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September 13, 2003

Native American Racism

THE NY TIMES has an article about racism within the Native American nations of Oklahoma. The focus of the piece is on "black" Indians. I have read about this group before, and the blood quantum controversies (along with inclusion in the "Blood Roll") also occur with self-identifying members of the tribes who are mostly white by ancestry, but I never hear of the term "white" Indians. But perhaps I'm just out of the loop on this. (see the issues involving Native Hawaiians to see this isn't just an anomaly but a manifestation of a new trend in our society)

This case also illustrates why I'm wary of the government recognizing race as a legally significant trait-I think that "race" is a valid way to classify human beings if you want to extract information about the condition of the species, but it doesn't have the neat & easily defined boundaries that make it easy to grapple with in the liberal order[1]. If the United States governed its people with acturial tables it might be a rational way to proceed, but in general the American way is to take each individual as a stand-alone entity rather than as one embedded within a corporate entity. The final extension of this concept of course is full genomic sequencing that will be an essential part of your "identity" that will have legal ramifications.

fn1. Because America was at its founding populated by Native Americans, northern Europeans and black Americans, the "fuzzy" boundaries of racial groups were less clear in this country. In South Africa, individuals would sometimes shift racial categories, from white to colored (mixed race, black, khoisan, white, south & southeast Asian), colored to white, Asian to colored, black to colored, etc. because of the obvious overlap in phenotypes. With the migration of multiracial Latin Americans, non-white Caucasoids and light-skinned East Asians the older conception of race is in need of revision in the United States as a social concept. But with the minority activist class reappropriating hypodescent there has been a freeze of 1900 attitudes in some contexts where they are perceived to be advantageous to group interests.

Posted by razib at 05:39 PM | | TrackBack

September 12, 2003

Blue collar blues

We post a lot about outsourcing to India, etc. of IT jobs and what not. Well, a reality check, most of the jobs lost during this recession & jobless recovery were in manufactoring. An article in THE NY TIMES highlights the problem. What do you do with a 55 year old steel worker who can't find work because the jobs aren't there? Re-train them to be a programmer??? Things that make you go hmmm....

Posted by razib at 11:19 PM | | TrackBack

Science & brown writers

The Public Interest has an article titled Do We Need More Scientists? out. It's a good read. Also, check thos NY TIMES MAGAZINE interview with Bengali-American writer Jhumpa Lahiri. I can relate to her a lot-the story of how she got named is almost exactly the same as mine (Razib is a transformation of the common Bengali name Rajib-though that is not my "Muslim" name). Audio interview over at NPR if you want to hear her talk for longer (also, check out this PHOTOSHOPPED image-the article's picture makes her look like one mean bitch!)

Posted by razib at 03:47 PM | | TrackBack


In an earlier post here I discussed the curiously neglected implications of cuckoldry for estimates of heritability.

There is uncertainty over the incidence of cuckoldry in the past. I have just come across some data which suggest an incidence of about 5% in America in the first half of the 20th century. This is high enough to be worth taking into account.

For details proceed...

The data are reported in Anne Anastasi, Differential Psychology, 3rd edition, 1958, based on a study by C. Cotterman and L. Snyder in J. Amer. Stat. Assoc., 1939, 34, 511-23. Cotterman and Snyder studied the ability to taste phenyl-thiocarbamide among 800 families. Most people find this chemical tastes intensely bitter, but some cannot taste it at all. The ability to taste is inherited as a simple Mendelian dominant. Non-tasters are homozygous for the recessive non-taster allele. Two non-taster parents therefore should not have any taster children. Yet out of 223 children born to such couples, 5 (2.24% of the total) were tasters.

Prima facie, this sets a lower limit of 2.24% to the incidence of cuckoldry (barring rare events such as new mutations). The full incidence would be higher, because even with cuckoldry not all of the offspring of non-taster women would be tasters. Taster offspring would always be produced when these women mated with a homozygous taster male, and half the time (on average) when they mated with a heterozygous taster, but never when they mated with a non-taster. Assuming random mating in the population w.r.t the taster gene, the proportions of the genotypes are p-sq., 2pq, and q-sq., where p is the proportion of the taster gene in the gene pool, and q = (1 - p). Also assuming random mating w.r.t. the taster gene in adulterous relationships, the proportion of tasters among the offspring of non-taster females produced by cuckoldry should be p-sq. + pq. As q = 1 - p, this reduces to p. The value of p in the study population can estimated from the fact that 86 of the 800 families (10.75%) contained two non-taster parents. Since the proportion of non-tasters in the population is q-sq., the proportion of couples in which both partners are non-tasters should be q-to-the-4. This gives a value of about .573 for q and .427 for p. The full incidence of cuckoldry implied by these data is therefore 2.24%/.427 =5.25%.

I need hardly say that no firm conclusions can be based on this single set of data. The total number of individuals involved in the study is quite large (several thousand) but the crucial group of taster children born to non-taster parents is very small. Quite apart from sampling error, even a small proportion of misclassification, of either parents or children, would invalidate the conclusion. But it is consistent with other moderate estimates of the incidence of cuckoldry in modern western populations.


Posted by David B at 09:40 AM | | TrackBack


Robert Plomin announced some new findings on dyslexia this week. Contrary to the prevailing view that dyslexia is a highly specific learning disorder, Plomin claims, on the basis of large twin studies, that it is usually part of a more general syndrome, which also affects mathematical and general cognitive abilities. For more info go to Google News and search under Plomin.

Posted by David B at 04:41 AM | | TrackBack

Don't you love diversity, Green Mountain state?

I am going to shift for this post into a persona I will label "Diversicrat." All questions will be framed in the context of the grand principle-"but is it good for diversity?"-though I will not comment on situations where diversity might battle diversity (ie; Latino immigration causing black flight out of California because of eroding working class wages).

I visited Vermont in June. Nice state. Green hills, small towns, polite Yankees. But where was the diversity? I met a woman of half-Japanese heritage, but she was woefully apathetic to diversity and her own colorful Nipponese culture. What is wrong with them? The people at the local coffee shop were prompt & served with a smile, but again, the lack of diversity left a bitter aftertaste (though it was a nice brown organic Kenya brew-there was vanilla only behind the counter, cinnamon & chocolate among the flavor options-pure tokenism). The bookshops were filled with friendly clerks, radical literature, but again, no diversity.

Woe unto the unbelievers, Vermot is 97% white!!!. The lack of diversity is shocking-snow blindness is a problem in summer as well as winter! (if you know what I mean) And yet somehow these people think themselves liberal-electing a "socialist" to Congress! Yes, they favor income redistribution-but only for white people! A salting of Quebecois here & there does not not a colorful quilt of humanity make.

And speaking of government-Howard Dean is running for president. He seems nice enough, but we note that he was born & raised in New York City and moved to Burlington! Why would anyone in their right mind leave the diversity of New York City? Dean supports diversity on paper-after all he supports normalizing the status of undocumented workers, which is good for diversity (though we hear he dodged a question about it in the New Mexico debate to focus on racial profiling, which is bad, but not really that important for diversity). But his own state is only 1% Latino. Though the motel where I stayed was owned by Indians (brown kind), so some diversity, the maids & other help were whites who spoke English with an American accent, not Latinos who said "Yes" to every question! (this disturbing phenomena I also observed in Kentucky-whites doing menial work, not really good for diversity!) This indicates a shortfall of undocumented workers to normalize that can be used as the build-block for more diversity. If he is really committed to diversity Howard Dean should encourage the building of guest hostels in the cities of Vermont so that people of color from New York City and other areas afflicted by unemployment can move there and add a little spice to mix. Furthermore, the long term goal should be to import some of California's richness, for it is clear that far too much of the state is fallow and underpopulated. This might even discourage right-wing Republicans from moving to the state because of white flight as diversity will discourage them....

Posted by razib at 03:48 AM | | TrackBack

Poll results
For those of you who voted early, summary of poll results below....
What is your political orientation?
Liberal 7% 6
Centrist 6% 5
Conservative 10% 9
Libertarian 31% 26
Social Democrat 1% 1
Paleoconservative 10% 9
Centrist-leaning Left 12% 10
Centrist-leaning Right 17% 14
Anarchist 1% 1
Communist 1% 1
What is your hightest educational level?
Less than high school 0% 0
High school 3% 3
Some college 10% 14
College 31% 26
Some graduate 15% 12
MA/MS/ME/MBA 11% 9
J.D. 3% 3
PhD/MD 14% 11
Exists 16% 13
Probably exists 2% 2
Maybe exists 3% 3
Could exist 13% 11
Doubt it 25% 21
Doesn't exist 29% 24
Couldn't exist 8% 7
Dude 86% 64
Chick 13% 10
Butch lesbian 0% 0

Nothing too surprising. GNXP readers tend to be slightly Right-of-Center, but more libertarian than anything else, and skew toward high educational attainment and the male gender. Additionally-while according to Gallup 63% of Americans believe in God and have no doubts about that-only 16% of GNXP readers assent to a similar position, althought at least 1/3 of our readers are probably non-American. The number of women was a little lower than I hoped-so perhaps duende needs to post some "stud" pics-tastefully tucked into the "extended entry" of course. 10% of GNXP readers (9) submitted that they were "paleoconservative," which is pretty high since most Americans have never heard of that term. I assume zizka was the Social Democrat.
Posted by razib at 02:58 AM | | TrackBack

September 11, 2003

Intelligent Design & the public

Chris Mooney has a great article out on polls that support "teaching both sides" in the "evolution controversy." Here is a good chunk showing why many scientists get furious with the intelligent design movement and its fellow travellers:

...In July, the state chapter of the Intelligent Design Network released results from a Zogby online poll that purportedly showed support for the teaching of Intelligent Design theory among scientists at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico...of 16,000 people at Sandia, Los Alamos, and various New Mexico universities supposedly invited to respond to the survey, only 248 did so, a ridiculously small response rate. In a statement, Sandia National Laboratory president C. Paul Robinson even termed the poll a "bogus mini-survey." The Intelligent Design Network has now taken a curious stance: The group stands by the poll but says it won't cite it any more, according to a letter obtained by New Mexicans for Science and Reason.

Posted by razib at 02:47 PM | | TrackBack

Deconstructing Brightness

I feel I must respond to brother Ole's post. I've tried to avoid talking about this topic-but seeing as most of the readers (from the poll) of this site are part of the "Bright" constituency, I'll wade in.....

The first thing is that using the term "Bright" is committing to a manichaean typology-everyone else is a "non-Bright." Does this remind you of anything? "Saved" vs. "unSaved", "Christian" vs. "nonChristian," etc. We engage in the very sin which we resent the most. This tendency comes to some extent from the Christian mindset, after all, there is not a "Bright" mindset, it is an ad hoc collection of tendencies that often correlate are but are not enumerated in a scripture that is taken as axiomatic. Julian The Apostate attemped to mimic Christianity by forcing the pagan cults to organize an eclessiastical hierarchy and explicate defined doctrines, even his personal intolerance toward Christians often bemused his pagan companions. He brought a Christian mindset into the pagan religious world-view-and some "Brights" bring the same baggage with them. The Ghost of Christ haunts the movement. In the process of shaping who we are against, the "Other," we will alientate natural allies like liberal Christians. If the movement has practical goals of liberation-then these costs must be evaluated.

Hannah Arendt said if you are insulted as a Jew, fight back as a Jew, no matter what your identity besides Jewishness. If someone insults you as an atheist, fight back as one. But atheism or naturalism does not define the totality of most "Brights," rather family, cultural activities and plain fun are much more paramount. The analogy to gays is spurious in that gays have become a subculture-there are "gay" neighborhoods after all, when was the last time you heard of a "naturalist" or "atheist" neighborhood. There is simply an artificiality about the construction of this identity that needs to be focused on-there is no natural coherence to it just as there no coherence to pro-choice activists, or frankly, libertarians. We exist as a counter-point defiantly against the demon haunted world-but that doesn't mean that our naturalism must become a graven idol that we worship, it is background, not foreground. I speak as someone who was active in atheist activitism as an undergraduate. The tearing down of church & state separation, the defamation of secularism (ergo, secular people), the plain old ignorance about the non-theistic naturalist position in the wider world, these were things I felt needed to be countered. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, we were socially a disparate bunch, socialists & libertarians, outgoing or shy, aggressive in our anti-religion or somewhat complacent.

As I said-some groups like homosexuals or artists form communities, districts where they live and civil assocations where they meet. I believe in the importance of mediating non-governmental institutions to the health of a democratic society. Nonetheless, these can not be forced, they must emerge naturally. To some extent, identity comes from both "push" & "pull," social ostracism (gays) and common belief or origin (Jews) can shape a group self-awareness-and generally push & pull work together and are confounded. But the formation of group identity comes at a price-heightened tension with the society as a whole. Sometimes this is worth it, black Americans suffering segregation had to forge institutions that spoke for them as a group against injustice, and these organizations continue even after segregation as valuable mainfestations of black identity. On the other hand, some identities are created from disimilar groups mainly by "push" from society, for instance, the "Asian American" identity is such a construct in my opinion. These kinds of self-identification are to my mind artificial, and feed off the friction and unappealing aspects of the American social superstructure, parasitic "activist" classes emerge who also insist on group conformity, since coherency does not come naturally to such a collection of individuals (as opposed to black American or Jewish culture). Atheists, naturalists, "Brights," share some things, but in my opinion not enough to move beyond a single issue interest group in in the political realm to a full fledged community that enters the marketplace of civil society.

And frankly, I'm sick & tired of the identities I have already. I was born brown into a Muslim family, so involuntarily I have both of these identities. My affinity is low to negative with both, but it doesn't matter, many (most?) Americans tend to have an idea that your background defines rather than informs who you are. Like Hannah Arrendt responding to anti-Semitism as a Jew, I respond to racism or prejudice by identifying as who I am perceived to be, but in my everday life, such things have little impact on my individual personality. Who I was born as defines me to enough people that I'm wary of adding another layer of intermediating group identity to my individual character. I'm already accused of "self-hatred" by enough Asian Americans and Muslims (being brown and Muslim is a big part of my "self" apparently, not just the historical coincidence and biological happenstance I tend to view them) that I really don't want to deal with the package that comes along with group identity.

Yes, if I am of any group, it is that of the Brights, but the more important point is that I do not ascribe great significance to groups as a whole-something else I think characterizes Brights! In the end, I am Who I Am, no need to read the label.

Posted by razib at 01:48 PM | | TrackBack

September 10, 2003

Are You Bright?

Are you bright?  Do you know what the question is asking? 

A Bright is a person who has a naturalistic worldview

These days "bright" is like "gay", an ordinary adjective pressed into service to paper over an earlier, less-flattering term.  Being gay sounds better than being homosexual, more normal, less scientific, more acceptable.  And being bright sounds better than being atheist or agnostic for the same reasons.  A significant number of people are coming "out of the closet" and admitting they are bright.

Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett are bright.  They just happen to be two of my very favorite authors, philosophers, avowed Darwinists, and opposed to mysticism in any form.

Dawkins: "Brights constitute 60% of American scientists, and a stunning 93% of those scientists good enough to be elected to the elite National Academy of Sciences (equivalent to Fellows of the Royal Society) are brights.  Look on the bright side: though at present they can't admit it and get elected, the US Congress must be full of closet brights.  As with gays, the more brights come out, the easier it will be for yet more brights to do so. People reluctant to use the word atheist might be happy to come out as a bright."

Dennett: "If you're a bright, what can you do?  First, we can be a powerful force in American political life if we simply identify ourselves.  (The founding brights maintain a Web site on which you can stand up and be counted.)  I appreciate, however, that while coming out of the closet was easy for an academic like me - or for my colleague Richard Dawkins, who has issued a similar call in England - in some parts of the country admitting you're a bright could lead to social calamity.  So please: no 'outing'."

Yeah, I'm bright.  I believe in a naturalistic world view.  I believe everything can be explained rationally, logically, and scientifically, without resort to "magic".  (Arthur C. Clarke famously noted "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".  I would add, "any sufficiently complex scientific process is indistinguishable from magic".)  I am excited by science, the relentless pursuit of truth, piling fact upon fact, testing hypothesis, gradually revealing underlying simplicity, building understanding.

So, I'm bright.  Does this mean I don't believe in God?  The quick answer is no, it doesn't mean that.  The slow answer is a question; "what do you mean by God"?  If you mean a Judeo-Christian God, no, I don't believe in that God.  If you mean a Muslim Allah, or the concept of Buddha, no, sorry, not for me.  Those Gods are concepts invented by people thousands of years ago to explain the unexplainable.  My world view doesn't require a God to explain anything.  But my world view does have room for spirituality, for feelings, for emotion.  For beauty.  For symmetry.  For simplicity and elegance.  For science.  That is my god (and it doesn't require a capital letter, either).

For some, replacing an all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing, all-everything deity with "mere" science is horrible.  That's okay, I don't ask anyone to think as I do, and I can accept that your reality (as perceived by you) is different from my reality.  But for me, I can't imagine anything more beautiful.


Posted by ole at 11:17 PM | | TrackBack

The Typological Temptation: Introduction


1. The study or systematic classification of types that have characteristics or traits in common.
2. A theory or doctrine of types, as in scriptural studies.

My previous post on the book Geography of Thought got me thinking of the tendency toward "typologies"-which the book implies is a more "Western" (or Anglo-centric) mode of mental behavior. I'm going to now start a series zeroing in on what I feel is excessive manipulation and use of "typologies." This post will be a general introduction & a specific example. Future posts will focus on other examples.

I am a compulsive typologist. That I will admit ahead of time. But just as the best security consultants are former burglars, I think someone who is as prone to categorize and hair-split as I am can give great insight into the folly of excessive typology and its uses & abuses. Definition 2 in particular is crucial in understanding how typological thinking can get out of hand-and lead to what I will term manichaean typology.

  • Manichaean typology is a vice characterized by a microscopic attentiveness to one's own affiliation, its traits, implications and correlates. It shows up in discussions of public policy constantly. It lends itself to being transformed into a vehicle for abuse, defamation and dismissal. This being a zero-sum world, the focus and attention to detail of one's own group is balanced by a total lack of concern & interest in the nuance of the positions of others.

My my first two examples are political typologies (in the American context).

For years Republican consultant Arthur Finkelstein made a living smearing Democratic politicians for being "liberal." He did such a good job that now liberals use the term "progressive" for fear of being associated with "liberalism." But what exactly is "liberal"? The term liberal can mean pro-union New Deal Democrats like the late Bob Casey, governor of Pennsylvania, who was a pro-life Catholic. Or, it can mean someone like Barney Frank, who represents the cultural avante garde from his district based out of Brookline. Or, it can mean someone like Bill Clinton, who as a friend of mine said, was a very good "moderate Republican president." Of course, when taken out of the American context, the term starts to get very confusing and the typology becomes nothing more than a mantra to incite the true believers. Did you know that Arnold is too liberal? Did you know that GW is also a liberal? Remember, The John Birch Society thought Eisenhower was a Communist!. We all "know that 'neocons' aren't true conservatives," they are liberals in conservative cloathing.

I am Right-wing. I support abortion on demand, am enthusiastic about miscegenation, am close to being a free speech absolutist, reject religion and am in favor of the post-Human project. But to many, I am conservative. I know, because I have been called as such by many friends in college. One of the most amusing experiences I had in college was getting into a pretty intense argument with a "liberal" who was very happy to give the police extended search & seizure powers in "dangerous" neighborhoods. Later she told me that she was surprised that I objected so strongly as I am obviously a Republican (I was an Independent then, though Republican is my registration now). She was obviously unaware that the Right was a coalition, just as the Left is a coalition, her manichaean world-view instead saw those who did not agree with her as of the amorphous pagan masses. This is not a tendency restricted to the low level liberal prols, I remember Alan Dershowitz, America's lawyer, berating the Bush administration because they had selected the "harshly conservative" Republican governor of Pennsylvania as the head of Homeland Security. Dershowitz did not know that Secretary Ridge supports abortion rights (to the point where his Catholic Church rejects him communion!) and that he had a dovish record in the 1980s. Details...details....

Posted by razib at 02:47 PM | | TrackBack

Questions for readers
Below are some poll questions-I'm just curious, and I've waited a year, so I think it's not too unseemly to be nosy.... Please keep scrolling, there is something spacing between the polls (for non-American readers, liberal means right-wing social democrat, while libertarian is an extreme liberal)....
What is your political orientation?
Social Democrat
Centrist-leaning Left
Centrist-leaning Right
Free polls from Pollhost.com
What is your hightest educational level?
Less than high school
High school
Some college
Some graduate
Free polls from Pollhost.com
Probably exists
Maybe exists
Could exist
Doubt it
Doesn't exist
Couldn't exist
Free polls from Pollhost.com
Female/if I'm in the mood
Indeterminate/haven't hit puberty
Free polls from Pollhost.com
Posted by razib at 02:12 PM | | TrackBack


One of my minor heroes is Dean W. R. Inge (rhymes with sing, not singe), clergyman, theologian, classical scholar, eugenist, and controversialist. At the height of his fame, in the 1920s and 30s, Inge was known as the Gloomy Dean, for his belief that civilisation, on the whole, was going to the dogs.

Inge deserves recognition by GNXPers, if only for having coined the term dysgenic to describe a trend towards genetic decline in a population, complaining that ‘our present social order skims off the cream in each generation and throws it away’.

He also had a neat turn of phrase. Some typical Ingeisms...

.........a pessimist is a man who of two evils prefers both

.........individuals are occasionally guided by reason, crowds never

.........a nation is a society united by a common delusion about its ancestry and a common hatred of its neighbours

.........the corruption of democracies proceeds directly from the fact that one class imposes the taxes and another class pays them

.........in imperialism, nothing fails like success.

Inge was also one of the first to identify the phenomenon of anti-patriotism,
which is familiar now in both the UK and the US:

.......every enemy of England, white, black, yellow or brown, has his
champion among us, and the admirers of the Mahdi and the Mullah, of
the Boxer and the Boer, of Gandhi and Lenin, are found to be the
same people. The English differ, it seems, from other misguided
persons in never being in the right, even by accident.

But all this is really just a pretext to mention that Inge’s great-granddaughter,
Olivia Inge, a pale, auburn-haired beauty, is a hot fashion model. See her portfolio here. Olivia can also claim descent from Prime Minister William Gladstone, and, through Dean Inge’s American wife, from Pocahontas.

I don’t think this proves anything about heredity, but who needs an excuse to
admire beautiful girls?


Posted by David B at 11:23 AM | | TrackBack

September 09, 2003

Light Reading

At the moment I am reading three different books, all great, and I want to share them with you.  Well, to be specific I am not actually reading any of them right now, I'm typing, but you know what I mean.

In the Blink of an EyeFirst up we have In the Blink of an Eye, by Andrew Parker.  This is a fantastic presentation of Parker's theories about the Cambrian explosion.  First he explains that all the animal phyla currently on earth actually evolved before the Cambrian period (about 525M years ago).  The "explosion" was actually a sudden evolution of "hard" parts by animals in many different phyla, with a consequent huge increase in the number of species.  He suggests this evolution was triggered by the strong selective pressure caused by the development of eyes, which made predators suddenly more effective.  In the process he takes us through a wonderful tour of the history of life on Earth, spiced with delightful anecdotes about ancient animals and the humans who tried to figure them out.  Parker doesn't write very well - he is a scientist, not a novelist - but the overall effect is charming rather than deterring, and his style doesn't get in the way of the facts.  You can tell he had to really work to avoid diving into too much scientific detail, but he made it.  (He also an Aussie, and that comes through in his style, too; I can just about hear his accent...)  There are also lots of great diagrams of animals and their various strategies for survival.  Highly recommended.

A Short History of Nearly EverythingNext we have A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson.  Where Parker is a scientist but not a great writer, Bryson is a great writer but not a scientist.  Rather than struggling to contain the level of detail, Bryson works hard to avoid too shallow a treatment, but his wonderful folksy style and thorough research make the book work.  This book is essentially a tour through the development of the universe, picking up as many random facts about as many physical things as possible.  Bryson takes a delight not only in the facts themselves, but in the intricate chains of reasoning required to find them, and the people who did the finding.  Means of quantification are particularly treasured (e.g. just how hot is the center of the Earth, and how do we know?)  I'm enjoying this book a lot, Bryson's obvious enthusiasm carries me along even when the subject matter gets a bit dry.

I am actually reading this as an e-book, using Microsoft Reader; the first time I have ever done so.  Overall I don't like the on-screen reading experience as much as a "real" book (it is tough to take my monitor into the bathroom), but the software works and I found myself basically disappearing into the book.  This is the wave of the future, we just need better reading devices...

A Traveler's Guide to MarsFinally we have A Traveler's Guide to Mars, by William Hartmann.  This is really three books in one, deftly woven together.  First there's a data dump of everything which is known about Mars, including the history of what we knew and when we knew it (and why).  There are tons of great maps and photographs, including many in full color from the recent Mars Global Surveyor Spacecraft mission.  Second there is a whimsical series of sidebars patterned on a standard travelogue; "What to Wear: Martian Weather", "Telling Time on Mars", "How Ice Behaves on Mars", etc.  These are great because they really emphasize the differences between Earth and Mars, and ironically make the possibility of near-term human landings on Mars seem less remote.  Finally there is Hartmann's personal series of anecdotes ("My Martian Chronicles"); in addition to livening up the story, they give him a real sense of authority.  I'm enjoying this book on two levels, first, I am learning a lot about Mars, and second, I am excited by the prospect of human planetary travel.  As Hartmann says, viewing the Earth from Mars makes you realize that with all our cultural differences and problems, we're one species alone in a vast universe.  Inter-planetary travel may ultimately be our greatest accomplishment.

Posted by ole at 09:11 PM | | TrackBack


12-year-old settles music swap lawsuit.

Godless comments:

This battle was over before it started. EarthStation5 is where it's at.

The servers are located in Palestine (!), and I *doubt* the RIAA can issue subpoenas there. The company is explicitly at war with the RIAA, and the software supposedly does all kinds of spoofing so that you don't know who you're downloading or sending to.

Also, I bet that some EFF guy will take up a collection for the people who are sued. I'd pony up a few bucks for this poor girl. F*** the RIAA - they're no-value-added middlemen - nothing but Luddites throwing sand in the engines of progress. They're no different from the Industrial Revolution-era malcontents who sabotaged productivity-enhancing machines.

Check this out:

SupportP2P. Does EarthStation5 really have anoynomus p2p as you have been telling us? Is there any way you can prove this with facts?

Ras: The answer is yes. When using our full security, an OUTSIDE person such as the RIAA and the MPAA will not be able to determine who the user is, what files they are downloading or uploading and where they are located. We are about to offer a reward next week in the sum of $50,000.00 for anyone that can break our full security features.

SupportP2P What are some plans for ES5 in the future to make it more safe for p2p users?

Ras: Our software is quite safe NOW. No other P2P software is even close to the security features that we have currently. We are updating our software THREE times a week in various languages on our download page The Fastract system which was the best P2P software on the internet is no longer supported. As a result, the RIAA and the MPAA have been able to break into their software. The Gnutella 2 has no security and of course the RIAA and the MPAA has been able to break into that system and is now engaging in subpoenas to those users.

Also, as I commented before, the RIAA's attempts at copy protection are inherently doomed, because you can always rerecord the output before it hits the speakers.

Posted by razib at 09:07 PM | | TrackBack


I recently read two contrasting books dealing with the broad sweep of evolution on Earth.

Andrew H. Knoll: Life on a Young Planet: the First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth, Princeton UP, 2003. Knoll is a paleontologist, and his book is especially strong on the evidence of fossils and geochemistry. It is weaker on the genetic approach to reconstructing phylogeny and the evolutionary timescale. Like many paleontologists, Knoll is inclined to play down the genetic evidence for divergence of major invertebrate phyla long before the ‘Cambrian Explosion’. But even if they left no fossils, they may just have been very small and soft-bodied - like much of the plankton today.

John Maynard Smith and Eors Szathmary: The Origins of Life: from the Birth of Life to the Origins of Language, OUP, 1999, is a very different kettle of poissons. It is primarily concerned with the theoretical problem of how increasingly complex systems can evolve, when they contain potentially conflicting elements. Maynard Smith is another of my heroes, but I didn’t read the book when it first came out, because I assumed, based on the authors’ preface, that it was just a pop condensation of their earlier book The Major Transitions in Evolution. In a sense it is, but it is also much more than that. The whole book has been completely re-written and the arguments clarified. Much of the technical detail has been sacrificed, but it has also been updated to take account of new developments. For anyone seriously interested in evolutionary theory I think the books will complement each other, perhaps best reading Origins first and then working through Major Transitions a chapter at a time.


Posted by David B at 03:08 AM | | TrackBack


Readers with a long memory may recall that one of my heroes is the Victorian polymath Francis Galton.

Anyone with an interest in Galton should be aware of a website here created by Gavan Tredoux. This is an extraordinarily rich resource. For one very useful element, scroll down the section at the top of the home page, click on ‘Scientific Papers and Bibliography’, and you will get access to most of Galton’s 200 or so published papers, which can be downloaded for free in PDF format.

I was also going to link to a website providing on-line publication of a book on Galton by Michael Bulmer. The bad news is that the site is no longer available. The good news is that the book is now scheduled for print publication in October by Johns Hopkins UP, under the title Francis Galton: Pioneer of Biometry and Heredity. This will be the most insightful work on these aspects of Galton’s many-sided career. Nobody could be better qualified to write it than Bulmer, whose previous books are Principles of Statistics (1965), The Biology of Twinning in Man (1970), The Mathematical Theory of Quantitative Genetics (1980), and Theoretical Evolutionary Ecology (1994).

There is a recent full biography of Galton by Nicholas Wright Gillham: A Life of Sir Francis Galton: From African Exploration to the Birth of Eugenics (OUP, 2001). It is also still well worth reading Derek Forrest’s Francis Galton: the Life and Work of a Victorian Genius (1974).


Posted by David B at 02:25 AM | | TrackBack

Scribblings anyone?

My article for The American Conservative is up & online. I got a print copy for that issue, but have subscribed too, I won't accuse you of being a racist anti-semite for showing them some love! Thanks to Scott McConnell again, he's a real mensch. Speaking of mensch, I'm going to try & pawn another article off to Jamie Glazov in the near future for Frontpage Magazine, so keep your eyes open....

By the way, for the TAC readers that stumbled into this site, check out the site biographies for an idea of the orientation of this blog....

Posted by razib at 01:20 AM | | TrackBack

Intellect & religious belief

"Are atheists smarter"? So asks an NPR commentator-who in my opinion is rather transparent in his attempt to show that his organization isn't the mouth-piece for the PC secular Left that religious conservatives make it out to be (I listen to NPR-doesn't mean I think it's objective).

Update below!

Some quotations:

Listen to these numbers:

  • 55% of people with POST graduate degrees - this is lawyers, doctors, dentists and the like - believe in the Devil
  • 53% believe in hell
  • 72% believe in miracles

Remember these are people with post graduate educations.

  • 78% of them believe in the survival of the soul after death
  • 60% believe in the virgin birth
  • and 64% believe in the resurrection of Christ.

Yes, these percentages were even higher for people with less education, but those gaps were not nearly as interesting as the fact that the most highly educated people also share some of these views.

You can't get a post-graduate degree without being taught rigorous examination of evidence--figuring out which symptoms indicate a particular disease, or what facts could justify a lawsuit. These people are among the most rational of our society and yet they still believe non-rational things.
But there is another possibility--that some of these rationally-oriented people have found actual proof for their beliefs. Maybe they've had a personal supernatural experience with prayer that makes them believe in God or an afterlife. Maybe they've found a compelling logic to their view - perhaps they’ve looked at the universe and said something made the Big Bang happen or marveled at human development and concluded that "the development of this blob of cells into a conscious human being cannot be explained just through science."

1) Not all graduate degrees are created equal by the Creator....

Many people with "post-graduate" educations are teachers, social workers and accountants, not the doctors & lawyers who are mentioned above. 9% of Americans have graduate degrees. There are 700,000 doctors, 490,000 lawyers[1] and somewhere north of 500,000 scientists and engineers with doctoral degrees-about 2 million people out of the 16 million with "postgraduate" educations. Fair & balanced? Selection bias? Readers might find it interesting that 87% of doctors believe in a "Supreme Being" as opposed to 40% of scientists (I assume that a lawyer's belief is predicated on God's retainer fee).

2) Most educated believers and non-believers have never examined Aquinas' Five Ways to prove the existence of God[2] nor do they come to their faith or lack of via rational or empirical paths. Granted, some do, but most people of high intellectual capacities have in my experience a tendency to rationalize positions rather than reach their conclusion through reason. Granted, a higher percentage of those of high intellect tend to follow the latter path than the general population, but as the bright writer above notes, the difference between the bright and less so is not particularly large in these matters. Soren Kierkegaard rationalized (OK, philosophized) a pietist Lutheran faith that the common man took for granted, and no doubt received much more comfort from. Who was the smart one on that?

Is the "Bright" movement counter-productive? Though I do not doubt Dennett et al.'s ability to weave and bob through the realms of logic and data, they are obviously lacking in social grace and tact, and confirming the prejudices of believers toward secularists. An NPR commentator should be bright enough to end it at that rather than wandering off in a Maureen Dowdish manner into the territory of trying to figure out why people think what they think....

Addendum: I have been informed by a reliable source that I wasn't very clear in the above post. So let me re-state in a different way: both religious & non-religious people tend to interpret patterns of belief in a way that is overly simplistic. For instance, it is a fact that the most eminent American scientists are far less religious than most scientists-who are themselves far less less religious than the average American.

A secularist, taking this data could make the following conjecture: Since lack of religious belief seems positively correlated in this context with greater intellectual capacities-these individuals are subjecting religious axioms to skepticism and finding it wanting. In contrast, a religious individual could assert that hubris is what is driving this trend away from religious faith, as scientists are men & women filled with arrogance and lack of respect for the work's of God. Both these positions are interesting stories, but certainly not the end of any analysis, though this where popular discussions often end.

For instance-assume you have two newly minted Ph.D.s from a good university. Scientist A is a religious church-goer, while scientist B is a secularist. It seems plausible that scientist A would have less discretionary time to devote to research, church might take up much of his Sundays. Additionally, church is a good way to meet women, so it would be unsurprising if scientist A ends up with a family, while scientist B remains single, or barring that, marries another scientist who shares the same devotion to their craft. Over time, these small differences could result in a great chasm of priorities and accomplishments so that the non-religious scientist is elected to the National Academy of Science while the religious one is not, and rather is happy to be viewed by his fellow parishoners as a good father and citizen.

Of course, this is another "just so" story, but the important point is that there are MANY just-so stories out there, and we tend to pick the ones that are most congenial our own world-views. Additionally, the various factors are probably confounded and contribute to feed-back loops (a slight bias of non-religious NAS members chould increase over generations as scientists that are known to be very religious have diminished chances of being elected simply because they are considered strange or out-of-the-ordinary, and not in a good way). Though I think that some people with postgraduate educations come to their beliefs rationally, seeing as how polls show most people tend to follow the religion of their parents, the answers are probably more conventional and nuanced....

And yes Dick, it doesn't take a smart person to observe any of this ;)

fn1. A non-trivial number of J.D. holders do not go on to practice law-I suspect a far higher number than those who do not practice medicine after medical school.

fn2. Most of the Five Ways are descended from and precede some common variations, cosmological, teleological, ontological, etc. Norman Malcolm and Richard Swinburne are two contemporary authors that have tackled the "Proof of God" question from a theistic perspective.

Posted by razib at 12:02 AM | | TrackBack

September 08, 2003

Someone want to dispute this?

Shocking results from TV Guide's You Sexy Thing contest: Keira Knightley vs. Kristanna Loken. I've been a fan of Kristanna since Mortal Kombat: Conquest.

Posted by razib at 01:44 PM | | TrackBack

Did your Elders tell you this?

Skulls don't look like Siberians shouts the PC Scientific American. Both southern and northern waves Out-of-Africa made it to the New World so this shouldn't surprise us (in a co-mingling if not separately). Of course, this won't interest some people who care more about their own ethnocentric mythologies than "Eurocentric" science....

Posted by razib at 12:49 PM | | TrackBack

September 07, 2003

FYI----Beh. Genetics

I can't comment on the Turkheimer study until I read it in PS. But, relatedly, I just received the info for the Seventeenth International Workshop on Methodology of Twin and Family Studies at the Univ. of Colorado-Boulder. I looked at the roster, and it is a veritable who's who in Beh. Genetics, so I am making the trek out there in March.

For those of you who cannot make it, I suggest reading the Workshop's past presentations, especially Neale and Maes' updated Methodology for Genetic Studies of Twins and Families and the program Mx.



Posted by A. Beaujean at 05:48 PM | | TrackBack