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February 14, 2004

"Protein: Yay! Carbs: Boo!"

Schools in Palm Beach and Broward counties are trying a new strategy to raise test scores. It seems comical that they would alter the carbohydrate count in breakfasts for a handful of days and expect it to have some major effect on test scores, and flies in the face of anything I learned about IQ and biochemistry. While H. J. Eysenck and others of a similar mindset often proposed nutritional supplementation as one of the best ways to raise IQ (the little it can be raised), their ideas were for early-in-life programs and long-term implementation. And they definitely were not as naive as this:

"Verde Elementary School in Boca Raton plans to take pizza off the lunch menu and will add a chicken dish. Teachers have been asked not to serve cookies on testing days. Students will get bacon and eggs, cheese sticks and water; no high-sugar juice allowed.

Boca Raton High School plans to offer protein bars with milk before the morning exams. At Atlantic High in Delray Beach, students can still get juice, but also will be able to select protein bars, cheese and fruit."

I am glad they are disallowing high-simple sugar food (e.g., cookies), and advocating water, but do they really think a diet of quasi-comestibles such as bacon and cheese sticks are the ticket to better test grades?

If they put 1/2 as much energy into exploiting individual differences instead of trying to get rid of them, I am sure they would much better pleased with the outcomes.

Posted by A. Beaujean at 09:41 PM | | TrackBack

Valentines are from Venus, Muslims are from Mars

I never would have imagined that celebrating Valentine's Day would be antithetical to the good practice of Islam.

“A Muslim is prohibited from celebrating, approving or congratulating on this occasion,” said the ruling issued by the Fatwa Committee. Supporting others to celebrate the day such as buying or selling Valentine’s items, presenting gifts or making festival food falls in the category of approval.

What do Fatwas like this portend for the prospect of assimilating Muslims into their host cultures, particularly those in Europe?

The occasion seems trivial to youths in Qasim. “I know it but I disdain it,” said a 23-year-old Ahmad Al-Mutairy. “The Internet is full of such triviality. Only fools will fall into such traps,” he added.

“Our religion is very clear in this matter. We only celebrate two occasions every year at the end of Ramadan and during pilgrimage. Anyone who adopts another culture is very weak and misguided,” said another young man.

Well, if adopting another culture is a sign that one is weak and misguided, then I think that Europe will face a Muslim population that is resistant to assimilation.

Posted by TangoMan at 07:50 PM | | TrackBack

Triumph Strikes Again

I wanted to write a post on how America is confidently swimming against the worldwide cultural and political tides compared to what I've observed in the rest of the world, but when I read about Conan O'Briens skit involving Triumph the Insult Dog I scrapped all that I had written and thought that this episode would suffice to make my point.

The Canadians have their panties twisted into a knot because of a skit on Conan's show. A dog puppet insulted the Quebecois and the PC illuminati are indignant.

For a sample of Triumph in action see this very funny skewering of Star Wars Fans. (WMV FILE)

Tim Blair has an informative post on this. Here's a story from the Canadian National Post. Here's a story from the Globe and Mail.

The story portrays a Political Correctness attitude that has become a cancer on society. The article also notes the controversy surrounding comments made by a hockey commentator.

Mr. Cherry has been under fire for his comments on a Jan. 24 segment of Coach's Corner, in which he said that hockey players such as the "Europeans and French guys" were "turning into sucks" for wearing visors on their helmets to protect their eyes.

His remarks drew the ire of Canada's official languages commissioner, who said her office will investigate. And officials at CBC's Hockey Night in Canada have said they will delay Mr. Cherry's future broadcasts by seven seconds so they can catch any further comments before they hit the airwaves.

What does an official language commissioner have to do with this case, and what are they even doing meddling in culture? What is the necessity of having a seven second delay? Does every opinion have to pass the mental pablum test? Can nothing be controversial? Are people so sensitive that they'll have conniptions upon hearing anything that hints of criticism? Most telling is this response from one of the cultural guardians who seems out of touch with, what I hope are, the people who are growing ever more disillusioned with PC thought policing.

Globe and Mail Review editor Elizabeth Renzetti was in the audience for the taping of the O'Brien show and said the segment received a disturbing amount of applause from the young audience.

"It left me with a real sour taste in my mouth. It seemed over the top; it seemed cruel, because a couple of the people didn't speak English and he mocked them mercilessly," Ms. Renzetti said. "It was like they had no idea that this is a bilingual country."

We get regular PC folly reports from university campuses. We get media PC filtering. In the case of this episode from Canada, we're getting a look into how far things can go when the elites become so disconnected from reality. Most disturbing to me is that this leftist march towards sensitivity seems to be the trend in many parts of the world. Beware when parody and ribald humor are a threat to national identity and culture.

I can't help but feel that American resilience immunizes the country against the need to go with the international consensus, and thus enacting policies and inculcating attitudes that stem from feelings of inferiority or a need to not appear insensitive. Whatever happened to the concept that cultures should define themselves from their strengths and uniqueness, rather than in comparison to the Americans? Whatever happened to the concept of pursuing a national interest, rather than defining the national interest as stopping America's influence? Whatever happened to critical introspection and being able to laugh at one's country?

In some ways I'm troubled by the blue and red divide in the US, but when I compare the US political and cultural dynamic to the homogenization I see growing in much of the world, I've come to believe that the right-left battle in the US is healthy for the culture. More of the world could benefit from domestic ideological schisms.

Posted by TangoMan at 12:04 PM | | TrackBack

February 13, 2004

A Triumph for Soft Power

European plans to supplant the US in terms of foreign policy influence through the adroit application of soft power are now being thwarted by Iran months after Europe proclaimed success in getting Iran to sign the Additional Protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement, and to suspend uranium enrichment activities.

Much self-congratulation was in the air despite the ethereal nature of the victory. Victory over whom? Why the Americans, and their Hard Power strategy, of course. Considering that Europe would be within range of an Iranian intermediate-range missile long before America was ever threatened, we would assume that verifiable measures on the IAEA agreement and enforcement provisions would have been in the self-interest of the Europeans and a metric by which to guage success would have been a central condition of the agreement. Alas, the substance was less important than the symbolism.

The Anglo-French-German engagement in Iran has led to a sudden surge in confidence in the efficacy of European soft power and in Europe's ability to forge a common foreign policy. This has led some to herald a far more definitive role for European diplomacy in conflict resolution. The French newspaper Liberation states: "Seen from Paris, the diplomatic efforts that helped to reach an agreement with Tehran must serve as a diplomatic strike force to seek political negotiated solutions in other regions of the world.... The European troika should, according to Paris, intervene to save the Middle East process." Similarly, Le Point opines that the Iran initiative can serve "as a precedent in the delicate area of nuclear proliferation."

What enforcement measures were included in the agreement? What stick will the Europeans use to encourage Iranian compliance? What harm comes to the Iranian regime if they renege on the agreement? Apparently, the Iranians felt secure in pursuing their nuclear ambitions and have breached their agreement with the IAEA for it is hard to identify the severe downside risk to them.

UN inspectors discovered designs for a centrifuge that can produce bomb fuel twice as fast as the machine the Iranians are currently assembling. The centrifuge designs were not reported by the Iranians, and constitute an apparent breach of their commitment to reveal all, although the significance of the finding is being played down by IAEA officials.

What was so compelling about the application of soft power that got the Iranians to agree to restrictions supervised by IAEA officials?

The negotiations were "very tense and difficult" and at one stage Mr Fischer threatened to walk out. The bargain struck in Tehran was that Iran would freeze its ambitious and extensive uranium enrichment activities in return for technology transfer for a civilian nuclear programme from Europe's three biggest generators of nuclear power - Britain, France and Germany.

Well, having Mr. Fischer threatening to walk out must have put the fear of the Americans in the souls of the Iranians. Seeing how an agreement was finally reached, it seems that Mr. Fischer did come back to the table and flexed his soft power muscles. How well did he do? In exchange for a transfer of nuclear technology to Iran he got a promise from the Iranians to cease their enrichment activities.

What would be the consequences for the Iranians if they broke the promise? Why the Europeans would be upset, of course. How could anyone have foreseen the possibility of the bribed party not honoring the bribe? Perhaps the Europeans can put the genie back in the bottle and reclaim the nuclear knowledge they transferred to the Iranians. Hmm, maybe not. Perhaps, the Europeans can find solace with their phyrric victory.

One would think that after witnessing the successful negotiating strategy of Slobodan Milosevic (promise the moon, get what you want, break promise, act contrite, repeat as often as needed) the soft power proponents would have learned a few lessons.

Oh yes, the triumph of Soft Power still awaits a circumstance in which it can trump American Hard Power. This Iranian incident is a how-to guide of what not to do.

Posted by TangoMan at 10:39 PM | | TrackBack

The Passion, indicators of box-office success?

The local art-house movie theater is selling advance tickets for The Passion.

This, in a town where the local bookstore does not carry Christianity Today or Christian Century, but does carry every obscure magazine about Buddhism. A town that supports 3 Jewish temples (18,000 people total). A town in the most secular state in the union. A town where I would hazard to guess that Dennis Kucinich could get 1/3 the vote.

If Hollywood is all about the band-wagon effect, let's see after The Passion starts raking in it.

P.S. I saw the trailer before watching House of Sand and Fog, it was pretty good. No matter the theological and historical inaccuracies (yes Dienekes, they should be speaking some Greek), it seems like it has enough verisimilitude to carry you to a different time and place.

Posted by razib at 09:50 PM | | TrackBack

Drop in Minority Applicants at UMich

Self-delusion is an almost universal character trait, and for many people a comfortable state to be in. I'll opine that the prospect of confronting the reality of academic ill-preparedness is the root cause of a 23% drop-off in minority applications at the University of Michigan.

As this article points out:

The 23 percent decline in applications from blacks, Hispanics and American Indians came as the total number of people applying for space in the next freshman class dropped 18 percent, according to figures U-M released Monday.

“Obviously, we’re concerned that the applications from minority students are down more than the population as a whole,” U-M spokeswoman Julie Peterson said. Because the university still hasn’t made most of its decisions about whom it will actually admit, it’s too soon to say whether the change will lead to a less diverse class in the fall, Peterson said

Later in the article, Peterson states, “What students are worried about is, ‘Will I be welcomed and will I be going to a campus where I’m valued?’ ” I don't see why the students wouldn't be welcomed or valued unless they were perceived to have gotten an unfair leg up by admission through lowered standards. The unexamined question is whether the students are self-selecting against UMich because they know, in their heart of hearts, that without Affirmative Action, they won't be admitted, so why confront the prospect of rejection. Instead the students may focus their ambitions on an institution that will admit them through a lowered standard on admission.

Also, unexamined as a cause of this decline in admission is the SES of the students. Perhaps increased fees, reduced aid, and weakened job market are disproportionately affecting minority students.

Another explanation might be sought in the success of other institutions in recruiting minority students and thus reducing the pool for the UMich. If the other institutions make the path towards admission easier, then the student will make the rational risk-minimization choice and avoid confronting their reliance on Affirmative Action.

It would be interesting to see whether the drop-off of applicants at UMich is found at other universities besides Ohio (which also had a court mandated admission policy revision.) Is this occurring at UMich because of the AA court battle or simply as part of a larger trend?

Posted by TangoMan at 05:50 PM | | TrackBack

Creation in the Schools (again...)
The State Board of Education gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a 10th-grade biology lesson that scientists say could put "intelligent design" in Ohio classrooms.

Setting aside an impassioned plea from the National Academy of Sciences, the board voted 13-4 to declare its intent to adopt the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson next month...LINK

Reportedly, the language for the lesson plan is coming from Wells' "Icons of Evolution." (Talkorigins.org site on the book here)

A lot of people on GNXP (probably rightly) see all this as a battle between good and evil. The forces of ignorance versus the forces science. The Church versus Galileo

I see it as a god-awful mess.

First of all let's go over the problems on the Creationist side:

  • They're wrong – and they want to teach their wrongness in the schools

That's about it for them really.

Now for the problems with our side:

  • Science is about debate, not suppressing dissent. Practically, though, what goes on in the schools is not science, but indoctrination. Kind of goes against scientific ideals. Necessary, of course, but not all that ideologically pure.
  • How do you reliably differentiate the kooks from the rational dissenters? That remains an unsolved problem for scientific institutions. More correctly, the practical solutions are not perfect, nor are they immune to inertia and bureaucracy. Creationists (rightly) jump on this.
  • Consensus controls the universities (mostly) which makes consensus necessary for any widely spread scientific view not promulgated by another source. This is a practical state of affairs, but not a strictly scientific one. With religion in the mix, you have that other source promulgating the wackos.

What are the practical solutions to this mess? War with the believers in the press? Maybe. That's what we are doing now.

Here are my personal goals for the teaching of evolution:

  • Make sure that anyone smart enough to understand the theory and do science with it (and who is interested in it) has access to the best arguments for evolution. And the best arguments against. They'll muddle through, mostly.
  • Make sure that the rest of the population does not believe anything so wacky that it negatively affects public policy

The first point, in my opinion, does not have much to do with high school. The second does. I suppose that it can be used as justification for the current Creationism v. Evolution school board wars. But frankly, I think that it is a matter of secularization levels, IQ, and literacy rates in society more than what is actually taught. IQ and literacy rates do not have much to do with public schools. Secularization can be promulgated in the public schools (and is), but I think the negative effects outweigh the positive.

Either way, the battle over lesson plans that we see now is of little consequence. Thankfully.

Posted by Thrasymachus at 07:24 AM | | TrackBack

Changing the Subject...

I have long thought that there is a latent contradiction in the modern scientific world-view.

Consider the following propositions:

A. Adaptive traits of organisms have evolved by natural selection.

B. A trait can only evolve by natural selection if it affects the reproduction of organisms.

C. Any trait that affects the reproduction of organisms has causal efficacy in the physical world, that is, it makes a difference to the state of physical objects (including organisms themselves).

D. Some subjective sensations, such as pleasures and pains, are adaptive traits of organisms.

I think that most biologists would accept these propositions, but I will return to that. Assuming that they are accepted, it follows by elementary logic that:

E. Some subjective sensations have causal efficacy in the physical world.

But here is the latent contradiction in the modern scientific world-view, for that world-view includes the proposition:

F. No subjective sensations have causal efficacy in the physical world.

Propositions (E) and (F) are directly contradictory.

It may perhaps be doubted whether proposition (F) is really part of the modern scientific world-view. It is not a formula of any standard scientific theory, and there are respected scientists and philosophers of science, such as Karl Popper, John Eccles, and Roger Penrose, who have denied it.

But I believe that the predominant world-view of scientists, philosophers of science, and modern analytical (Anglo-American) philosophers would endorse proposition (F). Those, like Penrose, who reject it, rightly see themselves as challenging a prevailing orthodoxy. The majority of ‘orthodox’ thinkers can be classified in one of the following categories:

a) Radical behaviorists, who deny that subjective sensations exist at all;

b) ‘Dual aspect’ materialists, who maintain that subjective sensations are an aspect or property of physical objects, but that those objects behave purely in accordance with physical laws; and

c) Epiphenomenalists, who believe that subjective sensations are a by-product of physical events, and have no causal efficacy of their own.

All three positions imply acceptance of proposition (F). If their implications are rigorously pursued, they also entail:

G. Subjective sensations do not produce or modify other subjective sensations.

For a new or modified sensation would require a change of physical state, and it would contradict proposition (F) if this were produced by another subjective sensation.

It is worth dwelling for a moment on some of the more bizarre implications of propositions (F) and (G). Suppose that you feel a severe pain in your abdomen. You go to your doctor. You tell him that you have a pain in your abdomen. He asks you some questions about the pain and considers your replies. He palpates your abdomen and notes your reactions. He concludes, based on his training and experience, that you have appendicitis. He rings for an ambulance. The ambulance service follows his directions. The ambulance takes you to hospital, with its siren switched on. You arrive at the hospital, and are taken to the OR, where you are given an anaesthetic. A surgeon, using his surgical knowledge and his senses of sight and touch, removes your appendix. When you wake up, the acute pain has gone, but you feel a milder pain from the healing wound, which alerts you to any movements or pressures that might damage the wound and delay recovery.

On a common-sense view of the incident, subjective sensations of one kind or another have influenced the behaviour of yourself and others at every step. Most obviously, it is a subjective pain that has caused you to go to the doctor in the first place, but sensations of sight and hearing also play a major part in the story, for example in the use of a siren to warn other drivers out of the way. Memory and logical thought also seem to influence events, e.g. in forming the doctor’s judgement that you have appendicitis.

Yet on the ‘scientific’ view, as embodied in propositions (F) and (G), all of this is an illusion. Provided that all the physical events (including brain-states) were the same, then the story would run exactly as before, even if none of the participants had any subjective sensations at all. Events would also be the same if physical states produced sensations wildy different from those we are accustomed to, for example if the sensations of appendicitis were ‘switched’ with those of sexual orgasm.

Propositions (F) and (G) therefore seem to defy common-sense, but this is not my main concern at the moment. My concern is their apparent conflict with propositions (A) to (D). Propositions (A) and (B) are themselves part of the scientific world-view. Proposition (C) is merely a terminological clarification. But proposition (D) is more debatable, and my next post will examine it more closely.

Before concluding this post, I should note that the main argument I have outlined is an old one. It is found for example in William James’s Principles of Psychology. But it seems to have been surprisingly little noticed or discussed in the literature on the ‘mind-body’ problem (for an exception see Poper and Eccles, The Self and its Brain, p. 74). I suspect that this is because until recently the great majority of philosophers have had no interest in evolution, or have been actively hostile to natural selection. This is beginning to change, and in the last decade or so there has been a great expansion of interest in ‘consciousness studies’. But from what I have read of this literature, it tends to be preoccupied with what I would call the ‘fancy end’ of the spectrum of mental events, such as human ‘self-awareness’ or even mathematical thought. I think this is the wrong place to start. But more on that later.

Posted by David B at 04:11 AM | | TrackBack

February 12, 2004

Love & marriage & genes

This article in The Economist, The Science of Love, is fascinating. It does give a little more ink to voles than I find sexy, but it hits a lot of points.

  • Evolutionary psychology vs. Behavioral Genetics (universals vs. variation).
  • Various forms of "love" (lust, romantic love and long-term attachment).
  • Similarities of some forms of love to deleterious phenotypes (manic depression) & drug addiction.
  • Implications of various forms of love for human societies.
Sometimes I wonder of modern Western society tends to idealize the more "manic" form of love than is healthy. Ah...but it feels so gggooooooddd....
Posted by razib at 10:43 PM | | TrackBack

A white American convert
Posted by razib at 08:28 PM | | TrackBack

Human Clones

I'm sure many of us have already seen the news reports which detail advances in Human Cloning. Just to be clear, this is the story I'm referring to, not this one.

I'm looking forward to reading what Godless makes of this, but in the interim here's what caught my interest.

South Korean scientists described on Thursday how they cloned several human embryos and extracted valuable stem cells from one, and said their achievement showed an immediate need for a global ban on cloning to make babies.

The scientists are successful in advancing the art, but then play politics and call for a ban. Do they really believe there is a need for a ban or are they pandering to the concerned parties? It seems that they're playing the game of seeking contrition rather than asking for permission.

"Cloning research is impossible to do without exploiting women. It should be banned immediately," said Daniel McConchie, a spokesman for the Chicago-based Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity.

Run that by me one more time. A claim of exploiting women is sure to get you press, but how about making a case for it. How about claiming that men will be exploited.

I'm not quite sure what all the fuss is really about. I can't really see all that many people actually wanting to have a clone made. Those that do may have a valid medical reason, or be very egotistical, but considering the dynamics of family life, why would a husband or wife not want to pass on their genes? Why would a single mother want a clone of herself when the possibilities and surprises of a normal child are so much greater.

When genetic engineering comes on-line is when I think the average soccer mom is going to get on board. The choice of attributes in children will drive acceptance of the technology, despite the ethical prognosticators objections.

Hopefully, I've been able to tee this story up for Godless.

Comment from Razib: When this sort of stuff breaks, I tend to keep an eye on Virginia Postrel's weblog. She's already got an entry on it. Virginia would probably say that this is a dynamist vs. stasist issue, the "trads" are on the Right & the Left, while the "progressives" are on the Right and the Left.

Some of the Right view this specifically as a subset of the abortion issue, and generally a step toward some sort of "unnatural" human society. The Greeny Neo-Luddites on the Left would concur. The feminist quoted above is just terrified about the future I suspect-the idea that this is an issue related to women's rights to me smacks of pretending to be proactive when you are really reactive.

All sorts of biotechnologies are not created equal. Therapeutic cloning = good, I think there is a consensus majority on this issue. The problem happens with the trad minority on the Left & the Right conflates that with reproductive cloning-which is a marginal issue at best, but tends to elicit atavistic fears in the majority. H. L. Mencken said: ""Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." Traditionalism on this issue to me entails the terror of the idea that someone somewhere is exploring ways to live a human life that isn't conventionally nasty, short and brutish (those who believe that the zygote is a human being have axiomatic disagreemants).

OK, I exaggerate, but you get the gist....

Posted by TangoMan at 04:20 PM | | TrackBack

Tumor growth by population

The Lancet has an article in the current issue titled Epigenetic differences between Wilms' tumours in white and east-Asian children (free registration not worth it). Here is a press article on the study. I haven't read the full journal article, but it seems that the gene in European children is causing the problem:

...showed that a gene produced an excessive amount of growth in about half the cases involving European children.

"Surprisingly this mechanism is absent in Asians, accounting for why the population has one half the rate of this disease than Caucasians...

Perhaps this is epistasis (definition 1)?

Posted by razib at 03:27 PM | | TrackBack

On Iraq

Figured I'd give you a link to something a bit different about Iraq. The paper (it is PDF-here is the html version) is titled Y-chromosome & mtDNA polymorphisms in Iraq..... The low-down: Iraqis are more similar to Levantines and populations to their north (Anatolians) than the Arabs to their south (though they are related to them as well). The M17 marker mentioned earlier that might be indicative of Indo-Europeans shows about at a 6.5% frequency among men sampled (about the same as western Iran). The very small samples of Kurds & Assyrians showed no stark differences from the Muslim Arabs.

Posted by razib at 03:02 PM | | TrackBack

Skilled immigrants go south?

Is South Africa going to seek skilled immigrants? If so, that emerging pitter-patter might be the sound of a stampede of sub-Saharan Africa's best & brightest. Of course, I don't know if that would be good for the other countries who also lack skilled professionals.

Posted by razib at 01:41 PM | | TrackBack

And there be the danger....

Prediction: if there is a big international terror incident that involves the Western world & Islam where someone needs to make it through "security measures," I suspect an Indonesian will be involved.

1) There are many of them who are Muslim.
2) They don't often look stereotypically "Muslim" to Westerners.
3) Many of them have "non-Muslim" names.

Posted by razib at 01:27 PM | | TrackBack

The forefathers & foremothers of Harald Fairhair

Found this article on the lineages found in 74 Norwegian males (Y & mtDNA). Here is something interesting:

Although Y chromosome binary and microsatellite data indicate that 80% of the haplotypes are closely related to Central and western Europeans, the remainder share a unique binary marker (M17) common in eastern Europeans with informative microsatellite haplotypes suggesting a different demographic history.

If you look at this table (source), you'll see that the M17 marker is not found in the "British," but is exhibited by 27% of the men of the Orkneys-so we know where it came from. Additionally, note that the highest frequencies are found among eastern European peoples and central Asians. The recent paper on India included a larger sample of north Indian caste groups, and M17 showed up in the various percentages, around 40% (Gujaratis-27%, Bengalis-39%, Chitpavan Brahmins-42%, Punjabis-47%, remember that the sample sizes are small!).

I am mildly skeptical of the thesis advanced in the two above papers that the M17 lineage spread with the PIE-Kurgan expansion ~4000 years ago. More elaboration will be forthcoming, but let me note that the Indo-Aryan elite of the Mitanni kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia did not gift any of the peoples of Syria or northern Iraq with this lineage to any great extent[1].

Update: Dienekes has an old post on a related note. Here is a page that shows the frequency of various haplogroups in different European populations.

fn1. The maryannu ruling caste of the Mitanni kingdom had Indo-Aryan names & worshipped Indo-Aryan gods. But, using the term "Indo"-Aryan to describe them is probably an anachronism, as they likely never had any contact with the Indian subcontinent. What is notable is that they were not Iranian-Aryans.

Posted by razib at 12:04 AM | | TrackBack

February 11, 2004

Children of the Yellow Emperor

As China rises back to its traditional "Great Power" status, it seems plausible that one possible pathway of ascent might be a racial-nationalism similar to 19th & early 20th century Europe. Well...here is a reality check:

Lumping together all regional Han mtDNA pools into one fictive general mtDNA pool or choosing one or two regional Han populations to represent all Han Chinese is inappropriate for prehistoric considerations as well as for forensic purposes or medical disease studies.

Update: If the Chinese do not have a preoccupation with their own racial mythology, that they do is not only my own delusion: Nationalist myth-making-The construction of the Chinese race:

...In the reformers’ symbolic network of racialized others, the dominating “white” and “yellow races” were opposed to the “darker races,” the latter doomed to racial extinction by hereditary inadequacy....
Similar to the first decades of this century, moreover, the multiplication of regional identities and the emergence of cultural diversity could prompt a number of political figures to appeal to racialized senses of belonging in order to supercede internal divisions.

A classless volk/ren cometh....

Posted by razib at 09:24 PM | | TrackBack

Calling all posters....

Please double-check that the "rebuild" has changed the front page after you post. If it hasn't, just use the "rebuild index" in the administration section (second to last button on the left).

The problem is that the comment system gets out of sync with the posts if you add something to the database that isn't reflected in the front page. This has happened with more than one poster. You should be safe if you use Mozilla or IE on XP, but I don't know about the other combinations.

Also, can bloggers make an effort to truncate quotations so that we can increase the commentary : quotation ratio?

Thanks all.

Posted by razib at 04:15 PM | | TrackBack

SAT is a de facto IQ Test

A Press release from the American Psychological Society:

SAT measures more than student performance, research shows it is also a reliable measure of IQ

Each year thousands of high school students take the Scholastic Assessment Test, or SAT, hoping to gain admission to the college of their choice. Colleges and universities use SAT scores to help project a prospective student's performance. But research shows there is more to the SAT, that it is really an intelligence test.

Meredith C. Frey and Douglas K. Detterman, researchers at Case Western Reserve University, have shown that students' SAT test scores correlate as highly as, and sometimes higher than, IQ tests correlate with each other. This is strong evidence that the SAT is a de facto intelligence test. Their findings will be published in the June issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the American Psychological Society.

While this finding may be surprising to many who take the test, it was no surprise to the researchers. The origins of the SAT can be traced back to intelligence tests that were originally given to screen entrants into the armed forces. Many who study intelligence had suspected that the SAT was an intelligence test though it seems no one had ever investigated the relationship.

The Case investigators studied the SAT for two reasons. First, they were looking for an easy way to obtain a measure of IQ for students who participate in their experiments on more basic cognitive processes. Giving an IQ test can take 30 to 90 minutes, and with a correlation between IQ and SAT scores, researchers now have a fairly accurate estimate of an individual's IQ without the need to administer a lengthy test. Second, it is useful to know the relationship between the SAT and IQ so that SAT could be used as a measure of IQ in cases where patients' IQs decline due to head injury or diseases like Alzheimer's. It is often important to know what a person's level of intellectual functioning was before the onset of the decline and many people have taken the SAT. According to the researchers, for those who have never taken an IQ test, the SAT could be used as a substitute.

I was under the impression that the SAT had been crippled in an attempt to diminish between group differences. Does this report seems to suggest otherwise?

Posted by rikurzhen at 03:53 PM | | TrackBack

Protecting the Purity of Our Precious Bodily Fluids

Got this from Jerry Pournelle.

Check out this quote from a book review of Evolutionary Psychology and Violence.

Roger Masters, a political scientist ably practicing evolutionary psychology since long before it had that name, contributes the second chapter. Although it seems out of place in this book-it has little directly to do with evolution or its consequences-it is potentially very important. He summarizes evidence that when silicon fluoride is added to drinking water it enhances the body’s uptake of lead, “a neurotoxin that lowers dopaminergic function in the inhibitory circuits of the basal ganglia,” [p. 43] and that this effect increases rates of violent crime where water is so treated. SiF also increases manganese content of water, and the two elements (lead and manganese) interact to produce a more than additive effect on crime. Masters reasonably concludes “that a moratorium on the use of SiF in public water supplies would be a relatively low-cost policy capable of lowering rates of substance abuse and violent crime.” [p. 49] The epidemiological analyses are very challenging and no doubt subject to criticism, but at a minimum, this possibility deserves further study.
Posted by Thrasymachus at 08:51 AM | | TrackBack

The Network is fill-in-the-blank

P2P, distributed compting, etc. etc. You've heard all the buzzwords.

Check out this Slashdot thread on Wi-Fi becoming a commodity. The funny thing is, it's become a commodity before it ever became a value-added premium service (my girlfriend's office has 3 open Wi-Fi signals, 2 from neighbors). Read it in concert with Microcontent News and their enthusing about the "living, breathing," blogosphere.

In 1994 the internet was going to revolutionize computing, and information distribution. It did. But ten years on things are really cranking up as data-fountains are no longer fixed to a desk on an office somewhere, but infesting public space and gushing out information as you sip your coffee. If anything, coffee-shop bullshitters can have their asses fact-checked.

Tick-tock, the google data port will soon come a knockin'.

Posted by razib at 02:21 AM | | TrackBack

February 10, 2004

The Hollywood Butterfly Effect

All of the recent debate we've been having about Communism and the role of the Entertainment Industry in suppressing Anti-Communist movies got me to thinking. We've been having a very serious discussion, and quite eye-opening as well, but I suggest we need a fresh perspective. I beg your indulgence to play along.

With clear hindsight, how will the world of a few centuries hence look upon this debate?

Will some completely overlooked event of recent past come to be a profound inflection point in the currents of history?

Will Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, where their rock group, Wyld Stallyn forms the basis for future world peace be the model for the Entertainment Industry's penance and will absolution be sought by offering the world a Communism-slayer?

I think the Butterfly Effect may be at work, and many thanks to Daniel Drezner for discerning pattern from chaos, for surely David Hasselhoff (Read the link for the full story) will be seen by our descendents as the inspiration of Anti-Communist rage that brought down the Berlin Wall.

Forget those movies about escaping across the Berlin Wall, if we know Hollywood, we'll be seeing a movie of Hasselhoff giving a concert that inspires the overthrow of the entire Warsaw Pact. Think back to the Elvis movie plots- Hasselhoff will be a guitar-slinger traveling the Eastern Bloc giving concerts, afterwhich revolutions follow. The dim-witted commisars won't be able to discern cause and effect and Hasselhoff will fly under their radar - just like he did in the West.

Update from Razib: Please take a long hard look at this after you've noted the Hasselhoff picture:

Better now?

Posted by TangoMan at 04:43 PM | | TrackBack

Karma of brown folk

Dienekes points me to this abstract of an article that explores the genetic origins of South Asian populations (and highlights the recurring difference between the male & female lineages). I don't have full-text PDF access, but check out the supplemental data (PDF).

Update: A reader forwarded me the above article in PDF. Please contrast this piece with this slightly older one which comes to a converse conclusion.

Posted by razib at 02:41 PM | | TrackBack

Darwin's God

P.Z. Meyers & Abiola address the issue of religion & science. They seem to come out against S.J. Gould's lack of overlap between the magisteria of science & religion. Knowing how we feel about S.J. Gould here at GNXP, you might suspect that we would agree, and to some extent, I do. But, as the two bloggers above note, that depends on the religion in question[1].

The scientist who is the anti-Gould on the question of science & religion is Richard Dawkins. I'm not going to rehash his rather aggressive atheism, it is well known. He is a man who suffers no fools (his perception), and gives no ground to the less rational instincts of the human species, excluding his own biases[2]. I met Dawkins when I was a freshman in college when my biology professor somehow convinced him to give a lecture to about 35 of us. He is brilliant man, certainly as erudite as Gould was, but one thing I noted was that he made a half-a-dozen jokes about Roman Catholicism. In the book Science and Religion: Are They Comptabile, he launches another broadside into Roman Catholicism. The gist of his argument is that at least Christian fundamentalism is honest in its internal consistency, with a living, breathing, God of history, a God who encapsulates the reductio ad absurdum of Christian theism. For Roman Catholicism, he has nothing but contempt for its thin gruel of the God of the Gaps and appeals to historical continuity, ethics and morality (his characterization). His rage at Pope for commenting on matters of science is palpable and leaps out from the page.

I can not but help and wonder if Dawkins' background, with a chair at Oxford and his posh upper-middle-class accent, has not biased him against Roman Catholicism on the emotional level. I agree with him on merits that there seems a slippery slope toward the hiding of the Hand of God from this universe as science elucidates the mysteries of the cosmos. But like the Christian fundamentalists, Dawkins seems to see the world as a binary universe, with the rational & empirical and the credulous & superstitious being the only options, and those who fall in the fuzzy middle are not worth his respect.

While I respect Richard Dawkins, and I find supernatural belief rather peculiar from a personal perspective, I can not judge humans too harshly for being humans. In any ideal world (or my ideal world), all humans would have a high capacity for abstraction, a zeal for fidelity to the empirical, and Christians would bandy the arguments of Norman Malcolm, Richard Swinburne and Alvin Plantiga. But most people are still embedded in webs of custom & tradition. That is a fact. And those with an evolutionary conception of the human species might wonder if there is a genetic predisposition to this sort of outlook. Those of us who abhor a demon-haunted-universe can not fall prey to the fantasy that the demons will disappear if we tell them to, as if there is a magic phrase of power that will banish them, rather, we must tame them so that they are made safe for the rational & empirical bubble that we so value. We must facilitate the natural selection of moderate demons.

Update: My post God & the scientists might be of interest to some readers that missed it-it details the religious break-downs in various disciplines.

fn1. Both bloggers note that deism or pantheism are rather easy fits with evolutionary biology, and science in general. Theisms of the conventional sort are more difficult to place, and there is a great deal of diversity, from liberal Christians who practice a faith that tends toward moral platitudes to fundamentalist Christians who believe that God lives & breaths in our world, that he will return in the flesh within their lifetimes. Religions predicated on magic, such as those that compete explicitly with science & engineering in modelling and designing the processes of the world, are of course easily falsifiable.

fn2. In one of his books, he asserts that he's willing to get into it with you about why it's not humane to boil lobsters alive.

Posted by razib at 02:06 PM | | TrackBack

Cabo San Lucas vacation-advice please....

Ladies, I'm going to be on vacation in Cabo San Lucas for about a week sometime in the next month. Anyway, at this point I don't think I'm going to take my laptop, I doubt I could relax if I had to carry it everywhere. But, I have some sysopish duties that I have to do for one of my clients, and being away for a week might be a bit much. I found this list of internet cafes-do you guys have any more details if you've been recently? Ideally I would like a terminal that had some ssh client like putty, but I doubt that's happening, but a decent connection is a must. Thanks ahead!

Posted by razib at 01:25 PM | | TrackBack

Heal Thyself
Posted by Thrasymachus at 08:10 AM | | TrackBack

February 09, 2004

Is Academia a Pyramid Scheme?

John Bruce has posted this response to this recent article in Academe, regarding the adjunct problem. His basic claim, which I think is sound, is that Academia is primarily a multi-level marketing scheme, which had occured to me at one point.

The basic idea is that the primary end product of academia is more academics, therefore, the system ends up collapsing at some point. The data seems to be backing up this claim.

Posted by chrisg at 10:18 PM | | TrackBack

To crave "man-flesh"

On a thread below the issue of cannibalism and Chinese propensity toward such behavior is mooted. This book argues that "...cannibalism is an evolutionarily derived instinct that arises as a survival strategy in extreme circumstances such as chronic famine or acute starvation and not a pathology that erupts in psychotic individuals." We know from genetics that ancient human populations likely engaged in cannibalism frequently enough for it to have shifted relative fitness between individuals. We also know from history that a wide variety of cultures also practiced cannibalism, often in a ritual context[1].

One thing that seems notable: as one moves up the ladder of social complexity, cannibalism tends to go into disrepute. Perhaps this is because large social systems buffer humans from famine more efficiently, rendering cannibalism an outmoded practice. It may be that complex human societies require much more face-to-face interaction with strangers, and so there is a tendency toward more out-group morality. By this I mean it is easier to eat humans when you de-humanize the source of meat, something that might be natural in small hunter-gatherer groups who have miniscule social networks. In any case, the historical record shows that civilizations like the ancient Greeks and Chinese often tended to smear barbarians as "cannibals," and had folk-tales that indicate that cannibalism was an ancient, if outdated practice, of their own cultures. Even more frequently mentioned, and more difficult to expunge, was the handmaid of cannibalism, human sacrifice. Societies in the recent past that we know have practiced cannibalism and/or ritual sacrifice tend to lay along the same point in social complexity as ancient pre-classical Greeks or Shang era Chinese.

Now, to a second point, are the Chinese more prone to cannibalistic behavior in dire nutritional straits? I am somewhat skeptical, but, I would like to add that I believe it is a fact that the Han people tend to have fewer food taboos than say the European Christian peoples, and to the extreme, South Asians (in particular the upper castes of the Hindu religion). I would for instance argue that if India had had its own Maoist revolutionary phase, one would be hard-pressed to convince upper caste Hindus to consume the flesh of other human beings without great incentive, simply because upper caste Hindus place such a priority on ritual purity and dislike "pollution," which cannibalism would seem to imply[2].

So I suppose I'm saying (perhaps): A) we're all somewhat cannibalistic in inclination given the context, B) social constraints probably differ cross-culturally[3].

fn1. See godless' & Dienekes cites. Or child cannibalism among the Minoans and ritual cannibalism among the Aztecs. If you want to go far back, cannibalism is associated with Peking Man. And we all know about recent cannibalistic societies in the Pacific.

fn2. My personal experience as someone of South Asian Muslim origin is that we are far more picky about what we will eat than Arabs or other Muslim peoples, and will often say that exotic meats are haram, when a quick google search will show little comment in any of the hadiths (these sort of disputes would be comical at mosque when Arabs or other Muslims groups brought food that South Asians assumed must be haram-but were reluctant to contradict Arabs on this point of religious practice). Rather, it seems clear that Hindu tendencies toward extreme food taboos have been imported into the Muslim religion.

fn3. But I am pretty convinced that the Chinese do not make aborted fetuses into soup.

Posted by razib at 05:42 PM | | TrackBack

Does Size Matter?

Nicholas Eberstadt has an article in February/March Policy Review, Power and Poulation in Asia.

How much are relative population size changes going to affect power balances? Here are some fun facts from the article:

By 2025 China's population will grow to 1.4 billion. India's will reach 1.3 billion. In 1975 this was 930 million versus 620 million.

Vietnam will have a population of 105 million, while Thailand will be at 74 million. In 1975 this was 48 million versus 41 million.

Japan will have a population of 123 million, while the ROK will have a population of 50 million. In 1975 this was 111 million versus 35 million. Including North Korea (in the case of unification) pushes Korea's population numbers up to 75 million for 2025.

Russia will have a population of 124 million while Pakistan will be at 250 million. In 1975 Russia was at 134 million while Pakistan was at 70 million.

(The article is not really in its final form. There may be some charts added in the next couple of days. It is not technically posted to the internet yet, given that they have no links to it on the front page.)

Posted by Thrasymachus at 04:33 PM | | TrackBack


Of possible interest, check out Gapminder.  Great visual displays of various global statistics, including human development trends, income distribution, health, etc.  A picture is worth a 1,000 numbers :)  [ via Joi Ito ]

Posted by ole at 03:54 PM | | TrackBack

International footnote

America probably isn't noticing, but nearby Haiti is in a state of civil war, as Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the man the Clinton administration put back into power (he was democratically elected), seems on the way out....

Posted by razib at 03:02 PM | | TrackBack

Exposure To Strong EMF

Oops. Maybe living near high-voltage lines is dangerous after all.


Posted by Thrasymachus at 09:14 AM | | TrackBack

February 08, 2004

Some Things Never Change

Heh, avoiding controversy this time.

G. K. Chesterton in his 1922 book, What I Saw in America:

When I went to the American consulate to regularize my passports, I was capable of expecting the American consulate to be American...The officials I interviewed were very American, especially in being very polite; for whatever may have been the mood or meaning of Martin Chuzzlewit, I have always found Americans by far the politest people in the world. They put in my hands a form to be filled up, to all appearances like other forms I had filled up in other passport offices. But in reality it was very different from any form I had ever filled up in my life. At least it was a little like a freer form of the game called "Confessions" which my friends and I invented in our youth; an examination paper containing questions like, "If you saw a rhinoceros in the front garden, what would you do?" One of my friends, I remember, wrote, "Take the pledge." But that is another story, and might bring Mr. Pussyfoot Johnson on the scene before his time.

One of the questions on the paper was, "Are you an anarchist?" To which a detached philosopher would naturally feel inclined to answer, "What the devil has that to do with you? Are you an atheist" along with some playful efforts to cross-examine the official about what constitutes atheist. Then there was the question, "Are you in favor of subverting the government of the United States by force?" Against this I should write, "I prefer to answer that question at the end of my tour and not the beginning." The inquisitor, in his more than morbid curiosity, had then written down, "Are you a polygamist?" The answer to this is, "No such luck" or "Not such a fool," according to our experience of the other sex. But perhaps a better answer would be that given to W. T. Stead when he circulated the rhetorical question, "Shall I slay my brother Boer"--the answer that ran, "Never interfere in family matters." But among many things that amused me almost to the point of treating the form thus disrespectfully, the most amusing was the thought of the ruthless outlaw who should feel compelled to treat it respectfully. I like to think of the foreign desperado, seeking to slip into America with official papers under official protection, and sitting down to write with a beautiful gravity, "I am an anarchist. I hate you all and wish to destroy you." Or, "I intend to subvert by force the government of the United States as soon as possible, sticking the long sheath-knife in my left trouser-pocket into your President at the earliest opportunity." Or again, "Yes, I am a polygamist all right, and my forty-seven wives are accompanying me on the voyage disguised as secretaries." There seems to be a certain simplicity of mind about these answers; and it is reassuring to know that anarchists and polygamists are so pure and good that the police have only to ask them questions and they are certain to tell no lies.

The rest of the selection is interesting as well. Immigrant invasions. The nation as church. The melting pot. Terrorism. The American Constitution as the Spanish Inquisition (in a good way).

Posted by Thrasymachus at 08:14 PM | | TrackBack

KRAP round-up

ParaPundit addresses the Bush amnesty plan and its ramifications for illegal immigrants (KRAP = Karl Rove Amnesty Plan, © 2004 Steve Sailer).

Posted by razib at 07:03 PM | | TrackBack

Special Providence

Here are my thoughts on Special Providence, fresh from my blog.

It is a stormy night here in the great state of Texas, and the brontosapiens lairing in the apartment above are quite restless. Therefore, I thought I would get to work on this book review while I'm waiting for them to plop down for the night

I must admit that when I read this review by Vinod, I was intrigued. I picked up a copy of Special Providence at the library, and I'm about 1/3 way through. Vinod gives a raving review, and I do not intend to repeat his efforts.

In the interest of originality, I concerned here with the way that the different foreign policy schools compete and compromise in order to react to the changing face of the planet. It is very illuminating to read the book with a neutral perspective on foreign policy.

With that, I discuss the idealistic goals which each school functions, followed by how the schools can fail in a pragmatic sense. In order for our foreign policy to function in the way that it does, one must be able to argue both for and against the various school's main line of thinking. In deciding which course of action to take on a foreign policy objective, the school who's philosophy is best suited for the task naturally exerts the greatest influence.

It is therefore crucial to demonstrate that the different schools can function in both a benevolent way and a sinister way. This is how our two party republican government maintains the balance of power, and this is how the same balance of power is maintained among the four schools of foreign policy thought.

Here are the altruistic ends of the four schools

  • Hamiltonians: Hamiltonians believe that libertarian ideals are best spread through the world via commerce. In order for capitalism to thrive, they argue, a government which recognizes civil liberties must be in place.
  • Wilsonians: Wilsonians believe that our values are best spread throughout the world via engagement and communication. Missionary and missionary style work is crucial, as is diplomacy.
  • Jeffersonians: Jeffersonians primarily function in defense of our own liberties. They attempt to undermine those regimes that do not respect civil liberties, and to support those who do.
  • Jacksonians: Laissez faire foreign policy at it's best, the Jacksonian is probably the most "neighborly" of the foreign policy schools. To each his own. Let each country function as they see fit.

In contrast, there is a world of (mostly theoretical) discussion as to the malevolence of the various schools, usually to discredit the dominant school and maintain the balance of power. Because each school has at best a plurality, the conventional wisdom on these issues can change overnight. This is in contrast to the political system in which such whimsical flopping around would render the domestic political structure impotent.

The dynamic behind the systems of checks and balances for the 4 foreign policy schools is, nevertheless, the same. People align themselves with a school not because they disagree with the altruistic aims of the school of thought, but because they believe that school of thought is less malevolent than the others.

Move on the extended entry for the remainder...

OK, here is the second part of my Special Providence book review. I have now completed the book.

I am by no means a die-hard for any of the schools. However, I do tend to favor some over the others. If I had to rank my preference, it would be

  1. Hamiltonian
  2. Jacksonian
  3. Jeffersonian
  4. Wilsonian

It is certainly situational. For instance, I strongly felt at the time of the first Gulf War, that a Jacksonian approach was warranted. As we know the Wilsonian path created a truckload of problems culminating in 9-11. Iran is ripe for a paradigm shift, for which I feel that a Hamiltonian approach is now warranted. North Korea demands a pure Jacksonian Approach - if they demonstrate that they are a threat (i.e., testing a Nuke), we wipe them off of the map.

With that, I list the main problems with each of the schools. First, the one I tend to think causes the most problems:

  • The Wilsonian school is dangerous for a number of reasons. There is always a danger that the Wilsonian school, using post-modernist arguments, will lend too much favor to the "world community," that is the governments of the world. More over, the humanitarian element is frequently used against them in times of conflict, e.g. the recent war on Iraq.
  • The Jeffersonian school: The Jeffersonians and their minimalist foreign policy is just not pragmatic in times of war, and it tends to undermine the preventative strength of our military and our intelligence agencies. It is utterly ridiculous that we had better info on the USSR during the cold war than we currently have on the Middle East. Intelligence should have been the first benefactor to advances in technology (like those of the nineties), yet they are clearly worse off than they were in the 70's and 80's. Why? The Jeffersonian approach of the Clinton Administration ran them into the ground.
  • The Jacksonian school: one does not want a foreign policy run by populist rage. The classical example of Jacksonian Policy going awry is Jackson himself, defying the Supreme Court, and sending the Cherokees to Oklahoma on the trail of tears. I cannot exclude the possibililty that had the Jacksonians, been in power on 9-11, the entire Middle East would be smoking crater. Moreover, the Jacksonians tend to support populist defense strategies that just aren't feasible: SDI, The missile defense system, etc. Jacksonians are fine with a false sense of security, which turns my scientific stomach.
  • The Hamiltonian school. This one is the hardest for me, I have distinct Hamiltonian underpinnings, but the drawbacks of the school cannot be ignored. Hamiltonian's inevitably protect U.S. interests at the expense of the rest of the World. This can lead to severe problems. The economic upheaval after WWI was caused, in part, by Hamiltonian refusal to relieve the war debt acquired by the European Nations. This inevitably drug the U.S. into the worst economic depression in our history.

The final point of the book, which I think is worth mentioning is that our foreign policy functions best when a clear and present danger exists, and is noted by the various schools. An important point indeed. In the absence of a threat, the elite Wilsonian and Hamiltonian schools run unchecked. This rampant idealism runs headlong into pragmatic problems, which tend to generate threats, and undermine the goals of the two schools.

This phenomenon led, e.g. to the rise of National Socialism in Europe in the 30's (Hamiltonian idealism unchecked), and the rise of Al Queda in the 90's (unchecked Wilsonianism). The absence of a threat allows the Jeffersonian scaleback of the defense infrastructure, which leaves us vulnerable to the inevitable.

Posted by chrisg at 06:30 PM | | TrackBack