« February 09, 2003 - February 15, 2003 | Main | February 23, 2003 - March 01, 2003 »

February 22, 2003

Goin' to India and I'm gonna get maaaarried

The Sunday Post Magazine has an article about arranged marriages for American South Asians. For the non-South Asians at Gene Expression (there are must be at least 2 or 3 of us) it will be educational. My thoughts:

1. Says a meddling aunt "Character is something we can see a little better than youngsters do". I don't know if this justifies arranged marriages, but you must admit that most young people can be overly taken with superficial characteristics (beauty, charm) that mean little in the long run.

2. "Traditional Indians don't expect a partner to be that improbable combination of soul mate/confidante/red-hot lover/best friend." I'm starting to believe that the concept of a soul mate was a ploy designed to enrich divorce lawyers and self-help book authors. Seriously, finding your "soul mate" is like winning the lottery: It will be great if it happens, but don't plan your retirement expecting a check from Ed MacMahon.

3. Vibha discusses frustration with trying to meet quality men in bars and clubs. That there is no general social structure to ease people into serious courtship and marriage is a serious social problem. The Internet might mitigate this problem somewhat, but this issue must be addressed. It's appalling that an American woman would have to agree to an arranged marriage to get help from older, more experienced adults in meeting marriage-minded men.

4. This seems to be a happy ending for Vibha, but forgive me if I am a bit cynical about declarations of bliss from honeymooning newly weds. I wish them all the best, but I'll believe it when they are still happy together in ten years.

Nonetheless, I shall leave it to the brown folks to comment more.

Posted by duende at 01:33 PM | | TrackBack

Sex ratio at birth by country

Check out this page that clumps countries according to the ratio of male:female births.

Some notes:

Japan has a ratio of 1.05, China 1.15, which seems to be the East Asian spread. The Japanese prefer girls and unlike other East Asians seem to have successfully discouraged gender selective abortions.

The South Asian nations have sex ratios of 1.05/1.06, the same as the United States, despite the stereotype that sons are preferred. Why could this be? It might be that sex selective abortion is not accessible to most of the population because of monetary concerns. Additionally, South Asians may be more prone to carry more girls to term compared to East Asians , so sex selective abortions do not skew the ratio as much (I assume Japan at 1.05 is close to the natural rate of many East Asian populations, perhaps even shifted toward girls a bit because of couples that manage to find out gender in a country where 75% perfer girls) [1].

Finally, take a look at the countries with the most balanced sex ratios. Very interesting, do you see any pattern?

[1] There are many possibilites, more male fetuses might be spontaneously aborted, or, there might be more genetic males who did not develop the sex characteristics and so are recorded as female. Please note that abortion is illegal in Pakistan and Bangladesh, but legal in India. Nevertheless, the three countries have about the same sex ratio....

Posted by razib at 12:48 AM | | TrackBack

Know thine enemy....

Just read Native American scholar Vine Deloria's Evolution, Creationism and other Modern Myths. This is what I read on the jacket: "Deloria takes Western science and religion to task...." The knives were already sparking on the stone before the first page was cracked, but I was surprised by the book, I have many criticisms to make, but it was thought-provoking. I'll put up a longer review later in the week, but here is one problem I have, Deloria attacks modern evolutionary theory, "Darwinism," and tends to look to Behe & Dembski's Intelligent Design movement for help. One thing I noticed, and confirmed, the scientists used to caricature "Darwinists" are kind of weird (Deloria even admits it at one point). Here are the number of references to evolutionary theorists according to the index:

Stephen Jay Gould, 16
Darwin, 10
Ernst Mayr, 0
JBS Haldane, 0
RA Fisher, 0
William Hamilton, 0
Robert Trivers, 0
E.O. Wilson, 0
John Manyard Smith, 0
Richard Dawkins, 0 (yes, a populizer, but I would forgive the neglect of mathematical biologists like Hamilton & Fisher less well known by the general public if Dawkins was mentioned)

Vine Deloria makes paleontology & SJ Gould's ideas look a bit like mumbo jumbo. Well, that's fine, but let us be honest, after the First Book of Dinosaurs phase in your life, if you want to pursue evolutionary theory on the collegiate level, you move past butterfly collection and familiarize yourself with the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis. 'nuf said. Dr. Deloria does a good job showing that butterfly collection is a house of cards. Retitle the book, Butterfly Collection, Creationism and other Modern Myths.

Posted by razib at 12:06 AM | | TrackBack

February 21, 2003

Critique of IQ & Wealth of Nations
Posted by razib at 02:22 PM | | TrackBack

Nigerian diplomat killed over scam

Nigerian diplomat was shot by someone who was scammed. Now, this is definately some incentive for the Nigerian government to crack down on this. The reason I post on this is that in the past 3 days I've been swamped at ALL my various e-mail addresses (@ different domains) with requests for money, which is strange, as I normally receieved 1 request a month....

Also, check out this article on the Nature vs. Nurture issue in Wired.

Posted by razib at 02:13 PM | | TrackBack

February 20, 2003

Mixing it up-again

Follow-up dialogue on Joan Walsh's piece on interracial relation(ships). The black woman who wrote the article about her son needing to marry black responds. Joan then breaks-down her double-standards, while Edwards just hurls back a reality check. I sympathize with the plight of both women. In the end, Edwards is a realist-there is a large surplus of eligible single black women. Walsh might want the world to adhere to her idealistic beliefs about racial harmony, but race matters, race exists, and for black Americans who live under the continued shadow of racial hostility, platitudes about our Kumbaya future have less appeal than to someone like Joan Walsh....

Personally, I believe that "race-mixing" will be practiced by certain slices of the human race often jet-setting & transnational, united by abstractions, intellectualism and international capitalism, while the vast middle classes of decent folk will be rooted in faith, family and folk as they always have been....

Update: I guess I need to clarify, when I used the term "decent folk," I didn't mean to imply that I thought "race-mixing" (you can use whatever term) was a bad or good thing, but that the bulk of any given racial or ethnic group will want to "marry their own." You can see this among Jews (an ethnic-religious group) and blacks (a racial group) or even evangelical Christians (see singles adds that specify that the person is looking for a fellow "Christian" [this generally means evangelical, though obviously Catholics and mainliners are Christian too]).

The upper castes, that prioritize high-powered careers and status often mix based more on money, education & material well-being. The race and religion of the partner (and very importantly, devotional religion is less powerful among the upper castes in most cultures) are less important relative to particulars of personal history-college, career and political values. The underclass that does not have a stake in the community on the other hand are tied together often by less savory civil institutions and life experiences.

Can someone find a survey on attitudes toward interracial marriage, etc. broken down by education? I couldn't find any googling....

Posted by razib at 08:33 PM | | TrackBack

Brown & out

From The Economist:

Malaysia's deprived Indian minority gets none of the benefits reserved for Malays

Malaysia's underdogs

PEOPLE of Indian origin account for only 8% of Malaysia's total population, but they make up 14% of its juvenile delinquents, more than 20% of its wife- and child-beaters, and 41% of its beggars. They make up less than 5% of successful university applicants, and own less than 1.5% of the country's share capital. To make matters worse, they are not eligible for any of Malaysia's lavish affirmative-action programmes, which are reserved for Malays and other indigenous people. Other countries may have upwardly mobile Indian immigrants, but Malaysia is fast developing an Indian underclass.

The problem stems from the decline of Malaysia's rubber plantations. British colonialists shipped indentured Indian labourers to Malaysia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to tap rubber. After independence, many Indians stayed and became citizens, tapping rubber all the while. But over the past few decades of breakneck economic growth, developers have ploughed up many rubber plantations to plant less labour-intensive oil palms, or to build shopping malls and housing estates. The displaced workers and their families have wound up in shanty towns on the outskirts of Malaysia's cities.


Until recently, the government largely ignored the problem. The many well-to-do Indian doctors and lawyers, after all, help to give Indians higher incomes on average than Malays. Many Indian labourers, even, earn more from odd jobs in the cities than rural Malays do from fishing or farming. But unlike poor farmers, explains Denison Jayasooria, the head of an Indian think-tank-cum-charity, they have to buy their own food, pay rent, and travel to work—all at inflated urban prices.

Jaya Partiban, a senator from the Malaysian Indian Congress, the biggest Indian political party, says that the sheltered life of the plantations imbued Indians with a culture of dependence. Furthermore, argues P. Ramasamy, a professor at the Malaysian National University, Indians have little prospect of advancement, since Malaysia's Chinese minority dominates business, and Malays control the bureaucracy. Indians often complain of neglect or discrimination at the hands of civil servants, and harassment by the police.

All these frustrations boiled over into a race riot in a squatter community outside Kuala Lumpur in March 2001. Six people died and scores were injured. To this day, many Indians live in rusty corrugated-iron shacks in Kampung Medan, the scene of the riot. They complain that jobs are hard to come by, especially since employers fear that many Indians may be involved in crime. Although the police have set up three posts in the area since the riots, locals say, only one of the officers staffing them is Indian. There are no playgrounds, sports fields or clubs to tempt their children away from street gangs. The local Indian school, they add, is in a dire state.

The government has at least pledged to change all this. It has promised to move all squatters in the area to subsidised housing by 2005. It is hiring more Indian teachers. It is also financing the Yayasan Strategik Sosial, Mr Denison's outfit, to develop schemes to help poor urban Indians. Most dramatically, it has declared its intention to double Indians' stake in Malaysian companies by 2010—the sort of race-based target normally reserved for Malays. As it is, government officials like to point out, Malaysia's richest man is an Indian: Ananda Krishnan. His fellow Indians, however, tend to view his success rather more cynically; they joke that Mr Krishnan takes up the community's share of the national wealth all by himself.

Posted by razib at 02:02 PM | | TrackBack

February 19, 2003

Dirty needles cause AIDS in Africa?

Dirty needles 'spread Africa Aids' blares the headline. I hope this isn't the public health version of 'Cold Fusion.' If true, it would make the epidemic far more soluble in my judgement, rather than complex cultural tendencies and grinding poverty, the problem could be rectified by targeting public health budgets. But I am skeptical, unfortunately.

1) How did Uganda control its epidemic with condoms and education if needles are spreading the disease?

2) Why are prosperous regions like Botswana, South Africa and until recently Zimbabwe (once prosperous before the blossoming of kleptocracy) the new heart of the epidemic (you can't be telling me that chaotic western Africa has better public health services!).

3) Why does circumcision seem to prevent the spread of AIDS? (this is a contested claim, but I am pretty convinced by the fact that uncircumcised Zulus have far higher rates that circumcised Xhosas in South Africa).

Granted, the new research does not claim all the spread is due to needles, but 60% is non-trivial. I'm all for overturning conventional wisdom, but one study does not a paradigm shift make....

Posted by razib at 11:14 PM | | TrackBack

Pop vs. Soda

This map might interest those curious about American English dialects and cultural zones....

Posted by razib at 07:03 PM | | TrackBack

Paleoanthropology in the outback

Mungo Man has been re-dated. 42,000 years B.P. instead of 62,000-that matters a bit....

Posted by razib at 12:18 AM | | TrackBack

February 18, 2003

La Griffe is back

How to Optimize Productivity with a Multiracial Workforce: The Theory of Differential Cutoff . Very un-PC, but I think worth the read to make us consider the implications of utilitarianism-I can see that it might be plausible to fashion a Rawlsian justification for DCT if "productivity" can be shown to be beneficial to the least among us. Consider a profession like medicine where the numbers are small [perceived injustice on the individual scale is not widespread] and the upside of maximized "productivity" accrues to everyone.

Posted by razib at 07:31 PM | | TrackBack

Jason Soon scores a hit

Check out this post over @ Jason's main blog. Pretty funny.

Posted by razib at 07:10 PM | | TrackBack

Environment & Genes & IQ

Here is an 2 year old article titled "Heritability Estimates vs. Large Environmental Effects: The IQ Paradox Resolved". I find the title a little bit peculiar, as the article brings up possibilities and avenues of investigation to resolve the paradox (read the article and it seems clear they are concerned with the race discrepancy in IQs rather than the straightforward question of gene-environment feeback loops) , but doesn't seem to indicate a clear resolution....

And to return to the race and IQ debate, it shows that environment could explain racial IQ differences just as it explains IQ differences between generations.

Reminds me of Godless' post titled "Modern Day Epicyclists". Yes, Flynn might be right, Jensen himself has stated unlike most of his detractors Flynn is a serious thinker who gives him a fair shake, but what seems like the most parsimonious explanation to you? Good people will disagree me thinks....

Posted by razib at 07:04 PM | | TrackBack

Science fiction/fantasy relating to paleoanthropology & the transition to modern humanity

Books GNXP readers might enjoy (read them a while back, but made a big impact): Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series & Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio.

Posted by razib at 06:25 PM | | TrackBack

Discussion on intelligence

Over @ Matthew Yglesias' blog they are talking about IQ & the new brain scan results. I'm going to be a bit busy with a coding project, so I invite (on Matthew's behalf) all the heathens at Gene Expression to jump into the fray and enlighten those baptised by the True Faith of NoGeneralIntelligenseism....

(thanks to Charlie Murtaugh for mentioning GNXP so that I saw this commentary in my logs-normally I don't venture into those corners of the blogosphere where Yglesias & Co. reside)

Posted by razib at 12:26 PM | | TrackBack

Sanitizing the Gene Pool

Eugenics. Such a naughty word. But read this article on Jews targeting 10 diseases that afflict them proactively, and you see its shadows at the edges (thanks to Steve Sailer for the link). But, this is all voluntary and decentralized. Good stuff from what I can see.

But the line between Tay Sachs and other diseases that cripple, but don't kill, is a fine one. Groups that are part of the disability rights movement like Not Dead Yet should keep a close eye on these trends toward purging the gene pool of predispositions towards crippling ailments that lead to the "alternative quality of life" championed as having equal value by them. Many of the more crippled memebers of Not Dead Yet obviously can't have children, and are in no position to adopt-they in fact depend on deleterious genes to sustain their subculture. More benign ailments like deafness might be able to cling on in the Promethean Age because they can procreate and economically self-support themselves [1].

Of course, those worried that excising what to our ignorant human minds seem to be deleterious genes might rid the human race of crucial parts of our inheritance, god or nature given, need not worry. Traditionalist religious groups such as Catholics will almost certainly remain a reservoir of genetic diversity in a world of cheap & easy genetic testing and screening....

[1] Ah, could we dream of new races born afresh from the mind of man? WASP women that can cook spicey food, JAPs that break out of their Quantum-enforced self-absorption, Chinese that are picky eaters (will eat snake tongue, but not the fried skin) and blacks that are proud nerds who speak softly in the hallways? I have a dream, of boys & girls of all colors who can manipulate the content of their character like they do their parents' emotions....

Posted by razib at 01:24 AM | | TrackBack

The many-headed hydra

Brother Poe chides those of us who become a bit too seduced by the serpent. Richard's problem is that evolutionary conservatives-ergo Steve Sailer-have become a bit too enamoured of biology, nature and "instinct" and neglect other factors that shape human events. Biology is not always destiny. And yet, neither is culture. To prove that, note that Poe disagrees with Sailer, but both are men of half-Jewish extraction (biology) of Catholic faith (culture).

I know that here at Gene Expression we focus on, well, genes. But the main reason we do this is that others do not, social & cultural explanations rule the roost (among both liberals and cultural conservatives). Additionally, evolutionary psychologists study human universals, while ignoring possible group & individual differences [1]. But that doesn't mean that I ignore culture and history, a quick perusal of the content here will show that I am very cognizant of non-biological forces that are determinants of the human condition.

Richard in particular seems to object to Steve's contrast of the family patterns in west Africa with Scandinavia, and the different products that have resulted from the same reagents [2]. Reading Steve's original article, I had some of the same thoughts as Richard. Some of the ancient pre-Christian European peoples had strong fosterage traditions, as Richard notes, the Celts for instance. The Romans themselves had peculiar familial institutions where adoption was given great weight. But just because the two groups practice/practiced fosterage does not mean the anology holds (to my knowledge, I recall that many tribal peoples practiced fosterage to strengthen ties between families and tribes, while Steve indicates that west African fosterage is more of a practical way to discard the children of a dead father).

I began to think of these topics a few weeks ago when considering that west Africa is often considered matrifocal in orientation. And yet the men live basically polygamous lives. Parts of southern India (among the Nairs of Kerala) also exhibit matrifocal tendencies, but it seems that there are important differences. In Kerala there was a matrilineal tradition that focused on the relationship between maternal uncles and their nieces and nephews, as well as the primacy of the female lineage [3]. To my knowledge Nairs and their kin do not practice anything close to the family structure that characterizes west Africa (weak relationships between parents, primacy of females in farm work, etc.), and yet both can be characterized as "matrifocal." Similarly, yes, the Celts practiced fosterage, but they did not tend toward the commonplace loosely structured polygany that characterises modern west Africa (the pre-Christian Indo-European tribes did practice polygany to a limited extent among high status males, similar to the depictions found in Indo-Aryan oral tradition, but never to the extent that seems the norm in African and Semitic lore).

That being said, time will tell if Richard is correct, if Scandinavia will succumb to the "underclass disease." It is good to look at the same problem from every angle-it hints that solutions may be possible if not obvious....

Brother Poe strikes again! Response pending completion of my day job....

[1] The exception to this is gender, which is one reason that Gene Expression does not focus so much attention on a topic that is often covered in Time and Newsweek.

[2] Scandinavia + welfare = nanny state, black America + welfare = heart of darkness (both groups are characterized by high rates out-of-wedlock births, but the former situation is noted for cohabitation and male involvement in progeny according to Fukuyama's Great Disruption).

[3] For comparison, note that northern India and the Middle East both share intense patriarchal traditions and are highly patrilineal. Women are commodities, suttee is a north Indian sin, while honor killings are most prevelant in the Middle East. And yet the Indo-Aryan cultures of northern India enforce intra-village exogamy and male monogamy, while those of the Middle East and Muslim influenced northern India favor familial endogamy (cousin marriages) and polygamy (a sign of high status).

Posted by razib at 12:10 AM | | TrackBack

February 17, 2003

Liberalism & Terrorism

Randall Parker on the liberal national question.

Posted by razib at 11:31 AM | | TrackBack

Child prodigies

There is a reasonably good article in Time magazine on Child prodigies (Update from Razib: another intelligence related article). My only complaint is that it lumps together intellectual/academic prodigies, chess prodigies, musical prodigies, sports prodigies and 'creative' children. I'd suspect the first three groups probably do have a lot in common physiologically and psychologically (take for instance Bobby Fischer's reputed 180 IQ). It does cite some interesting research on commonalities which presumably apply most to the first three groups:

The only fMRI scanner in the Southern Hemisphere can be found in Melbourne, where American psychologist Michael O'Boyle has been scanning the brains of young people gifted in mathematics.

He's making some startling discoveries. O'Boyle found that, compared with average kids, children with an aptitude for numbers show six to seven times more metabolic activity in the right side of their brains, an area known to mediate pattern recognition and spatial awareness—key abilities for math and music. Scans also showed heightened activity in the frontal lobes, believed to play a crucial "executive" role in coordinating thought and improving concentration. This region of the brain is virtually inactive in average children when doing the same tasks. Viewed with fMRI, "It's like the difference between a stoplight and a Christmas tree," says O'Boyle, the director of the University of Melbourne's Morgan Center, which researches the development of children who have high intellectual potential. "Not only do math-gifted kids have higher right-side processing power, but this power is also fine-tuned by frontal areas that enhance concentration. These kids are really locked on."

O'Boyle believes prodigies also can switch very efficiently between the brain's left and right hemispheres, utilizing other mental resources and perhaps even shutting down areas that produce random distractions. In short, while their brains aren't physically different from ordinary children's, prodigies seem to be able to focus better—to muster the mental resources necessary to solve problems and learn.

Posted by jason_s at 03:11 AM | | TrackBack


On one of the threads we've been talking about Jews and their contributions to science. I decided to check out the 40 finalists for the Intel Science Competition. Among these budding geeks, I counted 6 clear Jewish names-with another possible 3 or 4. On the order of 10-20% Jewish. I also counted 6 Indians, with 3 that are South Indian, likely Tamil. 11 East Asians-mostly Chinese, though one of the surnames (Kim) is obviously Korean (4 with the surname "Li," the nerd version of Jones or Smith?). I also noted 2 "Muslim" seeming names. One seems Iranian, and the first name being "Raphael" indicates either a very assimilated family, or a Bahai or Zoroastrian one (Raphael Farzan-Kashani). The other name looks Arab to me, though I'm not an expert I am pretty sure he isn't a South Asian Muslim as the combination of first and last name just isn't too common (Tahir Ahmed) [1]. A large portion of the "non-ethnic" white finalists have names that can almost certainly be traced to the last pre-World War I immigration wave.

Perhaps this is what MIT is looking for when it means diversity? Uhh...never mind.

PS-I hope no one is taking this as a cue to assume I think WASPs are "inferior" (some of my best friends are WASPs)-just pointing out there is plenty of diversity in the sciences, just not the right kind...also, check out the finalists for the National Geography Bee, much more ethnically balanced, only 4 Asians (3 East Asians, and what looks to me like a Muslim Bengali).

[1] Assume Jews are 3% of the population (though a smaller portion of the youth segment), and Asians + Muslims (overlapped, but not identical) are about 7% of the population (probably about right if age group is taken into account). With 6+11+6 (I'm discounting the possible Jewish names, only the totally certain ones), that's nearly 60% of the finalists coming from 10% of the population. In the interests of equity and fairness, we should perhaps look into doing something about this injustice so that other boys and girls who don't have the same opportunities, with names like Smith, Jones and Johnson, black & white, can also have a chance to reach for geek glory....

Posted by razib at 02:37 AM | | TrackBack

February 16, 2003

New news about old news + Sailer Sunday

Sometime in the past 100,000 years man became man-the modern panoply of traits that we associate with "culture" seem to have developed. This article posits a possible genetic reason for man's cultural explosion (nothing new if you've followed the travails of the fox2p gene):

"I think there was a biological change, a genetic mutation that promoted the fully modern ability to create and innovate,'' Professor Klein said. "Suddenly, modern-looking people began to behave in a modern way, producing art and jewellery and doing a variety of other things they hadn't done before.''

Please note that some anthropologists dispute the simplistic Out-of-Africa thesis (one expansion from one population that scattered across non-Africa), and Dr. Henry Harpending brings a up very interesting point: the technology associated with "modern humans" in their expansion out of Africa into Eurasia ("mode 4") is not found amongst the first settlers of Australia, and we know Australians have languages that no doubt fit the Chomskyian paradigm (a linguist can correct me here).

Also, on a slightly different tack on the "Out of Africa" question, check out Steve Sailer's column up over at VDARE that starts off with Randall Kennedy's new book Interracial Intimacies. OK, more than slightly different....

Posted by razib at 05:58 PM | | TrackBack

More red meat

Article on intelligence & IQ over at Science, here is the text below:

Brainy Genes Boost IQ

IQ appears to be about 50% genetic, but how many genes contribute is a mystery. Now, two teams report finding associations between two genes and intelligence in healthy individuals. This kind of research could help scientists understand what goes wrong in brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, that erode thinking skills.

Researchers had associated only one gene, IGF2R, with intelligence, and that observation has yet to be repeated. Investigators are pinning their hopes on the possibility that at least some genes will have large enough effects to detect.

New findings from two research groups buoy those hopes. Tony Payton of Manchester University, United Kingdom, and his colleagues tested 767 healthy adults, age 50 and up, for their cognitive skills over a period of 15 years, looking for genes that contribute to the mental decline associated with Alzheimer's disease. Those people carrying a mutation in a gene called cathepsin D (CTSD) scored 3% lower on the intelligence tests right from the start (their scores did not go down more over time than did those without the mutation). CTSD might increase intelligence in early brain development, the researchers suggest, by helping kill off unnecessary neurons. The gene also seems promising, Payton says, because CTSD relies on IGF2R for its function.

The second group, led by David Comings of City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, California, tested 828 adults for a change in a gene called CHRM2, which is associated with Alzheimer's disease. People with one copy of the mutation had lower IQs than did those who had none, and individuals with two copies had the lowest scores of all. Although the spread was only about three to four IQ points, it's a significant effect for just one gene. Both teams report their work in the February issue of Molecular Psychiatry.

"It gives us hope that we're going to find [more] genes" with a measurable effect on intelligence, says behavioral geneticist Robert Plomin of Kings College, London. "That's why we find these studies exciting." Because many people were tested in the two studies, the results should be reliable, says Plomin. Still, he cautions, "until these findings have been replicated, we don't want to get too excited."


Posted by razib at 02:09 AM | | TrackBack