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February 15, 2003

Realism from Milwaukee

The Milwaukee County sheriff is under assault from the usual guilty white liberals and "black community leaders" for speaking the truth.

The controversy began last month after 24-year-old Lamarr Nash stole a truck and led deputies on a high-speed freeway chase. It ended after the truck collided with a squad car. Mr. Nash gave up and lay on the ground, where, as a TV-station videotape showed, a deputy briefly put his foot on the suspect's neck. Sheriff Clarke conceded that his office "does not teach" that technique but said that its use wasn't unreasonable, given the circumstances. Prosecutors in two counties agreed that the police broke no laws during the chase or after it."
The inevitable "community meeting" followed.
"Sheriff Clarke asked how many believed the deputy involved was racist. Nearly every hand went up. Mr. Clarke then displayed a photograph of the deputy--who was black. Many in the crowd remained angry, with Judge Stamper responding that blacks can develop racist attitudes of superiority."
Note the Judge's statement. I bet this is a guy who has also said blacks cannot be racist because they're black and oppressed...a common idea infecting college campuses and other strongholds of idiocy.

On talk radio...two days later...an email from the sheriff was read...
"Mr. Clarke said that he had sat through the meeting "in utter disbelief and disgust" as black leaders talked as if Mr. Nash "was some sort of icon in the struggle to achieve equality" and "as if Jim Crow laws and a return to the back of the bus lurk right around the corner." Sheriff Clarke wrote that this "adopting of victimhood as an identity and exaggerating it" only "gives failure, lack of effort and criminality a tacit stamp of approval." He urged people not to listen to a "false message put out by a few demagogues.'"

He has also been under fire for using "Ceasefire," a Clinton program to reduce gun violence by prosecuting gun-toting convicted felons. Of course since blacks are disproportionately represented in the felonious population, it must be racist to enforce this law. Silly.

Clarke will likely never be forgiven for this bit of realism: "The majority of people arrested for violent crimes, they're black males. Why should we kid ourselves? . . . They're ravaging the lives of other black individuals."

Furthermore, he states he and others from the black community agree that "our community will only be strong if we reject low expectations and failure on everyone's part."

Amen my brother.

(from the blogger who's the former resident of Milwaukee)

Posted by razib at 07:04 PM | | TrackBack

More diversity in science

Off the wires:

Race-conscious university admissions policies are needed to increase diversity in science and engineering professions, Stanford University officials said Friday. Stanford said it will join the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in supporting the University of Michigan's affirmative action policy in a closely watched court battle.

A legal brief the universities plan to file Tuesday will ``add a slightly different voice and argument'' to the debate, Stanford general counsel Debra Zumwalt said Friday. Many briefs have focused on how diversity benefits the humanities and education overall, but few have discussed the scientific benefits, she said.

The brief is also signed by DuPont, IBM, the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering. MIT will file the brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

I notice that Cal Tech is not on the list. I'm so disgusted that I'm not going to even comment-enough people fail math & science that discrimination isn't the biggest problem-rather than recruit more people, they should figure out a better didactic methodology for the people that major in the sciences without outreach & prompting....

From "B," one of MIT's token whites (though last I heard he had some bamboo-jungle fever):

Razib - didn't have link, but the MIT press release, actually a quite interesting read, is

In the above press release, Chuck Vest, our fearless leader, makes the following statements...

Vest said he hoped the brief would “help persuade the Justices of the Supreme Court that for the good of America, our colleges and universities must retain the freedom to consider race as one of many factors when admitting students.”

And I thought the ability to discrminate on the basis of race was one of the few "freedom" our public insititution explicitly did not have. But maybe I'm one of those scientists who can't
read so good :)

And I am sure Vest's comments on diversity at MIT, and we do have a lot, will suprise GNXP readers...

“But that is just the point. It is not a miracle. It is not a natural occurrence. It is the result of determined, conscientious effort, over more than three decades, often against seemingly insurmountable odds. It is the result of institutional leadership and occasional courage. It is a result of the determination of innumerable families and communities. The goal was as simple as it was profound: to give every young person the opportunity to succeed.

And hopefully it still is the goal. I also feel bad for all the people who have not attended law school, grad school, or a prestigious undergraduate school, and thus have not had the opportunity to succeed, hence by assumption have not succeeded, and hence are faliures. QED

MIT is actually very diverse place, the best
snippet I could find stated:

In 2002–2003, MIT students come from al 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories. The Institute's international student population comprises 344 undergraduates (8 percent) and 2,283 graduate students (37 percent) from 108 foreign countries.

AND FYI, if you do the math, MIT is about 25% foreign, ~30% asian (~12/18 - foreign,native) but of course the foreign asians don't count as minorities...

Posted by razib at 05:08 PM | | TrackBack

Mass hysteria in Cogee beach

Miranda Devine in the Sydney Morning Herald has a good overview of the latest religious craze to hit Australia - visions of the Virgin Mary on a fence at Coogee beach! (The flock of people who have descended there to see the fence has also been provoking some irate locals to vandalize it)

6000 people descended on the spot the weekend after the first attack. And even before the council fixed the fence, old Greek women could still see Mary standing on the clifftop.

From all over Sydney, people have come to place flowers, photos, letters, holy cards, rosary beads and candles at the shrine that has sprung up at the base of the fence, which doglegs along the clifftop above Giles Baths.

On Friday, when the sun broke through the clouds at about 3.30pm, gasps went up from the crowd 100 metres across the sand as the white blob above the freshly painted fence came into view
A woman rushed towards me shouting with excitement: "Ave Maria! Did you see her?"

Three Tongan-Australian women sat on the brown grass, eyes closed, saying the Hail Mary over and over in a low singsong.

"I think it's marvellous," said John Randall, 64, a builder from Eastwood. "It's getting people together, getting them to pray. The world is in a hell of a mess at the moment and prayer is very important

Only in Australia do you get sightings of Mary near a beach .... anyway these are my favourite lines from the piece:

Cherry says she is not religious, but is an astrologer. "I looked at it with a very sceptical eye indeed. But how do you explain it?" ...

Cherry says the morning after the fence was first attacked, six dolphins were seen frolicking off the point. A friend of Bali victims Gerry and Steve Buchan, she says the number is significant because six members of the Coogee Dolphins were killed in Bali.

"I don't know what it all means," says Cherry. "But I do know the people who are vandalising the fence are being disrespectful to the people who died in Bali."

Posted by jason_s at 02:41 PM | | TrackBack

Generalizations-how easy when it's someone else

Just a thought prompted by the black beauty controversy-being someone to the political and social Right of most of my friends, I often get attacked for making generalizations about race & sex. The word "ignorant" often comes up (generally these outbursts decline as t -> long time). But, many of these same individuals will make generalizations about conservatives or religious people that those groups would consider "ignorant" too. The best corrective for this sort of behavior is to make sure that you encounter a wide variety of political opinions in your everyday life. Of course, this might explain why universities abound in the terms "ignorant" or "that's a generalization," since there isn't a center-Right corrective to the PC center-Left consensus (perhaps the same can be said of some churches in the reverse fashion, but the influence of conservative churches is different from that of universities).

Also, fellow thought-police transgressor Richard Poe has an amusing observation about the predilictions of a GNXP reader. Give Poe some props, not only does he say things about race that induce a barrage of opprobrium from the "respectable" Right and the Left, but he regularly gets into it with the enemies of us mud people and the seed-line-of-Satan (Jews). Some of those "white Aryan" chicks are pretty cute, but I guess they're not into the chocolate love....

Posted by razib at 02:24 PM | | TrackBack

February 14, 2003

And yet it moves!

On Lew Rockwell, Gene Callahan comes up with a quiz which allegedly shows that religion is not the enemy of scientific progress. That may well be true but did he have to doctor the results to prove it? His first question reads:

1. When Galileo faced the Inquisition, he held that the Earth moved around the Sun, while the Inquisition believed that the Sun moved around the Earth. According to modern science:

a) the Inquisition was correct
b) Galileo was correct
c) neither was more or less correct than the other

His 'answer' is the following quote from Whitehead

c. As Alfred North Whitehead puts it: “Galileo said that the earth moves and that the sun is fixed; the Inquisition said that the earth is fixed and the sun moves; and Newtonian astronomers… said that both the sun and the earth move. But now we say that any one of these three statements is equally true, provided that you have fixed your sense of ‘rest’ and ‘motion’ in the way required by the statement adopted” (1967 [1925]

Umm, the point being? Of course all objects in space move and galaxies revolve too but that is not the point or was not the point at issue - none of the parties involved would have known about revolving galaxies and the Big Crunch and all that. Nor was the dispute over semantics a la Clinton's definition of 'is' - it was over which was the better model for explaining and predicting astronomical phenomena. And for reasons that had little to do with logic and efficaciousness the church was violently opposed to the heliocentric model - that is the point.

And what about Question 6 where he asserts with complete confidence that none of these people were atheists?

a) Aristotle
b) Frances Bacon
c) Galileo
d) Descartes
e) Pascal
f) Newton
g) Robert Boyle
h) Michael Faraday
i) Joseph Clerk Maxwell
j) Gregor Mendel
k) Louis Pasteur
l) Max Planck
m) Albert Einstein

Never mind that some of them lived in an age when to be branded an atheist was to fall into pariahdom. Never mind that Einstein probably used the term 'God' metaphorically.

Posted by jason_s at 10:48 PM | | TrackBack

Some foreign policy (and more)

Randall Parker has great post on Iraq vs. North Korea-similarities & differences.

Update: Also, Check out Randall's take on cloning. The "Pundit" line of blogs that Randall runs is definately one of the more underappreciated on the net....

Posted by razib at 07:21 PM | | TrackBack

Helping out a sista

Hey, I was checking the Salon website to see if they're acknowledging that they might close down soon (they didn't pay their december rent)-and saw personals ad from some brown chick in NYC. She says she is a professor with post-grad ed in her late 20s, and looks to be the "alternative" type (see the picture attached)-but she noted that she "can't live without" dead white men. I invite GNXP readers of the paler hue to give her a buzz-too many brown guys are chasing her pale-face sisters or importing a demure FOB old-country-girl.

So there-I did something for my race :)

Posted by razib at 05:03 PM | | TrackBack

It must be said....

This long article from The New York Times Magazine is about the confrontation/dialogue between Peter Singer (extreme utilitarian philosopher) and a disabled rights activists. Personally, I think both hold unreasonable extremist positions-Singer's utilitarianism does not take into account human feeling and frailties, and ironically, nether do disabled right's activists-who deny that there might be a case to be made that there is a qualitative difference of life between the abled and disabled. More comments later-but I am surprised that the article did not bring up Rawls' "Original Position," ie; what society would be just if you lived behind a veil of ignorance, not knowing your own status or abilities?

Posted by razib at 04:22 PM | | TrackBack

This one is for David
Posted by razib at 02:49 PM | | TrackBack

I'm shocked!

Someone just commented on our threads on African-American beauty (scroll down to Terms of Endearment-I couldn't figure out permlinks-Update, Gwen gave me the permlink, lazy me):

Maybe I am too sheltered here in Oakland, but, man, my jaw is hanging down around my knees, and it's not just one or two old nerds' club MIT grads saying this stuff; every single comment is like that.

Now, the blogger is rather civil, though she seemed so shocked that she put a little too much stock in our racialist inclinations (implying that those of us at Gene Expression would oppose interracial relations). I am a bit wary of talking about loaded topics like African-American beauty because like it or not, humans tend to be imbued with almost Hellenic instincts to equate physical perfection with moral worth. But, that being said, though I'm sorry that the blogger in question was shocked, plenty of people talk about this stuff in private-good liberal people that don't have racist intentions. Not mooting it in public won't make it go away-and I think the commenters were rather civil (with an exception or two), even if the content could be construed to be incendiary....

Update: Hey, I'm reproducing Jason Malloy's comment on the message board here-pretty good & all that. Also, one thing that I get annoyed about is that some people (not necessarily Gwen-but often they use the word "ignorant" so it reminded me of the tendency) will disagree with easily empirically verifiable facts. I once mentioned offhand at a party that homosexual males tend to be more sexually promiscuous than homosexual females. I can't see how you can disagree with this statement, but I ended up having to endure 15-20 minutes of berating by lesbians expressing how "ignorant" my generalization was. I honestly felt like someone was telling me that I was a moron for thinking that the sky was blue, it was only my subjective perception and Western influenced interpretation of the wavelength as blue....

Anyway, Jason's post:

[Jason's long-ass message to Gwen]

Personally, I'm not too sure what the larger contention here is: social ettiquette or belief in wrong things? Were a "majority" of the comments "particularly offensive" because they were counterfactual or b/c 'good moral people just don't speak of such things'. I would contest both.

I contest the first, not b/c everything everyone said in those threads can be said to be 100% verifiable, but b/c people generally played by the rules. If I were to say that all Asian women were quiet and subservient, that would be an ignorant claim, b/c it can be easily disproven. But if I were to claim or imply that many Asian women were quiet and subservient, that doesn't necessarily make it true, but it certainly doesn't make it ignorant unless someone can point to some ready and overwhelming evidence that Asian women are not relatively more quiet and subservient. If neither side has this overwhelming evidence, then neither side is "ignorant" in their opposite conclusions, just working off of competing default assumptions created by respective accumulations of anecdotal evidence. If gwen has met enough peppy, independent Asian girls to give her the feeling that Asian girls, are in fact no more quiet and subservient, in general, than the average American girl, then her opinion is expected and uncontroversial, even if it might not be accurate. But that goes both ways, gwen. If in my experience I meet enough quiet/subservient Asian girls, I might begin to sense a pattern. But what holds true for my necessarily limited experience might not hold true in the larger sense. But my hypothetical assumptions were reached in the same generally accumulated way as yours. "Ignorance" isn't a fair word if it is not applied fairly. A Holocaust denier and a Creationist are genuinely ignorant people. They are ignorant because the data exists to contradict their claims, and it is voluminous, readily available, and not easily open, in its totality, to better interpretation. In other words what you call "perfectly self-explanatory examples of gross stereotypical generalizations" might not be as gross as you think they are. Saying that young people commit more violent crime than old people, or that men are generally taller than women might be "gross stereotypical generalizations" but that doesn't make the contentions false, offensive or ignorant. Similarly, if the statements you selected are what you feel are some of the best examples of ignorant generalizations made here, then I think you have judged us entirely unfairly, or at least much too harshly. I'll run through the comments and tell you why:

"Many blue collar American blacks live on fast food and packaged junk food like doughnuts. Sometimes I think they'd be much slimmer and healthier if they just had time to cook."

Which you contested by saying: "note: black factory workers do not all live on doughnuts"

But that wasn't really fair, duende didn't say "all", she said "many", which is much more reasonable word. Second, its even more odd b/c duende's assumptions were, even if not true, fairly reasonable. There is overwhelming evidence that obesity and SES are inversely related. Lower SES means more cheap pre-packaged sweets and fats and less healthy eating. Unless you want to argue that blacks are an exception to this, or that blacks aren't disproportionately lower class, why would you think duende's statement was ignorant in the least? (In fact, "More than 60% of African Americans are overweight, compared to 54% of the general U.S. population", which actually means that AAs are less likely to be obese than whites if we control for SES (actually if we look at the figures black men are probably less likely than white men to become obese if we controled for SES, but black women have an exceptionally odd curve which suggests a genetic component to me.)

"All women like darker skinned men." Was the next statement on your list.

This one you had more of a case on in statements that were poorly concieved, but your outrage was still misplaced for a couple of good reasons. First b/c you altered the statement, leaving out an important qualifier. The actual statement was "It se[e]ms to me that all women like darker skinned men.", which dramatically changes the tenor of the claim. He freely admitted the claim was anecdotal. The second reason I find it unfair, is b/c we are not an exclusive club here, but a free forum open to the public. The person who said that was just one more person with an opinion, and it is not necessary for you to judge the forum by any one person or any one opinion expressed in the comment box, b/c any person with any opinion can (and does) come and talk here. The black male who posted that comment was a first time contributer, and I appreciated his comments, and hope he will continue to join in the discussions here, as I feel the perspective blacks (he might not have been AA) can add here, is invaluable. The third reason is b/c women as a general rule do prefer darker skinned men, so the claim was reasonable in general truthfulness if not in a rigidly literal way (and it can be reasonably assumed that the author knew that there was exceptions to his "all". Sloppy expression doesn't deserve the level of scrutiny you are giving it). Scientists Pierre van de Berghe and Peter Frost found that men were darker than women in all cultures surveyed. Skin tone, like shoulder width and curviness of hips, is just one more important trait in sexual selection. So ogunsiron wasn't too far off.

"The biggest problem that Orientals have in conforming to the Western facial aesthetic is the higher tendency toward flat noses."

To which you replied "many Asians aren't burdened by the need to conform to Western aesthetics, even here in the U.S."

But that was a non sequitur objection, b/c this is not something that is necessarily excluded from the statement quoted. The statement was not "All Asian women try to conform to european beauty" but that "Asian women who try have trouble conforming to european beauty due to the different shape of their face." And, as you have stated- Are particular ideals of beauty spoon-fed?: ...."Duh".

"Maybe one day we'll all be an ideal universal color... somewhere between white and black."

Personally, I am having the most trouble understanding why you included this statement in your list of things that were supposed to be ignorant or offensive. How is it either? The purpose of this stock anti-racist phrase, is the hope that one day we will all be so intermixed that human races will no longer exist and the idea will no longer be there to divide humanity. Of the statements you have quoted it is the one I disagree with the most (the diversity of humanity is one of my greatest joys, I'm glad you take pleasure in it too), but it is also the one that has the least to do with statements of truth- it was a statement of hope and desire. Someone can say that one day they hope nuclear weapons will cease to exist, and while I may disagree with the feasibility or even desirability of such a comment, I would hardly, in good conscience, use it against somebody. But that is exactly what you did.

So, as you can see, I feel that accusing the entire blog/forum GnXp of ignorance was a genuinely unfair way to represent us publicly on your website. I feel that there is a fair and demonstratable amount of intellectual integrity here. You are certainly free to write whatever you want about us or to feel about us how you may, but I feel it was unfair.

Perhaps your other complaint, even granting that we aren't guilty of saying things that are untrue, is that we are not discussing anything important, and are still sufficiently guilty enough for criticism simply for being base or offensive. I can't argue with this charge so much, as it is a pretty subjective thing. Obviously anybody can find any subject they want offensive. Generally I'm of the opinion that taboos cause greater harm and promote greater shame and ignorance than they help alleviate. We discuss topics such as beauty and race here precisely b/c there is no where else that Asians, Blacks, and Whites can come together and candidly, and respectfully discuss such things. We are not here to police the opinions in our comment box, but to make a place where people can come and discuss things that relate to how we are all different. That includes cultural and genetic differences, real or supposed, that are intolerently driven out of "polite" conversation elsewhere.

I'm not telling you what to think gwen, it's just that I feel that gnxp is often unfairly characterized by others, and I wish you could give the people and the subject matter here a little more credit both morally and intellectually.

Posted by razib at 02:27 PM | | TrackBack

Live a long time?

Discovering a Secret of Long Life (a gene even). For the record, my maternal grandfather lived until 100 and his aunt lived until 115. {actually not relevant, since the article is about mitochondria-so now you know my secret, I don't read everything I link....}

Posted by razib at 10:17 AM | | TrackBack

February 13, 2003


Lest you all think I'm an anti-sex crab, I will post an essay about my views on the sexual revolution and free love in about two weeks. Also, I must quibble with our "Darwin's wolves" motto. The she-wolf is a bit fierce for my sensitive nature. I shall instead be Darwin's lioness; a sleek, tawney huntress who rips out jugulars and bites through bone, then goes home to cuddle with her young.

Posted by duende at 04:34 PM | | TrackBack

Let a thousand flowers bloom (or not)

So you know that the moronic government of Greece has banned public gaming right? Gamers are looking to the EU to help them out. Well, this is part of the problem. Greeks deserve the politicians they elected. The EU might help in this case, but what if the EU had decided to go along with this sort of law and declared it transnational policy? All gamers should just pick up and move somewhere else. This is like the idiotic Australian censorship policy. Here in the states we'll take your huddled gaming masses (oh, and if you read the article, you'll see one benefit of a powerful judiciary).

Posted by razib at 12:10 PM | | TrackBack

Another shot in the Darwin wars

The New York Review of Books has another predictably hostile review of The Blank Slate but at least this time they got a scientist to review it rather than one of those literary intellectuals[1]. GNXP readers - critique away!

[1] Pot calling the kettle black you might think? Well in fact as an economist I'm very sympathetic to plight of evolutionary biologists who have their work misinterpreted by literary intellectuals who seems completely incapable of understanding the concept of *mathematical modelling*. We also get accused of producing 'just so stories' because most of the time we have to reconstruct things and are not always able to construct definitive experiments.

Posted by razib at 01:44 AM | | TrackBack

Well rounded Geeks

The LA TIMES has a piece on humanities at Cal Tech. Yes, you read that right! This is a funny sample:

"The older students get used to it," said David Armet, 20, a junior sitting at a campus cafe with senior Jay Carlton, 21. Both are mechanical engineering majors. Carlton, who was thumbing through a robotics text, said he felt sorry for the humanities professors his freshman year.

He recalled a poetry class in which the lecturer asked for examples of odes: "The answers we gave were 'electrode', 'cathode', 'anode' and 'diode.'

I often get very frustrated when talking to non-science people about science, and was often shocked at how ignorant of other subjects some of my fellow science (mostly chemistry) majors were. In Who Killed Homer, Victor Davis Hanson suggests that humanities majors be required to take at least one year of Calculus as well as some laboratory science. Similarly, it might do some good for future scientists to read a little philosophy and history to understand the implications of the discoveries that they will be making in the future [1]. With college degrees being handed out to about 25% of young Americans, it seems to me that it is being somewhat cheapened. I know of people graduating with 2.2 GPAs and a political science degree-which is, to be honest, a big ass bar-tab. One thing I've been thinking-make all students double up majors and take something technical (science, math, pre-professional) as well as a liberal art or humanities (english, history, political science, art, etc.) and set a 5 year goal instead of 4 for graduating. A lot of kids would transfer to more explicitly pre-professional vocational training schools pretty quickly.

[1] I am no Luddite, I've always said that we have to ride the technological tiger or simply surrender and walk back into the past.

Posted by razib at 12:46 AM | | TrackBack

Legacies & higher education

The New York Times has a pretty balanced article on legacies at Middlebury college. Note these facts:

While legacies made up 12 percent of the freshman class entering Middlebury in the fall of 1965, they are just 5 percent of the current freshman class. It can be difficult to mount an argument that those admitted to this class were not otherwise qualified, at least by the yardstick of the SAT: the 30 legacies in the current freshman class posted an average SAT score (1389) that is 33 points higher than that of the class as a whole.
But that argument frequently makes it no easier for legacies to convince a classmate that their admissions were merited.

Rich well connected white kids that actually have higher test scores than the average (at least at this school), and yet their classmates still look down on them and feel that they didn't get in "on merit." How do you think it works out for minority students who are academically not in the same league as their peers and stand out in a crowd?

Posted by razib at 12:17 AM | | TrackBack

February 12, 2003

Man the animal

Melvin Konner reviews The Blank Slate by Steve Pinker & Darwinian Politics by Paul Rubin. He gives them a fair shake. But a few quibbles with his quibblings I do have....

Unlike race, gender is a valid and significant biological and psychological category, which, despite huge overlaps between male and female, does help us predict some aspects of behavior and mental life.

Well, wait another generation Melvin, just wait....

As we settled into agricultural and pastoral villages, gradually building them into what we are pleased to call civilization, the intensity and ubiquity of group conflict greatly increased. Conquest often entailed slaughter, usually of men. Women, especially young ones, were kept alive for partly reproductive reasons, and this pattern also may have had genetic consequences, although there has not been enough time since the rise of towns for much genetic change. If you doubt these patterns, you can read excellent new research in archeology and anthropology or, to save time, you can just reread the Bible.

Konner refers to activities that will obviously change the frequency of genes in any given population, killing men and hording women, but asserts blandly that not enough time has occurred to result in genetic changes. 10,000 years was long enough for lactose tolerance to spread through much of humanity. It was also long enough for myopia to become prevelant at different rates in different ethnic groups. Certainly, of the more than 6 billion people alive today, we trace most of our ancestry from only a small subset of the less than 1 million people alive 10,000 years ago.

Posted by razib at 07:21 PM | | TrackBack

The science of kissing

I want this researchers job.. the guy spends two and a half years hanging around seedy and not-so-seedy places watching people kiss..! On second thoughts, maybe not. Imagine the pent-up frustrations, the high cost of hotel porn..?

But that's not what I found interesting about his research. It was the implication that the less passionate the kiss, the more culturally influenced it was. Conversely, the more passionate the kissing act, the more primal and less culturally dependant.. seems rather obvious when you think about it. It also made me wonder if there were anyrelated emperical studies done on the cultural drivers for "social kissing" - pecks on the cheek, kissing the hand, forehead, nose, etc..? Is the existence of a large and elaborate "social kissing" ettiquette indicative of discomfort with its more primal cousin..?

Something guaranteed to completely mess up your Valentine's day date!

Posted by suman at 12:42 PM | | TrackBack

Fertile Crescent observations

Christ (Muhammed?), I'm going to be labelled a "warblogger" if I don't shut my mouth up about yogurt-eating Arabs and their falafel loving Jewish cousins...but, anyone notice how it can be argued that all the states of the old Fertile Crescent (Mesopatamia + the Levant) are ruled by ethno-religious minorities? Iraq-Sunni Arabs (25-30% of the population), Syria-the Alawites (10% of the population), Jordan-the indigenous Bedouins through the Hashemite dynasty (30% of the population, most of the rest consists of Palestinians), and Israel, ruled by Ashkenazi Jews (someone, Diane, help me out with the numbers, I'd estimate that 35% of Israel is old-line Ashkenazi, with Russians, Sephardic/Oriental Jews and Arabs forming the balance).

Posted by razib at 12:59 AM | | TrackBack

Islamic learning

John Jay Ray (fellow godless reactionary) issues a corrective toward the soft-tinted view of the Islamic "Golden Age". A minor quibble or two, many of the translators of Greek learning were in fact Christians fluent in the Hellenic tongue, but they might have spoken Aramaic at home, so let us give credit to the Syrian role in preserving the past. Additionally, the culture of the East Roman Empire was not necessarily "Greek" from its initial stages. I believe either Zeno or Anastatius in the late 5th century (150 years after the seeds of Byzantium were lain) were the first Greek speaking Emperors (as their native tongues). Even after them, Justinian in the early 6th century was a Latin speaker that ruled from Constantinople (and presided over the recompilation of Roman Law). The true Hellenization of the Empire began with Heraclius in the early 7th century, he introduced the organizational structure of themes to replace the provinces and diocese from more archaic times and became basilieus (king) as well as imperator (emperor) [1].

On a peripheral note, this brings up the concept of what an "Arab" is. Is a Christian who speaks Arabic an "Arab" or just an Arabic-speaking Christian? Remember that the Christians of Egypt, Syria and Iraq were originally speakers of other tongues, whether Coptic, Syriac or Greek. Eventually the Islamicization of society led to its Arabicization so that Arabic became the colloqiual and the previously dominant lingua francas became fossilized as liturgical shadows of their rich spoken pasts. The true Arabs are the people of northern Arabia, the Nefud, and the arid portions of Syria, Jordan and Iraq (the Byzantine Emperor Leo who repelled the Umayyad assault on Constantinople was of Arab descent, of the Ghassanid line of Syria). All other "Arabs" are Arabicized peoples, whether that be closely related ones such as the people of Yemen (Sabaeans) or the Levant (Armaeans), or more distant peoples such as Egyptians (Copts) or Maghrebis (Berbers). It seems clear to be a Muslim that speaks Arabic is a clear indication of ones' affiliation, but what about non-Muslims that speak Arabic? Though the Christians of Lebanon/Syria are traditionally termed "Arabs" I have read that some of them bristle at this assocation, and would like to associate more with the European Christian civilization of the Mediterranean. Certainly those of Maronite and Greek Orthodox religious orientation have other affinities besides the Arabic one despite the language of their birth [2]. Jews, whether Iraqi, Syrian, Egyptian or Yemeni have always been excluded from the concept of "Arabness" despite their fluency with the language of the majority. A flexibility in the nature of Arabness is illustrated by the fact that four nations with very tenous claims to being Arab, the Comores, Djibouti, Somalia and Mauritania are members of the Arab League. Arab is I suppose a state of mind....

[1] Important point, remember that the Romans abhorred kings, so an emperor was preferable. Also, note that imperator was used as a common term for the princeps (first citizen) from the reign of Vespasian, circa 75 CE. Additionally, the 3rd century witnesses what some label a transition from the Principate (the high pagan civilian Empire) to the Dominate, the militarized late Empire that would become part of the forerunner of the Christian monarchies of the medieval period (the other root being of corse Germanic sacral royal traditions as well as decentralized tribal forms).
[2] The Jacobite Churches who reject both the Eastern Orthodox Chalcedonian communion and Rome have even a more ancient lineage, that of the Syrian/Aramaic traditions that reach back into the pre-Alexandrian age.

Posted by razib at 12:27 AM | | TrackBack

February 11, 2003

Darwin under attack

So this is the reason why I hesitate to label myself a "conservative," they are attacking Darwin (or what they believe Darwinism is) over at Free Republic. If conservative means to defend America's western liberal traditions, I'm a conservative. If it means standing with the good Bishop against Huxley, well, that's a whole different cup of tea....

Comments from Jason
The author of the attack on Darwin is the late David Stove, IMHO a much over-rated Australian philosopher who seems to have had a habit of attacking thinkers he didn't understand and making a mess of their arguments. Karl Popper seems to be another target of Stove's ire - ironically his famous book Anything goes accuses Popper of being responsible for irrationalist postmodernism - despite the fact that Popper was one of the few philosophers of science that actual practising scientists like Albert Einstein and Peter Medawar thought highly of. Stove is also championed by the neo-conservative New Criterion crowd, not just grassroots Freepers whose ignorance can be excused. It's a very disappointing state of affairs but rather ironic that the anti-Darwinian Stove is the neo-cons' poster boy against 'irrationalism' (a category with which they conflate the falsificationism of Popper with the hijinks of Feyerabrand).

Posted by razib at 11:32 PM | | TrackBack

Political marketing

A Broadband Hookup in Every Home ~ subsidy for downloading porn. Come on, there are real problems with literacy and basic levels of health and well being in this country-let alone Kentucky (the state proposing this). For the majority of people, the difference between broadband & 56 K for activities such as online shopping & or checking your account is minimal. The real payoff comes in peer-to-peer music & porn piracy.

Posted by razib at 02:24 PM | | TrackBack

February 10, 2003

Clone High

If you haven't seen the new MTV series Clone High, check it out, it's a real "smart" show (will be cancelled within 2 years). Tonight's episode (number 4) had Joan of Arc expressing her love for Abe Lincoln via a very avant garde faux French film that featured Genghis Khan issuing a primal scream wearing a "Screw Tibet" T-Shirt. The episode also began with a riot prompted by a victory by the cross-country team (lead by J.F.K.)-where Aristotle broke into the library and stole all the books. Finally, I can't leave out the fact that Gandhi & George Washington Carver made a buddy secret agent film that shattered the stereotypes of blacks and Indians and showed that the two ethnic groups could get along-it was titled "Black & Tan." What's not to like? Plus, Cleo is hot:

(Yes, I know the real Cleo was a half-Macedonian half-Pontic dog....)

{I'm spending the winter in a town with subsidized high-speed fiber connections...the world hasn't changed now that I get near T1 download speeds for $27.99}

Posted by razib at 11:28 PM | | TrackBack

Black Beauty

(NOTE from duende: I accidentally published this beneath Razib's "black chix" post. Sorry if it's taking up too much space. )

Recently, in Razib's "Jungle Fever" post, an acolyte posted the following phrase, "black = ugly". In a rare burst of sensitivity, Razib gently chided him, and the debate focused more in sexual attractiveness than aesthetics.

However, I think this is a great opportunity to consider one of the most important factors of globalism and biodiversity: the exportation of Western aesthetics around the world. Western standards for beauty of the person have, for the most part, persisted since antiquity. Here's a fairly good example. There are a few variations, but the standard is pretty basic: high forehead, straight nose, large wide-set eyes, small but full mouth, and a small rounded chin like an egg. As the picture shows, this was also the ideal for children and adolescent boys. Certain characteristics here also apply to adult men, such as wide-set eyes, but features like a strong chin are also prized, so the aesthetic usually isn't so readily applied to adult, masculine men. Also since beauty standards always weigh more heavily on women than men, I'll focus on women in this essay.

Now deviating slightly from this motif doesn’t mean you’re condemned to ugliness. Sweeping your hair off your face can make a low forehead look higher. If your eyes are too close together, you may be saved by a particularly small mouth. Here’s a test: place your index fingers on the outer corners of your eyes. Move them down your face until you touch the corners of your mouth. Ideally, the motion should form something of an inverted triangle. Proportion is the key.

Razib has noted that the beauty standard prized by African Americans is not very African. However, comparing these two photos, who looks more like the aforementioned Madonna? As far as African-looking women go, a big problem with their facial features is that their mouths and noses are too wide. Personally, I think that Miss Barbados is quite lovely. But she is not the Western archetype.

A wide mouth can make a woman's face quite awkward by throwing off its symmetry. Mojo from Joe Millionaire (see the pop-up photo gallery) had this problem, as does Monica Lewinsky. Wide, ungainly mouths aren't limited to any race, however black people on average tend to have wider mouths.

Orientals tend to have smaller eyes than European whites, but their mouths also tend to be a bit smaller. In the Oriental women I’ve seen, mouths as wide as their eyes are slightly less common than in white women. The application of Western beauty standards in Oriental cultures is clear by the prominence of stars like Gong Li and Kyoko Fukada. Both have the specific facial symmetry admired in the West. The latter would probably have had no suitors during the Meiji Restoration , so clearly the standards have Westernized. However, I disagree with Maxine Hong Kingston that Orientals who get eyelid surgery are “trying to look white”. I think that people who get that surgery want their eyes to be larger than the mean for their races, but to them eyes as round as white ideal would look strange. I went to high school near a military base, so I knew a lot of mixed Oriental/white kids. I remember one girl who was half-white and half-Chinese. She looked very Chinese, short and slim with long black hair and a delicate face. However, her eyes were as large and round as mine, sans any hint of epicanthic fold. It’s hard to describe how unsettling this looked. I felt uncomfortable around her because this girl always looked as though she’d just suffered a terrible shock.

Perhaps Orientals without the epicanthic fold are so rare that they are shocking. However, I wonder if large, round eyes require the support of a certain type of facial structure that is simply uncommon in Orientals. Maybe a less rounded face, sans the layer of subcutaneous fat is necessary to make round eyes the centerpiece of a face instead of a pop-up ad. Even though traditional Western aesthetics don’t cotton round faces, they frequently make Oriental women look young, which can make up for the difference. I think the biggest problem that Orientals have in conforming to the Western facial aesthetic is the higher tendency toward flat noses. I seem to remember somewhere reading that nose jobs are very popular in China.

Unfortunately, although one can get a nose job quite easily, narrowing your mouth is a bit more difficult. To my knowledge there is no operation that can give you a cupid’s bow if you were born grinning from ear to ear. However the, uh, success story of Michael Jackson suggests that it might be possible if you have the money and the free time. But unfortunately, at least as far as African features go when judged by Western aesthetics, black=ugly is more accurate than not. However, there is a lot to be gained by slightly altering your perspective to view different cultures through their own standards of beauty.

Posted by duende at 10:04 AM | | TrackBack

The land of the free and irony-deficient

There is much truth to the claim that different nations and cultures have different ideas about what they find funny. Of course there is also diversity within a nation. Personally I find most American humour as exhibited by its most popular 'family' sitcoms to be rather corny and piss-weak; at the same time my favourite kind of humour is the darker, smart arsed, self-conscious type exhibited by New York Jews and personified by, say, Seinfeld and Woody Allen, which probably has in turn some basis in Yiddish culture and all those stories that Rabbis supposedly like to tell.

Australian humour is again very different. I sometimes find it too camp and crude but the part of it which most appeals to me is the ever present sense of irony, stoicism and dark moods underlying it - Australians like to joke about tragedies as a way of coping with them in a way that, for instance, the more sentimental Americans would find rather inappropriate. I attribute the Australian sense of humour to the higher concentration of people of Irish descent, and in particular, Irish Catholics, amongst its population.

Then there are the French who claim to have wit rather than humour.

What is worth noting is the many Australians, who despite their genuine fondness for their American cousins, regard those 'Yanks' as rather irony deficient. Now it turns out we must extend this designation to the more recent US immigrants as well. A famous Australian comedian and satirist, Barry Humphries is apparently being asked to apologise for the allegedly racist remarks he made when writing as his screen persona, Dame Edna Everage, for Vanity Fair.

In this month's issue of Vanity Fair, which has Latina Salma Hayek on the front cover, Dame Edna pens a "Ask Dame Edna" column and a reader asks her which foreign language should she/he learn? The reader says that everyone around me is saying "learn Spanish" and notes that even President Bush speaks Spanish. The reader then concludes his question with "Are we all going to have to speak Spanish?"

Dame Edna responds with: "Forget Spanish. There's nothing in that language worth reading except Don Quixote, and a quick listen to the CD of Man of La Mancha will take care of that. There was a poet named Garcia Lorca, but I'd leave him on the intellectual back burner, if I were you. As for everyone's speaking it, what twaddle! Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk to? The help? Your leaf blower? Study French or German, where there are at least a few books worth reading, or, if you're American, try English."

Now the supreme irony of all of this is that Dame Edna was a character created by Humphries to take the piss out of his parents' generation i.e. she is a satirical character meant to represent the sort of snooty, insular old lady hostess found in certain posh suburbs in Australia - what we call the 'bluerinse' set or what Americans might call 'little old ladies in tennis shoes'. So when will the sorts of people being lampooned by the Dame Edna character start asking for apologies from Vanity Fair too? This is really a bit like asking Archie Bunker to apologise for his racist remarks. A little sense of humour (and irony) please, amigos!

Posted by jason_s at 03:28 AM | | TrackBack

February 09, 2003

Some red meat

This review article in Nature is titled Genetics, genes, genomics and g. It's by Robert Plomin, who you can find on the H.B.D.roll to the left. I won't quote any snippets, the whole thing is a must read, twice or perhaps even thrice.

Posted by razib at 09:53 PM | | TrackBack

Deficit of "g," not caps

So doctors are going on strike to protest soaring malpractice awards and sky-high insurance premiums. The problem? Juries simply are awarding too much and entertaining frivilous claims. The solution? Cap awards. Well, that's addressing the sympton, not the root cause. Law, and life in general, is too complicated for the average idiot in a jury pool. Some evidence? When you click on Texas in the interactive flash graphic, this is what it says:

Texas: The governor has declared malpractice insurance an emergency issue and is pushing a cap of $250,000 on pain-and-suffering damages in malpractice trials ... Some regions, such as the Mexican border area, are known for high jury awards and have doctor shortages.

So the poorest & least educated area gives out the highest jury awards. In the hands of an educated rational citizenry the jury system is a marvel. But as what is defined as "educated" keeps shifting upward and onward along with the complexity of life-the citizenry is not keeping up.

Posted by razib at 07:39 AM | | TrackBack

Sex selection-scary, or the future?

Long & informative entry on sex selection by Future Pundit. I'll be honest, for all my talk of individual rights, a 130:100 male:female ratio in any country scares the shit out of me and sends my head spinning with imagined social consequences.

{Yes-I know I've been cutting back "original content" recently, but hey, I have a life too :) Will be getting back up to speed soon}

Posted by razib at 12:16 AM | | TrackBack