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November 22, 2003

IQ Map, FYI/E----

This was passed along to me today, and thought it a nice graphical overview* of Lynn & Vanhanen's IQ and the Wealth of Nations

If it looks familiar, it is probably becasue it was published in The Times (UK) on November 10, 2003.

*an "uncondensed" version is available via my web site, just click on the map.

Posted by A. Beaujean at 07:46 PM | | TrackBack

New contact method

Hey all, please do not use my razib-at-gnxp.com address...too much spam. I have a mail-form linked from Contact Razib on the left bar.

Posted by razib at 06:03 PM | | TrackBack

November 21, 2003

The Golden Mean

In my reading and observation of the "state of the world" I often come back to the same aphorism over & over:

The modern West aims for the Golden Mean between the hyper-moralism of the Dar-al-Islam and the hyper-amoralism of The Middle Kingdom.

Note there are about 1-1.3 billion Muslims and 1.3 billion Chinese. My friend Andrew Reeves predicts that Islam will defeat the West by century's end, but I fear far more the peril of a Scientific Celestial Empire, the pessimistic utilitarianism of Hsun Tzu[1] untempered by the good-heartedness of Mencius.

fn1. The third of the "trinity" of Confucian greats, after Mencius and Confucius himself, not Sun Tzu of the Art of War.

Update, Andrew weighs in on the message board (I will comment later):

Hi. I don't think I've ever spelled out exactly why I believe that the future of the West belongs to Islam, so this is as good a place as any to do so. When unbelievers go up against believers, the believers have several advantages. The first is demographic. Unbelievers have 0-2 children, whereas believers can usually be counted on to breed prodigiously. The second is surety. People crave surety, and the clergy of Western Christendom has drunken too deeply of the Enlightenment to offer any kind of assurance to those seeking such from them (even vangelicals are slipping in this regard). Now then, the proponents of a certain religion are offering surety, but that religion is not Christianity.

A fine example of such trends in action can be seen by looking in prisons. Occasionally, one sees prison ministries that come from liberal denominations of Christianity. When the prisoners find out that they are not going to be offered a narrative of sin, guilt, repentance and redemption, they will usually go to the Muslim chaplain, who will provide such a narrative.

In addition, very few people in the nations formerly known as Christendom believe in the particulars of the Christian faith. It is slightly more believable to have the angel Gabriel choke-slam a camel merchant in a cave and demand he recite than to believe that an executed street preacher also happened to have created the universe.

At this point, the discerning reader might ask, "But surely Andrew, you are speaking of the competition of two forms of faith? What of secularism?" To which I must, sadly, reply that until we can rework our brains, most people aren't going to be happy with secularism. America is, after all, only 8% atheist, though less than half believe in the creedal particulars of Xianity. It's also at least anecdotally establishable that when people are looking for things "spiritual," they are usually fairly susceptible to suggestion. Per G.K. Chesterton, when people have abandoned the ancient faith, the do not believe in nothing, rather they believe in anything. So your generic godless westerner, feeling a moment of immortal longing, searches for faith. He has grown up knowing that Christianity is false, so that is right out. When an imam states surely and categorically that there is a God, and that the secret to happiness is submitting to Him, Joe Unbeliever is more likely than not to accept this. The principle involved is the simple one that if you forcefully enough assert a thing to be true, most people who have not already made up their minds will wind up being convinced. I'm sure there's a sociobiological reason for this that our biologists at GNXP could put into clearer light.

A final point I have to make is that we have far to much confidence in "Whig historiography" (March of Progress) and the idea that as you move right on the timeline, things naturally get better. Among the implicit assumptions in such a view is that as one moves along, religion fades into irrelevance. The last thirty years in the House of Peace, though, should be more than enough to demonstrate that such is not the case. Indeed, even when one sees Muslims in the Islamic world behaving more "secularly," there is a profound qualitative difference between such secularity and Western Secularity. One is the secularity of one who believes but is lazy in carrying out his beliefs, while the other is the secularity of one who does not believe. The latter, in Europe, resulted from the epistemic break that occured in the Enlightenment, and thus, the European is debauched because he does not believe that there is a God telling him not to be. A debauched Muslim, though, deep down knows that his behaviour is wrong, but he is acting in a moment of weakness. One leads to further and further secularization, while the other has within it the seeds of religious revival.

People, in general, are not made for living under a rigorously controlled system, which is why virtually every totalitarian state has slacked off within a few generations. The religious too follow a pattern of slackness, revival, reform, and back to slackness on down through the centuries. Different parts of Islam are either sliding into the "slack" phase or in the "revival" phase. A debauched Muslim is even better for the gradual triumph of the religious worldview because his initial guilt makes him all the more likely to eventually find the need to expiate it in a fit of religiosity.

The confluence of all of the above factors seems to indicate to me that, if in a century we are still human, we (or more properly, our descendants) will be Muslim. Which is a shame, because I really like bacon and beer and look terrible in facial hair.

Posted by razib at 04:00 PM | | TrackBack

November 20, 2003

AIDS, addition, division & multiplication....

The Economist has an article on AIDS in China up. No need to read it, the same old vanilla. Note this:

  1. "In 1990, around 1% of adults in both South Africa and Thailand were infected with the HIV virus. Tackling the problem head on, Thailand has managed to keep the rate at roughly the same level. By 2001, however, South Africa had pulled its head from the sand to find that its own rate had sky-rocketed to nearly 25% of adults, according to figures from the United Nations."
  2. "Unless China acts decisively, it will find itself on an African trajectory, just 15 years behind."
  3. " The UN reckons the prevalence of HIV infection among China's adult population now stands at around 0.1% but says that, on current trends, the country may have some 10m infections and 260,000 children orphaned as a result of AIDS by 2010."

The absolute numbers are sobering, but 10 million infections in a nation of 1.3 billion individuals is 0.8% HIV infection rates (to be sure, eight times greater than 0.1% of today). If you connect the dots, the article seems to imply that in 2018 China might have something closer to the 25% infection rates of South Africa than the 2% of Thailand. But in 2010 China's infection rate will be 0.8%, so how much do you bet that by 2018 it will be much above the 2% of Thailand???

I'm not intending to discourage the Chinese government from taking pro-active steps to combat the spread of AIDS, but non-governmental variables are also crucial to the spread of infection. Most non-governmental variables in China are closer in nature to Thailand than South Africa-at least that's what I've read, perhaps someone who has been to all three countries could enlighten me. In any case, this perpetual shell game of swapping percentages, growth rates and absolute figures throughout articles seems to be calibrated toward heightening alarmism. I thought The Economist was the penance that British journalism pays the world to make up for its dailies....

Posted by razib at 03:01 PM | | TrackBack

Jihadi comparative advantage

Seems that Muslim jihad organizers understand economics. This works against Western jihadis like the one profiled in the article. From the piece:

...But jihadis say there is a more important factor: the supply of bombers exceeds demand, and British bombers are too expensive. “For the cost of equipping and transporting a British fighter into Iraq—about $2,000—we can shift 20 guerrillas into Iraq from neighbouring Arab states and Chechnya,” says a retired jihadi field officer....

Posted by razib at 02:40 PM | | TrackBack

Heritability, IQ, SES, etc.

A while back, there were some posts on the SES moderation of IQ heritability.

The study is finally available to the public.

Except for the point that they used youngr kiddo-s, (which tend to have a lower heritability), there is nothing terribly exciting. The main point is that as the environment becomes more unstable, the heritability decreases.

I liken the scenario to that of drag racing a Porsche and a Yugo. If the road (i.e., environment) is smooth and unadulterated for both vehicles, the inherent qualities of the cars are going to (mostly) determine the variance in outcomes(i.e., finishing times). But, as the road becomes filled with potholes and debris is scattered about, the variance in outcomes, necessarily, loads higher on an environmental factor. This does not mean that the inherent qualities of the cars are any less important, but just that lack of road stability becomes more cogent in affecting outcomes.

Posted by A. Beaujean at 01:15 PM | | TrackBack

Once more into the breach...

In previous posts, here and here, I argued that international comparisons of IQ do not necessarily indicate genetic differences between populations. I also provided links to comparative tables of various aspects of demography, education, and health.

It occurred to me that it might be interesting to calculate the correlation between some indicator of environmental quality and national mean IQs, as listed by Richard Lynn. For this purpose infant mortality (IM) seemed a promising indicator. From inspection of the figures there seemed likely to be a substantial negative correlation between IQ and IM (high IQ associated with low IM and vice versa), and one might expect IM to reflect key aspects of environmental quality, such as income per head, nutrition, water supply, sewage and waste disposal, health care, and social services.

I don’t have a computer programme to calculate correlation coefficients, but hey, I know the Pearson formula, and I thought it would only take half-an-hour or so. Big mistake! Calculating correlations (for any sizeable n) with only a pocket calculator for assistance is brain-numbingly, eye-glazingly tedious.

But I’m glad I persevered, as the result was remarkable....

The ‘sample’ consisted of those countries for which Lynn provides actual IQ data (not just estimates based on data from nearby countries) and for which the UN tables provide IM. There are 77 of these. Their mean IQ is 88, and their mean IM is 30.2 (deaths per thousand in the first year). The standard deviation of the national IQs is almost exactly 12 [NB: don’t confuse this with the s.d. of individual IQs], and the s.d. of the IMs is 31.6. The covariance of IM and IQ is minus 321, the regression of IQ on IM is minus 0.32, and the regression of IM on IQ is minus 2.23. The correlation coefficient (Pearson’s r ), calculated from unrounded data, is minus 0.844.

This is an astonishingly strong negative correlation. It is stronger than Lynn’s own correlation of 0.757 between IQ and GDP per head. It accounts for over 71 per cent of total variance, as against 57 per cent for Lynn’s correlation (the squares of the respective correlation coefficients). And some of the remaining variance will be random error in both IQ and IM data.

But what does it all mean? To help interpret the results, I also drew a scattergram (which is a lot more fun!). This shows that the regressions are almost perfectly linear, but the 77 countries fall into three fairly distinct clusters. At one end is a very tight cluster of developed countries, all with near-zero IM and IQ around 100. At the other end is a looser linear scattering of African (and a few Asian) countries with low IQs (below 80) and high IMs (over 50). Between these groups is a hotch-potch of Asian, Latin American, and a few European countries (including Russia) with moderate IM. The IQ of these countries is more variable, so the correlation within this group is rather weaker, with several ‘outliers’ a long way from the regression lines. But overall, the correlation between IM and IQ is almost embarrassingly strong.

Chicken or egg? Nature or nurture?

The correlation in itself doesn’t prove whether environment is influencing IQ or vice versa. It seems reasonable to assume that infant mortality as such does not directly influence the IQ of a population, at least in the short term (in the longer term it could conceivably have eugenic or dysgenic effects, if IM is selective w.r.t. IQ). Nor is IQ likely to be the main direct influence on national levels of IM. No doubt dim parents are more likely to have dead children, but I take it that factors such as water supply are more important in international comparisons (or comparisons across time - 150 years ago European countries had higher IM than African countries now).

We therefore need to look for models of indirect causation. It is easy to envisage both genetic and environmental models. An obvious genetic model would be on the lines of ‘low genetic IQ causes poor economic development and inefficient government, which causes bad hygiene, nutrition, etc., which causes high IM’. An equally obvious environmental model would be on the lines of ‘poor economic development causes bad hygiene, nutrition, etc., which in turn causes both high IM and low IQ’.

The correlation data alone can’t decide between these hypotheses. However, I argued in earlier posts that from what we know about the heritability of IQ we would expect to find a difference of up to 20 IQ points between developed and 3rd-world countries.

Perhaps the most persuasive argument is based on the Flynn Effect. It is generally acepted that mean IQ in western countries has increased by about 20 points since the 1930s. It is also generally accepted that the increase is wholly or mainly due to improvements in environment. It follows that if there are 3rd-world countries now in which the quality of environment is equivalent to that of western countries in the 1930s, then we would expect (other things being equal) the mean IQ in those countries to be about 20 points below the current western mean.

Unfortunately, there is no consensus on what particular aspects of environmental quality are responsible for the Flynn Effect. Entire books have been written on the subject (e.g. The Rising Curve, ed. Ulric Neisser, 1998). Personally, I like the argument of Richard Lynn that the main factor is improved nutrition. However, Lynn also accepts that longer secondary schooling has had an effect on the IQ of young adults, such as the Danish army recruits studied by Teasdale and Owen. Interestingly, in view of Lynn’s heavy reliance on Raven’s Matrices for international comparions, he also thinks that Raven’s is more susceptible to schooling effects than Wechsler - see Lynn in Neisser, p.212-3.

But whatever the reasons for the Flynn Effect, it is plausible that the relevant environmental quality in 3rd-world countries now is as bad as (or worse than) in western countries in the 1930s. If we take such indicators such as IM and life expectancy this is obviously the case. I therefore believe that many of the differences in IQ recorded in Lynn’s data have environmental causes. For example, the IQs of around 80 (against a UK mean of 100) in countries like India, Egypt and Guatemala are just what we would expect. I don’t know whether the lower IQs in most African countries can be explained in the same way, but clearly their environmental quality is even worse.

As I stressed in an earlier post, I do not exclude the possibility that genetic differences are also relevant. Genetic differences could plausibly explain some of the ‘outliers’ on the scattergram - countries where IQ is substantially better (or worse) than predicted by the regression on IM. For example, China has mean IQ about 15 points higher than predicted. This is partly because the IM figures are inflated by infanticide of girl babies, but even if we exclude girls the IQ in China is much higher than in other countries with the same IM for boys.

There are also a few countries - notably Jamaica, Barbados and Qatar - with IQ much lower than predicted by the regression. A genetic hypothesis may suggest itself, but I wouldn’t jump to conclusions. IM can hardly be a perfect indicator of overall genetic quality, so there are bound to be cases where IM is lower than one would expect from the general quality of environment. In Qatar, for example, oil wealth has probably paid for better sanitation and hospitals without necessarily improving education and literacy. And it seems from the UN tables that IM in the Caribbean islands generally is lower than in comparable mainland countries like Brazil and Guatemala. In Jamaica, for example, GDP per head is about the same as in Guatemala, but IM is only half as high. Maybe the legacy of colonial government in the Caribbean included relatively good sanitation and health care, or maybe the island location and climate has something to do with it. If the 'true' environmenal quality in the Caribbean is similar to that of Guatemala, then the IQs are not badly out of line with expectation.

But I would also want to be satisfied that the IQ figures are valid. The IQ recorded by Lynn for Jamaica and Barbados (72 and 78 respectively) is much lower than one would expect from the performance of West Indian immigrants to the UK (see here.) This could perhaps be accounted for by selective migration, but this cuts both ways - migration from the West Indies since 1950 has been on a very large scale, so if it has been selective, then the population remaining on the islands would have its mean IQ artificially depressed.

Anyway I’ve now exhausted myself, if not the subject. I’m aware that expressing some of these views on GNXP is rather like farting in church, but if you can’t fart in church, where can you fart?

Posted by David B at 12:42 PM | | TrackBack

Look to the Yehudi

A few days ago I commented on slavery and Islam in response to Zack Ajmal's manifesto on the same topic. I was mildly hopeful that progressive & heterodox Muslims could change the outlook of the faith in The United States. I'm not the only one, and since 9/11 the questions regarding the possible future evolution or revolution in Islamic practice and belief have been explored by all parties from every angle.

The first model that surfaced was the idea of an "Islamic Reformation." There were a few problems with this. The first was that the original Christian Reformation developed in large part as a reaction against the humanistic excesses of the quasi-pagan Renaissance Catholic Church. I suspect that a puritanical and iconoclast evangelical faith is not what we are looking to aid and abbett. The indulgences that Martin Luthern inveighed against helped to fund the construction Saint Peter's Basilica-the sort of baroque and artistic achievement that is likely to turn any Wahabbi's day sour. Like Muhammed, Martin Luther also turned against the Jews when they were no longer of use to him. I have argued at length that the historical circumstances of the Germanic and Protestant peoples did have something to do with the emergence of modern liberalism (this is actually somewhat tautological insofar as we do know that the English people seem to have given rise to much of the liberal tradition), but that particular historical pathway took centuries and was not without its bloody episodes.

Because the West is in origin a Christian society we have looked to Christian models to make analogies and suggestions for Islam. I think this is wrong headed. Though there are differences, the similarities are much greater with Judaism for Islam. Unlike Christianity, Judaism and Islam are religions of practice as much as religious of faith. Neither religion has a true priestly class, rabbis, muftis, ghazis and ayotollahs are ad hoc creations in response to natural needs of the masses for spiritual guidance (and please, Cohens and Levys don't do jack). Even in the "founders" of these faiths the similarities between Moses and Muhammed, spiritual and temporal leaders, are striking, at least in comparison to the enigmatic and other-worldly figure of Jesus.

At this point, I will cut to the chase and assert that what Islam needs is a Haskalah, its own form of the Jewish Enlightenment. Here is a quick description:

The Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, was an intellectual movement in Europe that lasted from approximately the 1770s to the 1880s. The Haskalah was inspired by the European Enlightenment but had a Jewish character. Literally, Haskalah comes from the Hebrew word sekhel, meaning "reason" or intellect" and the movement was based on rationality. It encouraged Jews to study secular subjects, to learn both the European and Hebrew languages, and to enter fields such as agriculture, crafts, the arts and science. The maskilim (followers of the Haskalah) tried to assimilate into European society in dress, language, manners and loyalty to the ruling power. The Haskalah eventually influenced the creation of both the Reform and Zionist movements.

The Haskalah model might not be appropriate for the Dar-al-Islam as a whole, but it is surely appropriate for Muslims who live in Western society. The abandonment of strict halakhah and the adaptation of Protestant forms of worship in Reform Judaism were crucial in the integration of the Jewish people into European culture. Similarly, Muslims must fully abandon their adherence to most elements of shariat, or more properly, their attempts to have Western nations recognize the norms of shariat in the public space. They must also acculturate their religion to Protestant norms of practice and civility-the discarding of foreign religious clerics would be a good start to indigenize the faith. The re-interpretation of Islamic belief on a modern Protestant model is already occurring.

Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Posted by razib at 04:29 AM | | TrackBack

November 19, 2003

Protestant Republicans and Democratic....

Steve Sailer writes about the appeal of the Republican party to white Protestants. Well, here is the religious 411 on the Democratic Candidates:

  • Howard Dean: Raised Episcopalian, switched to Congregationalist as an adult (over some political dispute with the local church), Jewish wife and kids being raised in the Hebrew faith.
  • Wes Clark: Roman Catholic, raised Baptist, dad Jewish (raised Jewish until 4 years old).
  • John Kerry: Roman Catholic, paternal grandparents converts from Judaism, mother a Forbes, so of Protestant Brahmin lineage.
  • Dick Gephardt: Baptist (though I've seen him listed as Lutheran).
  • John Edwards: Methodist (raised Baptist, social climber!).
  • Joe Lieberman: Orthdox Jewish.
  • Dennis Kucinich: Catholic, but has a long-term Jewish girlfriend.
  • Al Sharpton: Listed as Pentacostal or Episcopalian-no surprise that he's not theologically consistent.
  • Carol Moseley Braun: Roman Catholic, but attends an Episcopal church (confused?).
  • Bob Graham: No longer running, but he is United Church of Christ, which is what Congregationalist is called outside of New England.

All in all, the Democrats are poster children for religious pluralism. Comment on any mess-ups.

Posted by razib at 09:01 PM | | TrackBack

Creationist medical students?

Christian medical students want anti-evolution lectures at the University of Oslo, no, not the University of Alabama, Oslo, in Scandinavia! Now, Norway does have a Lutheran minister as a prime minister, and I have heard that the western Norway is a bit hickish, but this is Oslo! I wonder what Claudia thinks about this....

This makes me wonder-is the secularization hypothesis becoming invalid even for Europe! God help us!

OK, here is a display of Nordish genius:

The Christian Medical Students Circle want three basic points to be included in the curriculum:

1 According to the theory of evolution a mutation must be immediately beneficial to survive through selection. But many phenomena explained by evolution (for example the eye) involve so many, small immediately detrimental mutations that only give a long-term beneficial effect.

2 There is no fossil evidence to indicate transitional forms between, for example, fish and land animals or apes and humans.

3 Evolution assumes too many extremely improbably events occurring over too short a span of time [?].

I bolded really stupid assertions and inserted in a ? mark where I was confused as to what content they were trying to get across.

For 1 see neutral theory (to start).

For 2 see transitions in Talk Origins.

For 3, 3.6 billion years = short time? Actually, that assertion seems a bit confused and non-specific to me....

Update: Chris Mooney talks about medicine & evolution.

Posted by razib at 05:46 PM | | TrackBack

It's better on fire

OK, I was recently pointed to a few articles on redheads. I've seen them in the press before, but didn't notice the mini-bumper-crop recently.

First, a few articles on the evolutionary significance of redheads. Here is an article that talks about the connection between pale skin and Vitamin D synthesis. This is the standard adaptationist explanation, a perspective recently being edged aside by sexual selection hypotheses (which are of course, "sexier"), for instance, this article says redheads are sexier. Ufortunately, these theories of sexual selection can sometimes be hard to corroborate insofar as different surveys give various responses and you have to siphon cultural influences out of the mix-and ultimately sexual selection does have a functional purpose.

I would like to go back to the adaptationist hypothesis insofar as it relates to vitamin D. Recently new evidence suggests that ancient Britons abandoned their marine/fishing lifestyle as soon as they encountered the Neolithic option, about 5,000 years ago. Claudia on the message board pointed out that the Inuit can have dark skin because of the high percentage of marine foods in their diet (which have Vitamin D), despite their circumpolar location. The above articles note red hair has the highest levels of expression in both Ireland and Scotland (with high water marks of around 10%). And yet, look at the proximity to the ocean of these two lands. Especially in Scotland where the rugged uplands probably made a hunter-gatherer lifestyle difficult the bounty of salmon and other marine resources would likely have been enticing. Therefore, I wonder if Vitamin D deficiency would have been that great of a problem. On the other hand, with the transition to agriculture and pastoralism 5,000 years ago in these cloudy lands and the sudden withdrawl of fish from the diet, a strong selective pressure for redheads might have arisen quite suddenly (red hair being correlated with the light skin that allows vitamin D synthesis).

OK, that was all conjecture, but I think it is something to think about. But what about the thesis that redheads will disappear? Well, the genes won't, but since the expression of this phenotype occurs at such a low percentage even in regions where it is common, I can believe that it is declining in numbers as a visible phenotype as people from various parts of the British Isles intermarry at a greater rate (red hair is caused by a combination of several alleles on the MC1R locus, and so recombination with people without red hair would result in the diffusion of these alleles throughout a more numerous population where expression of the trait would decrease-see Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium). It might even be that the great emigration of Scottish and Irish peoples during the 17th to 19th centuries to the European settler colonies resulted in a sharp drop in the percentage of peoples with red hair in the world. Not only would the descendents of Scotts and Irish intermarry with Italians, English, French and Poles, but, more likely, they would intermarry with individuals from other areas of Scotland or Ireland where red hair was not as common. For instance, the physical anthropologist Carlton Coon noted that the prevelance of dark hair increases as one moves south and west through Ireland, and in the Irish diaspora regional differences between Catholic Irish would decline as geographic distance would not longer be an issue. My bigger point is that population substructure, a level of inbreeding, exists on a smaller scale than nation or folk. In fact, prior to 10,000 years ago, when all humans lived in small bands, I suspect population substructure was high enough that many peculiar recessive phenotypes expressed themselves in inbred clans. For instance, I see pictures of people with reddish or blondish hair sometimes when looking through old issues of National Geographic in the context of Melanesia (this does not include the blonde aboriginals of Australia)-these peoples with their peculiarities were edged aside in most of southeast Asia by the black haired folk that radiated from the environs of modern southern China....

Posted by razib at 04:21 PM | | TrackBack

Meta-scientific technology

PLOS has an article titled Tough Mining: The challenges of searching the scientific literature. I guess this sort of thing should help prevent fiascos like the obscurity of Gregor Mendel's work for 30 years, but more importantly, aids to searching the literature are the crucial in these days of hyper-specialization.

Posted by razib at 02:44 AM | | TrackBack

This is your brain on ... racism?

I've gotten a few emails on this topic, but I just noticed that Carl Zimmer has an excellent blog up on the research that indicates that racism is cognitively demanding. I won't excerpt it, go read the whole thing....

Posted by razib at 02:03 AM | | TrackBack

November 18, 2003

Political Predictions

Within 5 years, governor or senator Roy Moore.

Posted by razib at 09:03 PM | | TrackBack

Bobby Jindal = Affirmative Action?

VDARE reader says Bobby Jindal is an affirmative action beneficiary:

To be fair, this major-league affirmative action beneficiary—Brown University, Rhodes Scholar, holder of important offices granted by a doting President and Governor—did achieve notable successes. He reached out to the black vote and doubled the Republican share – to 9%!

The link in the letter to affirmative action is a Paul Craig Roberts article on the Michigan admissions ruling. Bobby Jindal's political appointments might have been due to his "dark skin," but I am highly skeptical that someone who had a 4.0 at Brown while double majoring in Biology & Public Policy (though Brown does have a strange grading system last I checked) and was accepted to both Harvard and Yale medical schools was a beneficiary of affirmative action in the higher educational context. Additionally, as some conservatives have noted, when it comes to higher education Asian Americans, including Bobby Jindal, are honorary whites outside the purview of diversity quotas-I am sure that most VDARE writers and readers know this.

VDARE says things that need to be said, but I don't see that they need to shade the truth to get their point across. As for the letter writer's interpretation of the Sailer strategy, I didn't know that that involved nominating only white candidates, as only whites can appeal to whites.

Posted by razib at 07:53 PM | | TrackBack

November 17, 2003

Blood & babies

Is anyone surprised that American Baby has an article up titled Genetics and Your Baby. Eugenics will re-enter the public space through private consumer choice and "awareness," not command directives from On High....

Posted by razib at 01:00 PM | | TrackBack

November 16, 2003

Slavery & Islam

Zack Ajmal has a post that deals with the Islamic attitude toward slavery. He asserts:

Though I am disappointed in the Quran in allowing the rape of slave girls, I also think of Islam as not a rigid religion but something as evolves and progresses as we become better human beings. I also recognize the progress humanity has made in the last millenium or two.

I applaud Zack's viewpoint. But is this a common stance in the Ummah? I think not. Is it a common viewpoint in the American Muslim community? Perhaps. Someone needs to do some scholarly research on the attitudes and opinions of the American Muslim community!

The crux is this: If most Muslims look back to a lost golden age, the past, as Al Qaeda et al. seem to, there is a problem. If on the other hand most Muslims accept the idea of progressive revelation, hope can always be found in the future. My understanding of Islamic "orthodoxy" is that progressive revelation is problematic in light of the idea that the Koran is "Uncreated" and "Eternal" (at least for Sunnis). Nevertheless, the religious imagination has a great capacity for co-existence of parodoxes and circumlocutions around plain common sense in the interests of preserving the purity of doctrine. In support of my contention, look at the Donmeh who continue to follow Sabbatai Zvi.

Posted by razib at 08:31 PM | | TrackBack

History far & wide

I earlier made an allusion to the fact that I recently read The Human Web by William & John McNeill. It was a short but dense book-and the ideas are rich enough that I'm still processing them and so delaying a book review. But here is one nugget of information that I found fascinating:

  • Why is it that the highlanders of Papua New Guniea never developed complex and centralized polities despite high population densities due to their gardening cultivation system? The answer: unlike grains, garden crops can not be dried and stored in centralized locations easily (they must be consumed quickly). In other words, excess production could not be siphoned off to cities which could serve as a parasitic nexus for a central polity!

That is the sort of history that is interesting-rather than dates of battles or the events in one day in 1941....

Update: Here is the exact quote from page 34:

Yet even if tropical gardening antedated grainfields by thousands of years, as seems likely, it remained comparatively insignificant for human history as a whole. That is because tropical tropical gardeners leave roots and fruits where they grow until ready for consumption. Grains that ripen all at once must be harvested and stored; and the consequent availability of concentrated supplies of food in farmers' storage bins and jars made the rise of states and cities possible. Priests and soldiers could demand and get part of the grain harvest from those who had raised it as a price for protection from supernatural and human harm. But without storage, massive and regular transfer of food from farmers to city folk was impracticable, inhibiting social and occupational differentiation. Consequently, the specialized skills of urban life could not arise on the basis of tropical gardening, however productive it might be.

My paraphrase initially was incorrect in the emphasis. Though tropical garnders could store their yield, they were not compelled to by the nature of the crop as much as grain farmers. Therefore, they were protected from the rise of extorting ruling classes as they were not easy targets for reallocation and seizure. Of course, this short term freedom came at the price of eventual conquest and domination by societies that were mobilized by extorting elites toward wars of conquest and expansionism to acquire more surplus goods.

Posted by razib at 07:57 PM | | TrackBack

Story telling

You can go to this page and you get the latest NFL scores today. On the other hand, you can read columns like this, interesting & fact-filled, but in my opinion low on predictive value-where exactly do columns like these fit in the "grand scheme" of the footall gods? When I was in high school I would get up at 8:30 AM on Sunday mornings to watch The Sports Reporters. I would listen to Mike Lupica assert that "Danny Manning is the best basketball player in the NBA" (circa 1991). Or that Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus was going to be the "greatest quarterback ever" (he was undrafted and didn't really play any downs in the NFL).

A few years ago, I would watch the peregrinations of the stock market and read analysis about the direction of the economy. I read that 1) we were entering the Great Depression II & 2) the Long Boom will continue in perpetuity. Who was right? Does it matter[1]?

My conclusion? Obviously I was being told a story. An interesting narrative cobbled together from a few facts that were easily had. In the case of sports or the economy, I rarely got any information that I couldn't have obtained without the "insider", and most of the "analysis" was obviously a shot in the dark. These are the shamans of our age, telling us what we want to hear, gate-keepers to timeless rituals and mysterious movements who keep a straight face as they "explain" to us how things really are, and all the while we pretend not to notice the farcicality of it all....

There are many "professions" like this. In my opinion talk psychotherapists, financial analysts, diversity consultants,literary critics, etc. are all highly paid shamans, they exist to assuage our discomfort at the capriciousness of our universe. They exist to tell us "it's going to be OK, I know better." But they don't.

Update: Sports columnist admits he was wrong last year. The specific is irrelevant (parity in the NFL, pro or con?), the point, say X or Y, or Z or A, doesn't matter, it'll all sell copy. Don't be logical, concise, factual or analytic, be interesting (or the case of Bill Walton, boorish enough so that even your broadcasting peers can't hold back their contempt for you).

fn1. The reputations of economists can be made by correct predictions. Look at Milton Friedman and the natural rate hypothesis and Paul Krugman's relationship to the Asian flu.

Posted by razib at 06:40 PM | | TrackBack