushed out for one thing they said. Jay was making fun of Lott all night...bad sign (a funny sketch with the KKK). Steve Sailer is trying to swim against the blogosphere current that's sweeping Lott down the river. Steve thinks that we're going down a slippery slope. Perhaps. I think the anti-Lott sentiment has more to do with his perceived ineffectiveness and sliminess.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Froogle Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

All the world's products in one place they say. Hey, Google pays the bills...well, not really.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Overclock your organic Pentium Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Here is Greg Cochran's fascinating piece on "Overclocking" over at Jerry Pournelle's site. The opening paragrah of his pithy essay will give you a good taste:
There is a good chance that an odd cluster of hereditary neurological diseases among the Ashkenazi Jews is a side-effect of strong selection for increased intelligence. The idea is not really new, but the evidence has gotten stronger with time, and I have recently found some intriguing supporting data.. Four of these syndromes - Tay-Sachs, Niemann-Pick, Gaucher's, and mucolipidosis type IV - are recessive lysosomal storage diseases. The first three of these are caused by deficient variants of enzymes that break down sphingolipids, which play a role in neuron membrane structure and also as signaling molecules. Homozygotes, who have no working copy of the breakdown enzymes, become ill. Tay-Sachs and Niemann-Pick cause retardation and death in childhood, but Gaucher's disease is milder and more variable. The form common in Ashkenazi Jews does not cause brain damage, although there can be other problems with the spleen and bones. . Mucolipidosis type IV probably involves a defect in endocytosis. It causes retardation and death in early life.
Thanks to David Mercer for pointing it out to me.

The blindness of the idolaters.... Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Note: Thanks to Randall Parker for getting me to fix a lot of typos...I've been blogging on the fly on my breaks from my work.... This story about the travails of India's Brahmins was forwarded to me by a friend. It is interesting, so I forwarded it off to Suman to comment on it, but alas my pagan bhai did not find it illuminating enough to scratch his blogging itch-so I will step forward. I do it a bit self-consciously, because if I had to pick a religion for my children, and it was a binary choice between Hinduism and Islam, I would pick Hinduism (Arya or Brahmo Samaj so that my iconoclastic tendencies are placated). But as someone from a long-standing Muslim family I hesitate to speak much of idolatrous practices as I do have an ancestral aversion to them [1]. Though I find Hindu metaphysics uninteresting and idolatry a bit unnerving, I am true to my Muslims roots in having an almost irrational distaste for caste. Muslims have a class structure, but there is a fluidity and theoretical opportunity that is far different than Hindu caste, which religiously sanctions inequality, as opposed to accepting it as one of the sins of mankind. I have an a priori bias on this issue. Keep that in mind, for perhaps there are great benefits to having a caste system (Gandhi thought it eliminated the more crass competitive aspects of Western culture, and it is not a great surprise that the British aristocracy had a soft spot in their heart for a nobility based on blood). Brahmins form ~ 5% or so of India's population. They are overrepresented among the intellectual classes. Chandrasekhar and Tagore for instance, the two early Indian Nobel prize winners (Physics and Literature) were Brahmins (this might also be indicative of the strengths of Tamil and Bengali Brahmins respectively). As the article makes clear, Brahmin privilege is a fact of life. But quotas and discrimination are also facts of life. As I've mentioned before, South Asians do not have an aversion to talk about human biodiversity, likely because of a history of endogamy. The article moots ideas that imply Brahmin genetic superiority. In addition, it broaches the questions of history, did Brahmins reach their positions of power by manipulating British prejudices? I don't believe that caste was invented by Europeans. But, Europeans tended to systematize it, and so crystallized structures that before might have been a bit more fluid. There are instances of castes changing status throughout Indian history, and before the Gupta era (400 CE) caste was likely far more fluid, especially with the rise of non-Indian and Sudra warlords that would attain the status of Kshatriyas [2]. The evidence seems clear that upper caste Indians are relatively recent residents of India compared to lower caste Indians. This dovetails well with the historical record of conquest by invaders from the northwest over older residents of the subcontinent [3]. Revisionists tend to dismiss the fact that the "Dasas" were dark and snub-nosed, but I think one has to be blind to not to notice that lower-caste and Dravidian (linguistically non-Aryan) south Indians are darker and more snub-nosed than upper caste or north Indians. So caste is real. Brahmins probably are somewhat smarter than other Indians. And so forth. What does that mean? The article above goes into detail about the political calculus that dominates the Indian consensus: in the north (the Hindi-heartland) Brahmins are numerous enough and ally with other clean twice-born castes (Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Kayasthas) to maintain political power and representation in the civil service [4]. In the south, where Brahmins are only 3% of the population, and the Dravidian masses harbor ill will against them as alien interlopers from the north they have lost the trappings of power. This sentiment was initiated and abetted by the British, who reassured their fellow Aryan Brahmin brothers of how superior they were, while attempting to convert the lower castes to Christianity. In the south the civil service is dominated by non-Brahmins, presumably intellectually challenged incompetents. It seems that from that one would gather that the social situation in the north would be far better than that in the south, as we presume that the upper castes have more genetic capital and would be better at governance. And yet anyone who knows the situation on the ground will know this is not the case. Not only do the two southern states of Karnataka and Andhara Pradesh serve as the leading lights for India's high-tech revolution, but Kerala and Tamil Nadu, two states less prosperous than their northern neighbors, have vital statistics far better than the states of the Hindi heartland. What is going on here? Clearly the fragmented coalition politics of the north has lead to an ossification of a backward social system, while the disenfranchisement in the south of Brahmins and other elites has led to change and a more equitable distribution of resources. No doubt it is unjust that Brahmins are kept out of the civil service, but as a libertarian, I must ask the question, what good is a civil service anyway? Perhaps incompetent Dalit clerks are less efficient in extracting bribes than smooth-talking Brahmins. The article notes that south Indian Brahmins have channeled their energies to the private sector, leading to the rise of the high-tech sector in Bangalore and Hyderabad. In the north, Brahmins, if they have the same genetic capital, are more likely to be found in government service than the private sector, and you have a more Third World pattern of career aspiration (government work rather than private sector work is more lucrative with officials acting more like the ancient Roman publicani than public servants). I know that some patent clerks do great scientific work on the side, but no doubt many wasted their lives when they could have been doing something innovative. Now I must also ask, why is it that Brahmins, and in particular southern Brahmins, are so intelligent, at least from the fruit of their endeavors? I think the answer is hypergamy. It is not unheard of among some Brahmin groups for younger sons to marry women of a caste just below them (the Namboothiri Brahmins of Kerala do this with Nayars). It seems reasonable that Brahmins, their ritual purity guaranteeing prestige, would only risk sullying their blood with promising individuals, or at least women from important families. Remember, even high caste individuals are mostly "Asian" rather than "European" in mt-DNA, so it seems likely that the newcomers picked the more exceptional individuals for mates. Over many generations, even a small amount of inter-caste marriage would likely lead to the percolation upward of exceptional genetic talents. I think that South Indian Brahmins, because of their small numbers, and the scarcity of "Aryan blood" in the south, could be even pickier than Brahmins in the north, where the gap between Kshatriyas and Brahmins was small enough that the latter likely had less leverage in mate selection from the masses (exceptional lower caste brides in this scenario would not have been concentrated among the 3% Brahmin upper caste but among the 40% Brahmin-Kshatriya-Vaisya upper caste triumvirate). But with the freezing of caste lines during modern times, this process of hypergamy likely stopped (only 5% of Indian castes practice it). Affluence and literacy often lead to an increase in "traditional" behavior because it is more feasible, so just as Muslims show more fidelity toward the strictures of the Koran once they can read it and comprehend it (or more likely the local cleric can), Hindus with greater caste consciousness because of a historical and social understanding of who they are are perhaps less likely to accept someone of eminent abilities "marrying up" into their level. In addition, the ancient trick of moving geographically and rising up the social ladder is likely more difficult today in the age of instantaneous communication than it was in the past when data was more at a premium and historical creativity the norm. The ancient Chinese had a saying: Three generations up, three generations down. Augustus Caesar already saw in his long life the withering of ancient patrician lines and he attempted to arrest the decline of the aristocracy and halt the rise of the equestrian order. Churn is the order of the day throughout the history of our species, all of us have the blood of kings and beggars within us. Hernstein and Murray argued in THE BELL CURVE that in the United States this churn is not as prevalent as it once was, doctors are more likely to marry other doctors than acquire a trophy wife (back in the days when there were few female doctors and women were judged more on their physique than their intellect-and I mean it half-seriously at least). In nations like China and Korea where the population's physical appearance is homogeneous there is less of a shock for a peasant to rise to prominence, because the face of a peasant is not that different from the face of a plutocrat. Though East Asian societies are straight-jacketed by nepotism and cronyism, they have no metaphysical or theological opposition to the meritocracy per se. Not so with India. In the future The Hindu Rate of Growth might very well be dependent on whether India decides to abandon its adherence to caste, and follow its westernized elites and begin to value accomplishments (wealth) more (the great middle-class of Indian castes, from village Brahmins to small landholder are probably the ones who favor retention of caste, while the rarified elite can dispense with it and the outcastes would like to move past it). It is obvious that those in positions of power and intellectuals will have more social and genetic capital that the unwashed masses (on average). On the other hand, while in China a brilliant son of a janitor might rise to lead the nation, would Indians allow a black-skinned Dalit to take the helm of the nation? (In more than a symbolic role) And perhaps in the long run more importantly, would they allow a brilliant Dalit to marry their daughter? OK, that's enough brown for me for a while.... [1] My paternal grandmother was from a Bengali Brahmin family that converted to Islam around 1920 after their tenants began to become restive about having to deal with a Hindu landlord. My paternal grandfather was from an ashraf family, the class of Muslims that claims descent from non-Indians, generally Persian, Turkish or Afghan. Many ashraf in Bengal make up their ancestry, but my grandfather's physiognomy was non-Bengali enough that there was probably something to it. My mother's family claims an Islamic pedigree of about five centuries through both her parents. [2] Kshatriyas are the ruling and military class in the caste system, though their true occupation is often far less glamorous today or even in the recent past. Many ancient rulers of India, like the Maurya dynasty, were elevated Sudras. In addition, before the conquests of the Muslims, invaders from the northwest (White Huns, Kushanas, Greeks, etc.) had regularly supplemented India's ruling Kshatriya class. The Rajputs for instance have some of the same central Asian antecedents that I likely do, though my non-Indian ancestors came later after their foreskins had been snipped and they walked in the path of the One God. [3] India is not particularly special in this regard, as China and Europe regularly succumbed to barbarian conquest. All three major civilizations tended to absorb the newcomers, or eject them, the only exception being the Muslims in India. The reason that nomadic horseman so easily conquered outnumbered dense sedentary civilizations is that the former were natural warriors who could easily escape defeat, while the latter needed to be well organized and trained for warfare, and outlay of resources were not always manageable. In addition, India has the added burden of not being a good breeding ground for horses. [4] Minutiae for those out of the loop, the main general caste categories are Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaisyas (commoners) and Sudras (servile population). Dalits or outcastes exist outside caste. The Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas are "clean" castes who wear the sacred thread that marks them as twice-born and of higher status. Some scholars speculate that the three top castes have their origins in early Indo-European social structures, while the Sudras have their origins among the conquered "Dasas." Of course there is far too much mixture to assert with clear and clean accuracy these sort of assertions deterministically, but they surely have some probabilistic validity, though nou doubt some indigenous shamans become Brahmans and many an indigenous warlord become Aryanized. Note that this generally applies only to the north, especially the Hindi states where about half of Indians live. In the deep south, where Indo-Aryan languages never "took," the only upper caste are the Brahmins, who trace their ancestry to the north. So the dynamics in the south are rather different, for powerful Sudra clans remained in temporal positions of importance rather than being reduced to servile status by Aryan and Aryanized warlords.

Monday, December 09, 2002

Another one joining the legions of darkness? Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

I'm taking a small break from my development project, so I was kicking back with the book A Brain For All Seasons: Human Evolution & Abrupt Climate Change by William Calvin. I've read many of his other books and didn't find him to be particularly controversial. But I stumbled upon this on page 41:
...There is far more variation within modern African Homo Sapiens than there is within the Out of Africa groups. Modern Africans really need the variation in reserve, just to work around the challenges from their parasite load and their fickle climate. The Asians and Europeans, besides being less rich in genetic variations that they can tap, seem to have specialized somewhat toward one end of the parental-care spectrum, concentrating on relatively fewer offspring (their biology results in having fewer fraternal twins) who grow up more slowly (somewhat slower growth rates, later puberty, and so forth).
More on page 61:
You see a lot of assumptions about bigger brains having been important for colonizing Eurasia with its wintertime challenges, but that's simplistic. I certainly suspect that the different environments of Eurasia caused some variants among the African immigrants to thrive better than others (and planning ability is often needed to get through the winter), and I'm quite willing to assume that the somewhat bigger brains came along with a package, but I'd really like to know what that package is.

From Middle America to Empty America Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

This article on the social ills of rural America is very instructive about the way things are in this country, despite nostalgia from the Right and hope from the Left. Those of us on the Right have to remember that these rural communities are not being destroyed by urban liberalism, rather it is agribusiness, and the pork subsidies supported by "conservatives" and "liberals" alike from these states that are sapping many agricultural regions (of people if not economic productivity). In addition, Latino immigrants are taking over blue-collar jobs and depressing wages. Even without Latino immigration and agribusiness subsidies (thanks ADM-you feed the world and suck up a a lot of pork) economies of scale make smaller farmers inefficient, and business supply chains and vertical integration make the communities built around farmers less relevant. It seems like these towns will slowly die as young people move to more economically dynamic regions, most likely exurbs that are meeting them in the middle as they expand from hub cities. But the lure of the $30,000 4 bedroom house also holds promise, the telecommuting revolution opens a portal for those willing to step through and relocate to areas that might have housing in abundance, because of a population decline. Those who can do their jobs via e-mail and phone (I do some of this myself, though it has its downsides) could relocate to these small towns if they wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Of course, the crime and violence that is surging up in these locales does not hold promise as brochure material, but someone who might be able to pay a house in full would also be able to finance better security systems. Oh, and why don't we pay attention to these rural regions in decline as opposed to urban ghettos? The media is located in the large cities, where they might have to drive through blighted regions. You don't see much past the interstate when driving between Seattle and Portland, Chicago and Minneapolis, Boston and Buffalo. Also, "white trash" tends to elicit far less sympathy than the "underclass" (code word: poor colored folk). Update: This article was blogged elsewhere....

Genes Reveal Andamanese Origins Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

This Wired story sums a new study about to be released by Current Biology. No big surprise, the people of the Andamans are descended from Paleolithic people (as are we all actually :) and closer to Asians than Africans.

Reason blog Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Reason has a blog.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

And you shall be as the gods.... Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Over at Randall Parker's Future Pundit blog he comments on my post on religion and scientists. He broaches the topic of genetically engineering someone toward religiosity. Two questions I'd like to address: Will genetic engineering result in the withering of religion? [1] If it does not, how will religion change? What are the implications for modern religions? On the first question, I think religiosity has many factors. Germans have the same genetic background, but there is a spectrum of religiosity from southern Catholics, to northern Protestants, to secular easterners [2]. National and familial history are crucial, and well known. But people often do not wonder at their own propensities that might be hard-wired. Religious scholar Rodney Stark of the University of Washington believes that the reason that men are less religious than women cross-culturally is that there are biological underpinnings, for instance risk-taking men are possibly less likely to embrace religious concepts like delayed self-gratification. There can be many explanations for this discrepancy, but we should not discard a biological explanation out of hand. I have also wondered as to whether human biodiversity could explain religious differences, as religiosity tends to follow Rushton's Rule-Asians are the most secular, Africans the most religious (you can see it on a world-wide scale, or at the level of ethnic groups in the United States). On a more physiological level, neuroscientists have recently been finding clues that there are could possibly be a god module in the brain, just as psycholinguists have long asserted that there is a "language instinct" to use a Pinkerism. Though I think increased IQ (religious people would probably say hubris) and material success will be factors in diminishing religiosity, there is an opposing factor we often don't talk about: most parents want their children to be more religiously observant and show greater fidelity to their faith tradition than they do themselves. If there is a god module, religious people would surely want to load the dice in their child's favor. Each generation might beget more religious people. Conversely, secular people might want their children to be less inclined to need "a crutch." So one might see a future that is even more polarized than today. But one thing that religious people might not want to face up to is that genetic alternation might very well in the process make us almost god-like in our potentialities. This is certainly the long term prognosis-if humanity does not destroy itself, some of us will achieve god-like status. Speculating on the psychology of a post-human future is perilous at best, but I think it is reasonable that it will entail a greater change in spirituality than that of the "axial age" between 600 BCE and 600 CE (almost all modern great religious started in this time frame). In a world where lives are inexorably extended, criminal tendencies are eliminated, and virtue is pre-programmed into our genes, it seems much of the raison detre of religion would be gone. The allegorical power of the phrase "and you shall be as gods" takes on a whole new meaning. But the post-human future and its implications on theism has been mooted at length in science fiction. On the other hand, an analysis of genetic engineering on specific faiths and tenets has been less thoroughly explored. For instance, what of free will in a world where some might be naturally inclined toward religious belief because their parents "enhanced" their god module? Conversely, would it be just to damn those who might have had parents who genetically engineered them to have little interest and understanding of spiritual transcendence? Some religions (Islam, Calvinism for instance) accept predestination, so perhaps this would be more congenial to them, but what about religions such as Baptism or Catholicism that place more emphasis on free will (many Protestants out of the nonconformist tradition emphasize that choice is important, explaining late baptism practiced by Baptists)? As human beings become progressively more intelligent, devotional religion might also decrease in popularity, while more rationalistic faiths ascend. By rationalistic, I do not mean tolerant or liberal, but rather more concerned with first principles, rules, etc. rather than experiential aspects of the faith. By this criteria-the Reformed and High Church Christian traditions (traditional Catholicism, Orthodoxy or the national Protestant churches of Europe as well as Calvinism) are rationalistic, while the nonconformist traditions and pietistic strains are more emotional. Aquinas asserted that there are two paths to Christianity, by reason and faith. While only the elite were able to access reason, the particular doctrinal disputes had less saliency for the masses. In a world of hyperintelligent people, doctrinal disputes might come to the fore once more as sincere believers follow theological issues much more closely than they do today. Highly intelligent people of faith often have rather sophisticated rationales for their beliefs, and increased education and intellectualism among religious people would no doubt change the tone of apologia. A rationalistic approach would certainly impact hierarchical structures such as that of Roman Catholicism more than than the decentralized denominations such as the Presbyterian. Priests might have to spend time disputing points of theology with parishioners, who though god-intoxicated might not be inculcated with the same sort of reverence for their betters (this might explain the liberalism of the American Catholic Church as opposed to the traditionalism dominant in the Third World where priests are still more educated and wealthy than their flock). Of course genetic engineering is not guaranteed, religious bans might be imposed in many countries. But, the possibility that religiosity can have a genetic component brings up an interesting (and peculiar possibility): biological proselytization. For instance, suppose religion x employs a geneticist to create a virus that serves as a vector for gene therapy that eventually alters proteins that are involved in certain biochemical processes that make an individual more prone to hallucinations or have feelings of transcendence. Conversely, anti-religious activists (I am skeptical that most non-religious people care this much, but some might) might attempt the reverse. This of course presupposes that said biochemical processes are so amenable to gene therapy. In the former case, unwitting gene therapies could serve as seeding actions in the territory for missionaries who might know ahead of time the sort of hallucinations or feelings their targets are experiencing, adding to their credibility. In any case, this topic is a fertile one. [1] Religion as we know it, defined by some level of supernaturalism, transcendentally justified rituals and group cohesion. [2] I have read that German Protestants who are affiliated with the state subsidized church (as opposed to the Free Churches that exist without state succor) have attendance rates of 5%.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

Where there's a will-there's a white man's burden.... Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

The New York Times reports that Rice University has developed a complex internal code to apply different standards to black and Hispanic students.
But like other colleges, Rice says it remains fiercely committed to having a diverse student body, so in the years since, it has developed creative, even sly ways to meet that goal and still obey the court. Thus the admissions committee, with an undisguised wink, has encouraged applicants to discuss "cultural traditions" in their essays, asked if they spoke English as a second language and taken note, albeit silently, of those identified as presidents of their black student associations.
Later on, the students comment:
Some minority students at Rice said that the university's abandonment of affirmative action, at least in its classical definition, has made them feel an enhanced sense of pride at getting in. Vanessa Costilla, 18, a freshman from Anton, Tex., who is Mexican-American, said her admission to Rice probably meant more than her admission to two Northeastern colleges, Smith and Wellesley, which still give a lift to minority applicants. "I don't think that just because I was Hispanic-American I got into Rice," said Ms. Costilla, the valedictorian of her 25-member high school class and president of "everything except the Future Farmers of America." "I got in," she added, "because I earned it." But Kristin Dukes, 19, a sophomore from Greenville, Tex., who is black, said that many of her classmates were unaware of the university's admissions policies. "At Rice, probably in the back of their minds, kids are still thinking I was privileged to get in because of the color of my skin," said Ms. Dukes, a psychology major. "Just because they have new standards at the university doesn't mean the students at the university feel the same way."
1) So it seems that affirmative-action does have a debilitating effect on the self-esteem of those who get admitted based on different criteria 2) Even this quasi-affirmative action retains a patina of disrepute Stories like this are disheartening, because it shows that the law doesn't matter, college presidents will make sure that their quotas are filled. Perhaps we should just abandon our attempts at meritocracy. Why don't we set quotas-we might save a lot of bureaucratic maneuvering and get the same result.

A big fat bacon lie? Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Over at Reason Michael Fumento skewers the Atkin's diet and the recent study that showed its relative benefits in comparison to the AHA diet. In a few words: conflict of interest.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Animal IQ Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

I'm a cat person myself so I liked this bit from an article about the evolution of dogs

Studies of animal intelligence, and human prejudices about animal intelligence, have long suggested that we take a remarkably self-centered view of the matter: people tend to think animals are smart if they respond to things the same way humans do. Yet comparative psychologists who study animal behavior and intelligence have shown that disparities in how well a particular species learns or solves problems often turn out to have more to do with eyesight, motivation and species-specific ecological adaptations than with underlying intelligence. Cats, for example, do poorly on many animal I.Q. tests simply because it's almost impossible to devise a reward that cats care enough about to work for. Cats could be the original underachievers. Dogs, by comparison, are the animal equivalent of the teacher's pet: they may not be any smarter, but they always pay attention in class and are so eager to please

ID Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Chris Mooney has an article up on the Intelligent Design movement. It certainly exhibits design, though less intelligence in my opinion. As Mooney notes, at least the Young Earth Creationists are intellectually coherent, and more importantly, honest [1]. Update: I suggest everyone who is curious about the explanatory powers of Darwinism and critiques by the ID-folks to check out Boston Review and its evolution archive, in particular H. Allen Orr's articles which respond to Behe et al. in detail. [1] Oh yes, I know that the YEC distort science, using the thickness of moon-dust to prove that the world must be 10,000 years old, but in the broad brush, they are what they are, Defenders of the Faith. The ID people are more faithless and disingenuous than either the YEC or evil goat-horned evolutionists. We take our stands, with sola scriptura or methodological naturalism.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Another pre-Clovis skull? Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Check out this story in The Independent. All the racial talk of it being "Caucasian" is interesting I suppose, but the more important thing is that it's another knife aimed at the heart of the Clovis consensus.

Shoelaces suck too.. Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

It appears the reason I've been buying shoelaces several size too long is because I have not been using the most mathematically elegant of solutions
We demonstrate mathematically that the shortest lacing is neither of these, but instead is a rarely used and unexpected type of lacing known as bow-tie lacing.. Polster said in an article published in the science journal Nature
I tend to lace shoes and boots differently, depending on usage and style... my hunting boots get laced up differently than the no-name brand sneakers from Wal-Mart. I also remember, very distinctly in fact, the first time I laced my own shoes up. Possibly because it's the first mathematically challenging rite-of-passage for little kids. One that sets all of us down the road to independence. After all, if you can tie your own shoelaces, you can be trusted to walk to school by yourself, pick your own meal at the restaurant, use the restroom by yourself, and bit by tiny bit, your life becomes your own..

Does China suck? Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

The New Republic has a nice article on China's "economic miracle." Any comments? I don't know no economics....

The souls of brown folk-and more.... Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

My afterthought on my post about Derbyshire's article on Coon produced a lot of response. I stated that "brown" people should take back the term brown, and that South Asians, I mean brown people, have a particular interest in h-b-d. To R on brown preoccupation with shades of brownness, you might be surprised how much other Asian groups care about skin color. Japanese farm women wear veils in the field, and to be called "black" is a horrible insult in China. A friend of mine from Vietnam commented on how his mother associated dark-skin with low class, while Thais I know are well aware that the average Cambodian is darker than they (a mark of inferiority). The Incas often brought light-skinned Amazonian women into their harems. Among American blacks, there is a spectrum, from red bone (off white/light tan), high yellow (tan or very light brown) all the way to skillet blonde (very dark). India, because of the prevalence of microraces and endogamy displays color consciousness more noticeably, as light-skinned Brahmin groups might live in the same region as dark-skinned Sudras, while in China, light-skinned northerners would not mix in such close proximity with darker Cantonese (until more recent economic dislocations). But I believe that the difference is of degree. I had a close friend who was Eurasian and from Singapore, and the first question people would ask him as a child is "what race are you?" To Sanjay's point that not all Indians aren't brown-well, as someone who's family socialized freely with very light-skinned Punjabis and who's maternal grandmother sports the familiar nickname of "red grandmother" owing to her rather un-Bengali fair ruddiness, I understand your objection. On the other hand, living in a white society here in the United States, you must also remember that an exotic name and anything darker than off-white will label you as non-white, and if your exotic name is Indian, brown. The vast majority of Indians are brown, even if you look at the Miss India's, they are still brown, though a very light shade (one was also Anglo-Indian and another 1/4 English). Indians can often pick out regional and social/caste differences in phenotype, but to white people (aside from a few discerning types such as Steve Sailer and to those who have lived in South Asia) we all look the same (in general). Black is black, even if you are as fair-skinned as Jennifer Beals (who could pass as southern European) If you don't think cultural origins make a difference, ask all the swarthy Greeks and Italians who are white, and all the light-skinned Syrians and Turks who are non-white. And why do you care that there is discrimination against dark-skinned women Sanjay? That just leaves plenty more for you.... Update: Readers will find this Steve Sailer article on blondes as well as this non-PC FAQ on race over at Human Races Archive interesting when it comes to explaining attitudes toward color. I do believe that higher levels of testosterone make one darker-explaining why in any population men are darker than women. Just as high testosterone causes the strong jaws and rugged appearance associated with virility, and a strong immune system, dark skin might also be a sign of health. The hypotheses are myriad, and I'll wait to see what the readers come up with before I weigh in....

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Why are black kids doing badly in school? Some real reasons.... Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

This article follows up on Steve Sailer's column on Scott Phelps-the science teacher that fingered black behavioral problems as detrimental to the educational atmosphere. The article goes back and forth, but at least it is airing more controversial topics. Thanks to Number 2 Pencil and Joanne Jacobs for the link.

Give h-b-d a chance Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

So sayeth John Derbyshire in his latest NRO column. Here is the most relevant point to me:
Write a paper arguing that words have no meaning, or that Cleopatra's mother tongue was Yoruba, and you'll get a Ph.D., lifetime tenure at the university of your choice, and a talk show on some obscure cable channel. Wonder aloud why the Ainu of Japan look like Scottish highlanders, and you will be cast out into the place of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Is it me, or is there something weirdly wrong here?
Before I was very familiar with genetics, I did read Coon et al. and concluded it were interesting, but not very scientific (insofar as he had collected many facts, and interesting ones at that, but I really wasn't convinced of his system, especially his idea that the five primary races descended from divergent hominid lineages, an erzatz multiregionalism) [1]. But Derbyshire is right, compared to what passes as "scholarship" in the modern academy, Coon has a leg up because at least he used hard data. [1] By the way, does anyone wonder if brown people are especially interested in h-b-d or what? Seems like a lot of our readers, and many of Steve Sailer's correspondents are brown*.... * I think South Asians should retake the word brown as ours. I know some Latinos are using the term "brown power," I think we need to get our asses in gear, or they'll steal brown from us like the native tribes of the New World stole "Indian" from us while people from the Carribean are "West Indian," as if they even count! I mean, South Asian sounds too clinical. Brown is so much more colorful.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Quality of government Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Here is the abstract of an interesting article I came across at work this morning. Note that it's written by highly respected economists from Harvard, Yale and Chicago. Here is the link to the abstract and publication details.

We investigate empirically the determinants of the quality of governments in a large cross-section of countries. We assess government performance using measures of government intervention, public sector efficiency, public good provision, size of government, and political freedom. We find that countries that are poor, close to the equator, ethnolinguistically heterogeneous, use French or socialist laws, or have high proportions of Catholics or Muslims exhibit inferior government performance. We also find that the larger governments tend to be the better performing ones. The importance of historical factors in explaining the variation in government performance across countries sheds light on the economic, political, and cultural theories of institutions.

*nix vs. M$ Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Here's another story on what costs more, MS or Linux. It displays a little bias.... Update: More objective article on the same study.

Monday, December 02, 2002

A little bit of politics Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Steve Sailer refutes the standard GOP political calculus on the "Hispanic vote" in his latest UPI piece. I want to see Patrick Ruffini & co comment on this....

The New Republic critiques Steven Pinker Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

I haven't had the chance to read this in detail yet but I thought I'd link it and let the scientific minds at GeneXP pick it apart. I'm rather surprised actually that TNR gave Pinker a more hostile review than some more lefty journals.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

From the message board:
As far as a "soft non-rigorous field" is concerned, it is what you make of it. A lot of us with liberal arts degrees encounter prejudice for our academic paths. Those who put us down seem to forget that in obtaining a degree we saw a process through from start to finish. As for my university, if you went in thinking that majoring in a liberal arts discipline was going to be a cakewalk, well, you had another thing coming. Whatever you're studying, it should be something meaningful to you. Apply yourself to it, and you're better prepared for the real world. Anne
Of course Anne is right to some extent. In absolute terms-there are more high IQ english and political science graduates than physics or math graduates, but that is because there are so many more of the former than latter. Let me be honest and say in my experience the penalty for stupidity at most colleges is far higher in the sciences than it is in the non-sciences-with math being a crucial factor. Someone with moderate intelligence and perseverance might shine in english, and someone with great intelligence and a mediocre work ethic might be able to pass with flying colors in political science, but when you take a math class (aside from a few seminal geniuses like godless capitalist :)), brilliance is no bar to failure lacking some effort and concentration is no guarantee of success lacking aptitude. Even within the sciences there is a progression. In biology one could shape a course load that was "softer" (more field ecology and zoology, less mathematical population genetics and molecular biology) and required less effort. That doesn't mean that everyone in the soft fields were less intelligent-I know people who focused on ecology that were brilliant, but there were also many who could get by on cramming or regurgitating information from their notes (to minimize effort and maximize GPA, pre-meds tended to do general science, stacking up on 300-level courses). As one goes up the hierarchy of rigor-from ethology and zoology to molecular biology, than biochemistry, than organic chemistry, through physical chemistry and experimental physics and finally to theoretical physics and mathematics, there is less and less room for laziness and compensation via innate intelligence without preparation (you can quibble about details but I think most people with a science background will agree there is a spectrum-the only thing that mitigates physical scientists from sniffing too much at life scientists is that the latter fields are very "hot" now). Though I received my degree in biochemistry, I also took a minor in history. I can tell you there was one 300-level class where I showed up 4 times, on the first day, on the two mid-terms, and for the final. The professor didn't mind, because he knew I could master the material through some reading. There weren't any problem sets or lab-work that kept me on my toes every week. And all the 400-level seminars that I took were composed by and large of students that didn't fear an F (the professor would grant an "incomplete"-something initially alien to me) and saw no reason to do any of the reading (the clincher for me was when I was the only one who read a small book titled Our European Ancestors) [1]. By contrast, by the time I was doing physical chemistry or biochemistry coursework, there were few if any "slackers" left-getting a C (especially in lab-work) required too much effort (you had to at least show up for every lab), and judging by the fact that during the year, the classes would shrink by 1/3 every trimester, many people simply couldn't handle it. Anyway, that's my case. I don't doubt there are many people far more intelligent than me with a liberal arts degree. But there is a difference in the disciplines in that with a library card and some perseverance I have been able to accumulate enough data that I feel comfortable talking about history, philosophy or political issues without feeling at a disadvantage to those with "broader" educational backgrounds than I. On the other hand, few if any liberal arts majors have the courage to discuss technical issues-even those far outside my core field of knowledge such as physics, as I've taken college level physics and they haven't [2]. The easiest way for liberal arts degree holders to earn some respect is if their professors would get balls and fail the bottom-half (2/3?) of their classes for writing derivative and unorginal papers out of their asses. [1] If knowing a language had been a prerequisite in any of the seminars I'd taken-it would have been a different case, but I was able to cherry pick those that didn't require mastery of German (I took almost all of my history courses on Germany). On the other hand, I couldn't cherry pick as much when I did biochemistry, biology, organic chemistry, math and physics were strict prereqs for many of upper-division courses. [2] One thing I've always found amusing is how science people can con non-science people into thinking they know more than they do. Usually it happens when I see someone who works in a biochemistry laboratory trying to talk about biodiversity or a physical chemistry graduate student talking about the pharmaceutical industry applications of chemical X. Of course today the sciences are often so incestuous (Harvard's biology department is split between molecular and non-molecular) that the typical chemistry graduate can't speak on issues like biodiversity with much more authority than a non-science person could, and an ecology major might be hard-pressed to think back to freshmen chemistry and figure out what exactly is going on when a flame lights up, though the cute folk studies girl will want an explanation and so he bluffs his way through it.

A suggestion for Instapundit Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Hey man, you should put Steve Sailer on your blogroll, seeing as you have linked to some of his blog-children (moi & Randall Parker).

Principles of Population Genetics
Genetics of Populations
Molecular Evolution
Quantitative Genetics
Evolutionary Quantitative Genetics
Evolutionary 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
Mother Nature
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
Evolutionary Dynamics
The Origin of Species
The Descent of Man
Age of Abundance
The Darwin Wars
The Evolutionists
The Creationists
Of Moths and Men
The Language Instinct
How We Decide
Predictably Irrational
The Black Swan
Fooled By Randomness
Descartes' Baby
Religion Explained
In Gods We Trust
Darwin's Cathedral
A Theory of Religion
The Meme Machine
Synaptic Self
The Mating Mind
A Separate Creation
The Number Sense
The 10,000 Year Explosion
The Math Gene
Explaining Culture
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
Unto Others
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
God's War
Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople
The Sacred Chain
Divided by the Faith
The Reformation
Pursuit of Glory
Albion's Seed
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
After Tamerlane
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
Historical Dynamics
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
American Judaism

Powered by Blogger
Creative Commons License

Terms of use


Razib's total feed: