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August 07, 2004

Beam me up Scotty... One last time.

Well, it's confirmed, we are losing another star of Star Trek, this time to Alzheimers disease. What does this have to do with GNXP you ask? Many people involved in science or engineering today attribute the positive, almost heroic characters on ST as influencing their decision. The show was also instrumental in illustrating how reason, logic, and technological savvy were all virtues. Finally it gave a changing '60's America a way to discuss the problems of the day in a dispassionate setting.

For those religious types, pray for him. For the non-religious types, recognize his contribution.

Posted by scottm at 10:00 PM | | TrackBack

Does TNR know about google?

I noticed that The New Republic has republished on the web an article by Booker T. Washington from 1915 titled "My View of Segregation Laws." It is of course a pay article, but seeing as how Booker T. was a public figure, I figured that his papers and articles could be found free of charge, and after 15 seconds of googling I found the piece at the University of Illinois Press website. Here are the major points at the end of Booker T's artice:

Summarizing the matter in the large, segregation is ill-advised because

  1. It is unjust.
  2. It invites other unjust measures.
  3. It will not be productive of good, because practically every thoughtful negro resents its injustice and doubts its sincerity. Any race adjustment based on injustice finally defeats itself. The Civil War is the best illustration of what results where it is attempted to make wrong right or seem to be right.
  4. It is unecessary.
  5. It is inconsistent. The negro is segregated from his white neighbor, but white business men are not prevented from doing business in negro neighborhoods.
  6. There has been no case of segregation of negroes in the United States that has not widened the breach between the two races. Wherever a form of segregation exists it will be found that it has been administered in such a way as to embitter the negro and harm more or less the moral fibre of the what man. That the negro does not express this constant sense of wrong is no proof that he does not feel it.

Timeless wisdom that could be transposed to different contemporary contexts with ease.

Posted by razib at 08:23 PM | | TrackBack

Rare male advantage?

Steve has been talking about how Polynesian women tend to encourage the introgression of exoganous genetic material through liasons with men passing through (white, Melanesian, etc.). One reader suggests it is to counter-act inbreeding (Steve brings up the idea that genetic load of deleterious alleles could be purified by inbreeding, but GC has cited articles that throw a cloud over this idea). There is a lot of anecdotal evidence on the human level, but rare male preference is known in drosophila in controlled laboratory settings. Some of this might be due to heterozygote advantage in the MHC complex (an example of balancing selection). Obviously, an individual who is phenotypically extremely variant from you is almost certainly going to be unrelated to you, so there is a guarantee of having children with a novel HLA allele combination. Steve brings up the possibility that Eskimo women engage in this practice as well for a climatic antipode to contrast with the Polynesians. Interestingly, I read in Details magazine that Icelandic women also tend to engage in this practice, since most of their sexual partners are the equivalent of second cousins, an "exotic" look can give you a leg up if you are passing through town. Historically, disputes and conflict over sexual liasons between native women and European explorers are well documented, but if I recall correctly, African soldiers in the French army stationed in the Rhineland also caused similar problems (the mixed-blood offspring were sterilized or exterminated by the Nazis).

Personally, I would assert that there is some social rare male advantage in the United States (from personal experience), but this tends to diminish as one's own phenotype exists beyond trivial levels in a locality. At this point, social anomie, stereotyping and inter-group dynamics can dampen the person-to-person interaction or attraction.

Update: "Rikurzhen" points out that drosophila don't have adaptive immune systems, good point. I am not really sure if "rare male advantage" (which seems a form of "frequency dependent selection") exists in humans, I just thought I'd throw it out there.

Also, I'd like to point out that there is research that indicates women are attracted to males with dissimilar MHCs. Another study indicates women are attracted to men with MHC profiles similar to their fathers. These sort of conflicts indicate the tradeoffs that every human makes when choosing a mate. For example, in matrifocal & matrilineal societies one might expect that women have more latitude in mate choice and so looking for diversity would be more common. In contrast in patrilineal & patrifocal societies this would be a moot point as males would dictate who women mate with much of the time. The cost of having a child whose father was a transient passerby would likely be far higher in a patrilineal and patrifocal society. In contrast, it might be less of an issue in matrilineal and matrifocal societies. Additionally, there might be more benefit in finding genetically dissimilar mates in a pathogenically stringent environment. Within the context of viability and survivorship, there is a cost to mating with someone whose immune system is variant, as children whose immune system differs greatly from the mother are more likely to be miscarried. But, once the child is born the one with the novel HLA profile might be at an advantage in the event of pathogenic sweeps through the local population. But a child who is genetically dissimilar from the local kin group might be at a inclusive fitness disadvantage in relation to a child born from a liason with a relatively close relative (cousin). The possibilities are endless....

On a mildly related note, the mestizo majority in much of Latin America is often perceived to have come about through genocide, rape, decimination & domination of natives. Much of this is true, but I also suspect that the genetic advantage that mestizo children had in comparison to pure indigenous children was significant. Native populations of the Americas have rather homogenous HLA profiles because of founder effect and the relatively benign pathogenic environment of the New World, going a long way toward explaining why they were such easy pickings for Eurasian bugs. The injection of European (and lesser extent African) HLA profiles into the gene pool would have served to innoculate the children of native women who had non-native fathers.

Update II: Additionally, I realized that I focused on the genetic advantages of having a dissimilar sperm donor, but what about the possible social-personal advantages of having an alien spouse? For example, if a woman lives among her kin in a tribe, call them A, and she is one of the few to marry someone from tribe C, she might have all the skills and accumulated "wisdom" of her own people, while her mate could bring information over from his own tribe. In contrast, someone who mates with a fellow tribe member does not add special skills to the couple, though they likely have a more natural rapport because of cultural and genetic similarities.

Posted by razib at 09:54 AM | | TrackBack

Getting out of the ghetto

In the post below Greg says his paper is "disgustingly interdisciplinary," a not uncommon sentiment. How do we solve this common conundrum?

There are two broad issues here: many scholars who do work in the “human sciences” tend to be so sealed within their own “school” that they neglect other unfamiliar avenues of evidence to further their research. On the other hand, many scientists start to say really strange things once they wander off the reservation, normally so focused and fixated on their own world of elegant hypotheses and robust empiricism, they transpose this naïve simplicity to the domain of culture and politics, as if a few data points does a paradigm make (note the generally crude Leftism of many academic scientists in the United States or the pro-Nazi sentiments expressed by the life scientists in Hitler’s Germany).

As an example of the former case, I believe many historians would do well to take note of advances in archeogenetics. They wouldn’t need to understand much about molecular clocks or the difficulties of extracting information from the nonrecombinant region of the Y chromosome vs. the relative ease of working with mitochondrial DNA, perusals of abstracts and discussions would do. More broadly, social scientists and “theorists” in the liberal arts would have their mental horizons constrained by examination of the natural sciences (and if not, they would truly be “art”), in particular biology, since their own fields emerge out of the interaction and interplay between humans, who are after all simply clever animals (seeing as how some surveys indicate that social scientists are more irreligious than natural scientists, this should not be too controversial an assertion). Reading J.M. Smith’s Evolution and the Theory of Games or Animal Signals (see David B's review) would give scholars a grounding in the basic atomic units (human animals) they study, both the “ultimate” (evolutionary theory) ends and the “proximate” (ethology) behaviors. Now, I suggested those two books above because they don’t specifically focus on humans, rather, using animal models can clear away preconceptions and allow an individual to start from scratch (and discard the illusion that humans are sui generis in every aspect of their identity once they see the clear and obvious parallels). It is a way of thinking more than specific thoughts that needs to be encouraged here. Instead of broad sweeping patterns around the black boxes of individual humans, scholars should also start considering how to work up from individuals to the higher order structures which have traditionally been their primary stomping grounds (analogy in science: cosmology and particle physics ultimately come together and kiss during the “Planck’s Time,” the two deal with the “macro” and “micro” scale but are clearly part of a whole, the lack of a Quantum Gravity notwithstanding).

For scientists, I suspect a grounding in the broad as opposed to the specific would be helpful. Rather than monographs that examine the days before World War II in the Czech Republic, scientists need to have a general picture of the broad sweep of human existence. Living within a universe where there is an implicit method where models and theories are mapped toward universal generalities, a scientist may underestimate the complexity that characterizes human social interactions, often extrapolating from their own experience and culture to universality. Human universals do exist, and in the past decades social scientists became so carried away with the reality of human cultural diversity that they took it to reductio ad absurdum lengths. Nevertheless, human universals manifest themselves in a variety of ways, and the straight lines between biological constraints and cultural manifestations can often be few and far between. J.M. Roberts' The New History of the World, or John King Fairbanks' China: A New History or Paul Davies' Europe : A History would be proper correctives for the tendencies of scientists to transfer the relative simplicity of their physical universe to the social universe.

Please note one implication of what I’m saying, while I think it is essential that social scientists and scholars within the liberal arts learn something about natural science, I don’t think the converse is essential. The analogy might be to biology and the physical sciences, those who pursue degrees in biology must take chemistry and physics, because biology emerges out of their fields. In contrast, physicists and chemists only take biology courses if their field of research intersects with biology (biochemistry, biophysics and so forth). Scientists need not expend their energy toward non-scientific scholarship if they will never go off the reservation and continue to work in a region of thought far removed from social concerns. But, many scientists do become public figures, and biologists in particular tend to wander into commentary on issues related to human nature and scientific social policy. E.O. Wilson had to become a scholar and a broad intellectual when he decided to venture into an examination of the human condition rather than modeling the behavior of ants.

Frankly, we no longer live in an age of “Two Cultures,” the domain of science is ever expanding, pushing its tendrils ever outward. The human sciences and their partisans need to rise to the challenge, if not with equanimity, at least with the understanding that “know thine enemy” is a hallowed principle.

Posted by razib at 09:30 AM | | TrackBack

August 06, 2004

If I Were a Rich Man

Ran into a glitch..The two reviewers and the editor looking at my Ashkenazi IQ paper had two main objections. All somehow had the impression that the Ashkenazim had mostly or substantially been farmers - this was their strongest objection. I had argued that for most of a millenium (~900-1700), few none were farmers or practiced crafts, rather had jobs in whcih IQ had a big payoff such as merchants, moneylenders, tax farmers, estate managers - which is what the history books say. They cited no sources.. and so I came up with the crazy, cynical idea that they might have gotten their impressions of Ashkenazi history from Fiddler on the Roof. I then asked the editor where he had gotten that impression (after sending him census data from the early 20th century showing that typically, >96% of European Jews were nonfarmers). He said .... Fiddler on the Roof.

Anyone ever had a paper rejected because of a movie?

Posted by greg at 05:51 PM | | TrackBack

Arguments & persuasion

Over at Abiola’s blog there has been a recent spate of posts about the deleterious impact the rise of Christianity had on the intellectual life of the West. My own opinions on the topic are ambiguous and ambivalent, but that issue is not what this post is about in any case.

How exactly can Abiola and Andrew resolve their mild disagreement on this topic? Andrew asks what sort of data Abiola would find compelling, eliciting a response that a robust numerical analysis of the literate output would be convincing. Easier said than done.

When it comes to math, there are theorems. When it comes to science there are large controlled (relatively) data sets that can falsify parsimosiously formulated hypotheses. But what about an argument about points of history?

A & B might come to the dialogue with sharply different tools. For example:

1 - A maybe well versed in the topic at hand, as is B.
2 - A maybe well versed while B is not, or the reverse.
3 - Neither A or B are well versed on the topic that they are discussing.

Situation 3 is very difficult. You might have two individuals who are citing references and extracting supporting data points galore, without any context or understanding of the overall picture. Neither are in a position to exclude or nullify out-dated or inaccurate data points, neither can see the forest from the trees. Because the literature in many specialized fields is extremely large, a quantitative comparison of data points collected by the adversaries might not be able to put the baby to sleep, seeing as how both positions might have enormous literatures that neither would be able to digest and recapitulate so that the ceiling would be the ability to collect a certain amount of citations and references within a given time period.

Situation 2 is often amusing. In this case, the well versed individual can often run circles around an individual who is less well versed. The well versed individual can even take a position they know to be false according to scholarly consensus and argue for it because they have a good enough grasp of the data points that they can manipulate it to look coherent and plausible, mimicking verisimilitude of erudition to those who aren’t of the “elect” within that field. But, there might be problems if the less well versed individual does not comprehend what the more well versed person is really trying to say, unable to cross-reference multiple data sets accumulated over the years, sifting through it for intuitive plausibilites and probabilities. The less well versed individual might not have the mental database to understand that the data points they are presenting from recent research simply do not cohere well as a whole. How can the well versed individual communicate this? After all, they can not transfer the sum of their knowledge within a short period, and the less well versed individual might not be amenable to arguement from authority (“Hey, I just know more than you and I don’t want to be tutoring you for the next few weeks!”).

Case 3 is the most satisfactory, but one of the least straightforward, situations. Both individuals share a large database and can “cut through the crap.” One can’t hoodwink the other, and both are able to discern a “good” and a “bad” data point when they see it. They can get an intuitive feel for the general coherency of the opponent’s argument. There may still be miscommunication, if they come out of different intellectual “traditions” they might need to do verbal transformations between their disparate lexicons. Beyond lexicon there are whole “theories” that might work as background assumptions that need to be explicated for full fidelity of information transmission (ie; one individual assumes a chain of inferences from the opponent based on a conception of what the “correct” theoretical framework is).

In situation 3 there is a lot more going on “under the hood” than the argument that a third person might be able to observe. Let me clarify:

Here is a debate between two people who aren’t well versed.

1) A asserts x.
2) B checks x factually (referring to the internet or a text) and rebuts in the context of the argument of A.

Here is a debate between two people who are well versed.

1) A asserts x.
2) B checks x factually (mentally from prior learning and internalization) and this point triggers facts/theories/mental constructs a, b, c ….
3) B responds to A’s x, but might present new insights triggered by A's x but orthogonal to the "main point", offering for example fact y .
4) A checks y factually (mentally from prior learning and internalization) and this point triggers facts/theories/mental constructs d, e, f ….
5) Iterate.

What I’m trying to say is that the discourse between two specialists is soaked with unspoken arguments and facts bubbling under the surface. Though there is the exterior interface between the two individuals, often both A and B are running their own internal dialogues and mental models, using the new factual inputs and perspectives to reorient their own worldviews. Often, both A and B can come to the table with the same facts in a slightly different conformation, and this novel “interpretation” changes the general “shape” of the mental construct in one or other individual, even though the opposing individual did not mean to induce that particular change (and frankly, was unaware of the general “shape” of the opponent’s mental construct).

Let me offer a personal perspective: many times I have been offered a new fact by someone else, and it has triggered a host of “unrelated” facts in a mental cascade, and I come out of the process with a whole new viewpoint. Arguments in this model are not won by a point-by-point scorecard like in a formalized debate, rather, the group consensus of one set of neurons is stimulating and manipulating the group consensus of another set of neurons (sometimes, oftentimes, it is an unintended manipulation). I’m philosophically a reductionist, but hell if I know how to communicate exactly why I changed my mind about this topic or that many times (the more seamlessly complex, the more difficult to justify an opinion in simple terms).

When speaking of a scientific topic I am pretty well aware of the internals of the shape of the mental construct that I bring to the table. Facts are contingent, interlocking, and the base is precise and regular. Scientific topographies are “brittle,” pull one factual support from the superstructure and the mountain can come crashing down (falsification). On the other hand, many non-scientific intellectual constructs are like putty, and pushing into it in one direction may have rather unpredictable consequences.

One reason I harp on “canon” so much is that I really get frustrated having to slog through lexical transformations to get to the real meat of what someone is saying. Historical assertions of differences of degree are quantitatively imprecise, making understanding hard enough as it is. A belief was “widespread,” not adhered to by 80.45% of the population. I don’t know if some of these issues are ever going to be soluble, but having two individuals who are very knowledgeable and working in intelligible paradigms really helps.

Posted by razib at 02:26 PM | | TrackBack

James Hart

Along the lines of godless's new saying, When IQ is called Nazism, only Nazis will talk about IQ, the AP reports that an Unabashed Racist Wins GOP Primary in Tennessee. "James L. Hart, a believer in the discredited, phony science of eugenics," will be running against Democrat Rep. John Tanner for his US congressional seat. The website James Hart for Congress tells Hart's side of the story.

Posted by jemima at 12:19 PM | | TrackBack

Territorial Rights

The responses to my post on Victimology prompted me to think a bit more about the basis for claims to territory.

A Hobbesian cynic may say that the only basis for such claims is brute force. Those who can defend their territory have the ‘right’ to keep it, while those who cannot will lose it to those who are stronger.

However, in an age of terror, no state can reliably be defended by its inhabitants alone. International collective action is needed to defeat terrorism, and collective action requires shared aims and values. Since terrorism often arises from disputes over territory (Ireland, Palestine/Israel, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, the Basques, etc), it would contribute to effective international cooperation if there were agreement on general principles by which disputes over territory can be resolved.

It would be naïve to expect that the parties to such disputes themselves will be persuaded by rational arguments. But outsiders may take a more dispassionate view, and bring influence and pressure to bear. Such pressure will be more effective if it is united, and this is more likely to be achieved if there is an external consensus on the rights and wrongs of the issue....

I believe the only principle capable of gaining general acceptance for this purpose is the principle of self-determination. Roughly, this means that the composition and borders of independent territorial units should be decided by the wishes of the people living there. In some sense, the principle of self-determination is accepted, if only in lip-service, by all modern governments. It is incorporated in the UN Charter as one of the bases for the settlement of international disputes. More fundamentally, it is a democratic principle, and almost everyone (in theory) supports democracy.

Of course, the principle must not be interpreted in such a way as to prejudge the points at issue. For example, if the issue is whether an island (e.g. Britain, Ireland, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, or Timor) should be a single political unit, the question cannot be decided by the wishes of a majority of the inhabitants of the island as a whole, since this presupposes that the island is to be treated as a single political unit. If the question is whether Scotland should be an independent state within the island of Britain, it would be absurd to decide that question by a majority vote among all the people of Britain, as this would in effect give a veto to the English. As an Englishman I would cheerfully vote for the independence of Scotland, but I do not think it is any of my business. In such a case the principle of self-determination requires us to establish exactly what the inhabitants of the various parts of the territory wish to happen, and if they want different things to happen, to draw boundaries in such a way that as many people as possible are living under the territorial regime of their choice.

Apart from its consistency with the fundamental principle of democracy, the strongest point in favour of self-determination is the inadequacy of the alternatives. The main alternatives are:

Divine right

Some people believe they are entitled to occupy certain territory because God wishes them to have it. Needless to say, this will not be acceptable to anyone who does not share their religious belief.

Territorial integrity

In the 19th century and earlier, an important consideration in disputes over territory was the perceived need for strategically defensible frontiers, preferably marked by ‘natural’ boundaries such as seas, major rivers, or mountains. Whatever force this may once have had (and it should be set against the strategic weakness created by incorporating hostile minorities within the boundaries of the state, as e.g. in the pre-war Sudetenland), it no longer carries much weight in an age of air power. In any case, there is no need for ’defensible frontiers’ between friendly states. Much of the frontier between the USA and Canada is simply a line on a map.

Ancestral rights

The main alternative to self-determination is the belief in ancestral rights: that you are entitled to occupy territory if your ancestors did, even if you do not occupy it yourself. This is the source of many of the world’s most intractable disputes (Palestine, Cyprus, Ireland, Kashmir, the Balkans, etc.). Many of these disputes also have a religious aspect, but few of the disputing parties base their claim to territory overtly on religious grounds (apart from some ultra-orthodox Jews and extremist Hindus). Rather, they base their claims on the fact (or belief) that their ancestors (rather than they themselves) lived in the territory in question.

The objections to ancestral rights are both philosophical and practical. One philosophical objection is that the dead have no rights. Every ‘right’ is the correlative of an ‘obligation’, and no-one has obligations towards the dead. It may be argued that the dead somehow transmit their rights and obligations to their descendants, but this involves the idea of vicarious responsibility, which is ethically unsound: no-one can be responsible for the actions of those over whom they have no influence, which is usually the case with ancestors!

Even if it is accepted that the rights and obligations of dead ancestors can be transmitted to the living, any territorial rights of the ancestors themselves must ultimately be based on some other principle, such as possession by conquest or purchase (since there cannot be an infinite regress of ancestral rights). In a large majority of cases the original ancestors must have acquired possession of the territory by force, even if the details are conveniently shrouded in the mists of antiquity. So why should possession by ancestors count for more than possession by a current occupier?

The practical objections to ancestral rights are various. One is that we all have many ancestors, often from different parts of the world. Which of our ancestors do we take into account? And most territories have been occupied at different times by different people’s ancestors, so how do we choose between them? Do the oldest ancestors carry most weight, or the most recent? Or those who occupied the territory for longest? And it is often difficult to determine who the ancestors of a people are, as in Northern Ireland, where the Protestant population has a mixture of Irish, Scottish and English ancestry. (For a further objection to permanent ancestral rights see the Addendum below.)

So even if one accepts the principle of ancestral rights in the abstract (which I do not) there is little prospect of getting agreement to its application in any particular case. Undeniably, however, ancestral ‘rights’ and grievances have a strong emotional appeal (which was the point of my earlier post). There is probably an innate feeling of group solidarity, which can be extended by cultural symbolism to one’s biological or cultural ancestors. Ancestral grievances can also be cultivated as an excuse for one’s own failures and inadequacies. Those who cultivate their grievances will not give them up in a hurry, because they are central to their view of themselves and their place in the world. But this is not a reason for anyone else to accept them as a basis for territorial claims.

Admittedly, the principle of self-determination also has its problems. Sometimes concentrations of a particular ethnic group are scattered throughout a territory occupied by another group. There are practical reasons (such as police and security requirements) for preferring territorial units to be geographically continuous, and there may be a need to compromise between self-determination and administrative practicality.

A more serious difficulty is that giving self-determination only to the current occupants of territory could result in rewarding aggression. Here the principle of self-determination in its simplest form clashes with the principle that wrong-doers should not be allowed to keep the benefits of their wrong-doing. Suppose for example that the Chinese were to move ten million people temporarily into Tibet, then hold a referendum. The results would make a mockery of self-determination. Also, there are cases where people have been expelled from their homeland. To exclude them from decisions on the status of the territory they have been expelled from would be unacceptable. But I suggest that these difficulties could be met by a simple modification or refinement of the principle of self-determination: namely, that decisions should be taken by all (and only) the adults who were born in the territory concerned. This would automatically exclude recent invaders, and it would give a say in the decision to anyone who had been expelled (though not to their descendants). It would also exclude recent immigrants, which in general is reasonable. (An exception might be made for those who have acquired citizenship after passing appropriate tests.)

I will refrain from applying this approach to notorious current disputes, though in most cases the application is fairly obvious. But I will face one hypothetical challenge. Suppose that a majority of the people born in some substantial part of England, e.g. West Yorkshire, decided that they wished to set up an independent Islamic Republic. Would I accept this? My answer is that I would - then I would build a big wall around it!


A further objection to the continuation of ancestral rights in perpetuity can be based on John Locke’s concept of property. According to Locke, entitlement to property arises only when we modify land or natural materials by working on them, so that they are mixed with our ‘labour’. Whatever philosophers may think of this, it is intuitively appealing, and I don’t know of any better justification for property rights. (‘Labour’ should be interpreted broadly as including skill, innovation, planning, thrift, and other contributions to economic value.) By analogy with an individual’s right to property, a people can be thought of as acquiring a right to territory by the individual and collective investment they put into buildings, infrastructure, land drainage and irrigation, etc.

But a corollary of this is that entitlement to territory diminishes over time if it is not constantly renewed by continuing ‘labour’. With rare exceptions (such as diamonds or works of art), the value of property declines over time due to wear and tear, natural decay, erosion, etc. The declining value of assets is recognised in accountancy by the concept of depreciation. A typical approach to depreciation of buildings and other fixed assets is to assume that their value is extinguished over a period of 40 years or so. This may be rather short for some public infrastructure assets (e.g. the Victorian drainage and water system in London has not yet reached the end of its useful life), but an average lifespan of between 40 and 100 years seems plausible. In any event, it cannot reasonably be argued that the investment by the ‘ancestors’ retains its value undiminished in perpetuity.

If this is the case, as soon as a people are expelled from a territory, the value of their ’entitlement’ will begin to decline, while the invaders will acquire an increasing entitlement as the value of their own investment increases. At some point there will be a crossover where the increasing accumulated investment of the newcomers exceeds the declining depreciated investment of the earlier inhabitants. Assuming an average asset lifetime of 40 to 100 years, the crossover point would come roughly 20 to 50 years after the occupation. This seems broadly consistent with the proposal to give the right to self-determination to all (and only) those adults born in the territory.

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

August 05, 2004

The burning cult

While on the road I read The Anatomy of Fascism, a broad cross-cultural survey of the political movement by that name that crashed & burned during World War II. I will post more detailed thoughts later, but one thing that struck me, and always strikes me when I read about fascism, the various affinal movements seem to metastasize so quickly over time to the point where the term "fascist" is more appropriately an emotive appellation than a precise definition. Fascism seems to be a classic case of a social movement that is difficult to model memetically, its tendrils whip and snake throughout the ideological topography to such a great extent that even linguistic characterization is ludicrous.

I mean, we know what a "communist" believes in, but what about a fascist?

Related note: Fascism seems different from authoritarian conservatism in that in many ways it is revolutionary. For example, the Nazis seem to have clearly transgressed the most generous bounds of the Christian morality that had been a part of German national life for over 1,000 years. Though not as confrontational as the Communists, it seems clear that National Socialism would eventually have strangled Christian life. I did some research on the SS in college and found out that 90% of the officer corp gave their religious affiliation as "God believer," a sort of general theist pagan. This, at a time when 90% of the German population was affiliated with the Protestant or Roman Catholic churches.

Posted by razib at 07:14 PM | | TrackBack

Shibboleths can matter

In the post below Aziz asserts that Islam is expanding in China just like Christianity. I would agree with this assertion, but, I would add the caveat is that Islam is reconverting and revitalizing traditionally Muslim groups (either the "Chinese speaking Muslim" Hui community or among the various Turkic groups) , while Christianity is converting non-Christian Han.

I believe that Islam has a higher hurdle in China than Christianity because the former is less compatible with a crucial element of Chinese culture than the latter: pork consumption. While Christian converts could continue to eat with their non-Christian family members, I suspect it would be far more difficult for Muslim converts to do the same with non-Muslim relatives. This suggests that Christianity will be more potent memetically speaking in the context of Han culture because it does not have inflexible constraints on this issue. A contrast might be the competition between Christians and Muslims in Africa to convert polygamous pagan peoples. Obviously the former have a harder sell on that issue (switch to monogamy) than the latter (no more than four wives at a time). A reaction has been that some Christian groups tolerate polgamy, while many "African Christian" sects accept it de jure. I can't imagine a way Muslims could re-work the pork taboo, but who knows, perhaps Chinese Muslim converts will genetically engineer a "cow" that tastes like a pig & is as good at converting offal as a pig.

Posted by razib at 06:23 PM | | TrackBack

Keeping with your own kind might not be that bad....

Sometimes commentator Gregory Cochran has asserted several times on this blog's message boards that the fertility rate of the affluent and educated dropped below the rate of the less affluent and educated sometime in the late 19th century. Though I haven’t found any evidence to confirm or refute this assertion in the context of that time period, it seems that most of the contemporary data tends to support the assumption that the professional classes are reproducing at a lower rate than the working classes in the Western nations.

This leads to the perception of a possible dysgenic trend for the genes that effect intelligence, and allelic combinations that "should" be less fit are actually advantaged in the replication race in comparison to "superior" allelic combinations. By this, I mean that individuals who possess a genotype that leads to a greater likelihood of expressing a high IQ phenotype are less likely to reproduce than individuals who possess a genotype that is likely to express a low IQ phenotype. Therefore, the alleles that confer upon individuals the potential for a high IQ seem to reduce reproductive fitness of the individual carrying those genes, and so those genes should decrease in frequency within the population.

But the assumption of a century long dysgenic trend seems to fly in the face of the reality that technological advancement and creativity have not decreased as the century has passed (at least my subjective perception). One can dispute the metrics, but at the higher ends of intellectual achievement the system seems to be working. Because of raised expectations some are being "left behind," the engines of modern civilization place high demands on individual capital.

Let me neglect the issue of the Flynn Effect for now, and move on to another point: assortive mating (the preferential mating of individuals who share common phenotypic tendencies, at least one, but perhaps many). In The Bell Curve Murray & Hernstein suggested that we were witnessing the emergence of a multi-tiered meritocracy. With the acceleration of mating based on educational attainment and professional success (especially in an age where males can evaluate women directly in these criteria instead of using indirect proxies like their fathers & brothers) many worry about the chasms that are developing between various segments of the American population. I won't examine their points, there are many writers and thinkers who ruminate on this issue, rather I want to point out one of the many possible benefits of the educational and intellectual stratification of our society: more super-geniuses.

Keep in my mind that my model is a simplistic thought-experiment. My conjecture is this: I suspect that the increased population substructure of modern societies along the axis of intellect might be resulting in an increase in the absolute numbers of highly creative and intellectually impressive individuals. The analogy I have in mind is selective breeding: when one selects a parental generation with an average phenotype shifted over from the mean, the offspring generation regresses toward the mean (because many of the parents with impressive phenotypes expressed their traits because of non-genotypic factors), but nevertheless the new mean is shifted over from the old mean of the original population (selection response). If you iterate the procedure over many generations in the end you have may have a phenotypic mean that is extremely shifted over from the original population. Not only might the mean be shifted over from the original population, within this peculiar descendent population there would likely be individuals that express extreme phenotypes not found in the original population. This is the result of novel and rare allelic combinations (I am assuming an additive polygenic continuous trait) which emerge out of matings between individuals who already possess a genotype that is characterized by an overabundance of low frequency alleles. In other words, though many pairings between geniuses do not result in geniuses (because of regression toward the mean), a genius is much more likely from such a mating. A hyper-exceptional child is far more plausible coming from the pairing of two very bright individuals whose genes may recombine and resegregate in a felicitous fashion.

If my suppositions are correct the population wide increase in alleles that tend to express a lower IQ might be compensated by the increased substructure on the "g" locii, which might result in changes in the character of the "smart fraction." The importance of assortive mating and population substructure might also explain the paradoxes that one is confronted by in the low IQ of South Asians and the high achievement of members of the Diaspora and the historical importance of South Asian contributions transculturally (eg; Buddhism). What matters is not the mean IQ of South Asians, but their smart fraction.

Just a thought I'd been kicking around....

Related: See Griffe on the Smart Fraction.

Posted by razib at 06:04 PM | | TrackBack

August 04, 2004

Pork eating not allowed

An Orlando Catholic woman was fired from her job at a Muslim business for eating a BLT;

Lina Morales was hired as an administrative assistant at Rising Star -- a Central Florida telecommunications company with strong Muslim ties, Local 6 News reported.

However, 10 months after being hired by Rising Star, religious differences led to her termination.

Morales, who is Catholic, was warned about eating pizza with meat the Muslim faith considered "unclean," Local 6 News reported. She was then fired for eating a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, according to the report.

"Are you telling me they fired you because you had something with ham on it?" Local 6 News reporter Mike Holfeld asked.

"Yes," Morales said.

Now, the libertarian in me has trouble with government forcing people to hire or rent to (i.e. associate) people they have trouble with. But I think this case does not fall under that principle.

To boot, this business is taking a Qur'ranic verse that forbids Muslims from eating pig and requiring all their employees to follow it. So they are basing a company policy on a flawed interpretation of their faith.

To me, this boils down to a creepy imposition of one persons religion onto another.

Anyone more knowledgable about Islam want to correct/comment on this.

Posted by scottm at 11:07 PM | | TrackBack

More than IQ

My gut feeling is that there is more to racial intelligence differences than IQ. But IQ is the only important difference that science will ever have a grasp on because it is the only important one that can be measured in a relatively straightforward way.

Along that line, here is something that Steve Sailer posted to his site from a correspondent.

The Caucasian West's biggest intellectual advantage seems to reside in the critical rational culture method of formulating and testing hypotheses. This is a destructive form of creativity and does not sit well with the particular and consensual Asian mind set.

A Western intellectual is initially ambitious in his attempt to generalise all particular facts inside a universal law of some sort.

Then subsequently, he is the subject of an aggressive attempt to criticise this theory on the basis of its:

- internal logico-consistency - external empirico-corroborability

The polar case of this attitude are the Jewish intellectuals, with one building a vast theoretical system and then having his mates queue up to tear it down.

The Asian East's seem to be less inclined towards positing universal laws and even less inclined to want to challenge authority with critical demonstrations or refutations.

I don't agree with this, actually. I am not sure what is the exact problem with it, but it just does not seem to be that useful an idea at organizing my personal experience with the matter. But then again, I can't think of any way to scientifically test whether this is true or not. It is an example of a possible racial intelligence difference that I doubt we will ever have any hard facts on. And it is one with obvious consequences.

I do think that there are differences between the Asian and Western mindsets (though those are both broad categories containing many races and cultures). A lot is culture. Some may be genetically influenced. It's important. But it is to hard to measure, and therefore something that science is never going to be much use at telling us about.

Godless comments:

But IQ is the only important difference that science will ever have a grasp on

I think that's too skeptical a stance. There are plenty of other disciplines within quantitative pyschology other than IQ research; for example, Big 5 personality assessment, or CHC theory as specialization of IQ research. I bet national surveys of the former in particular could shed some light on national behavior.

Also, re: the intellectuals cited...I don't know if such sweeping generalizations are appropriate. I tend not to make such statements because a) they're controversial and b) they're entirely subjective impressions. I know what the author is talking about re: Jewish intellectuals with highly ideological political programs (the neocons, Marx, Rand, Rothbard, etc.), but of course gentile intellectuals engage in such a thing as well, although possibly at not as high a per-capita rate (Robespierre, Engels, Lenin, Hoppe, etc.), as did Japan during the Meiji restoration and China during the Cultural Revolution.

Furthermore, the trends are not set in stone. This is why I don't like talking about non-empirical stuff, because people can nitpick subjectively in the opposite direction. Example: very few people challenge the anti h-bd consensus in the West that permeates everyday life, but such talk goes on regularly in the East.

And this can be quite an advantage. As Derbyshire said:

Here is the point: Fretting about the ethics of these issues is a thing that only western countries are going to do. Elsewhere, eugenics — including “genetic enhancement” — will not be fretted about or debated, it will just be done.

To see what I mean, check out an article titled “Popularizing the Knowledge of Eugenics and Advocating Optimal Births Vigorously” by Sun Dong-sheng of the Jinan Army Institute, People’s Republic of China. An English translation of the article can be found on the web. The translators note, in their preface, that: “The taboo on this subject is not as strong in East Asia as in the West. One might hypothesize that Asians, and more particularly the populations of the Han cultural zone (Japan, North and South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and possibly Vietnam), take a more pragmatic, less structured and ideological, and more far-seeing approach (eugenics, after all, is, by definition, a long-run program) to the development of human capital, than do Westerners”.

Sun Dong-sheng takes a quick canter through of the history of eugenics, not omitting the disgrace which the whole subject fell into by association with Nazi “racial science”. As the translators note, though, Dr. Sun shows no sign of feeling that he is dealing with a “hot” or taboo topic. He just goes right on into proposals for raising public awareness of eugenics (in China, that is — the whole piece is intended for a Chinese audience) and reasons for including eugenic policies as a part of “socialist modernization”.

The progress of the argument is held up for a while by some ideological shucking and jiving the author feels obliged to perform. From the point of view of theoretical Marxist-Leninism and dialectical materialism, still a compulsory part of the curriculum in Chinese schools, the entire field of genetics is a bit suspect. In all nature-nurture debates, traditional Marxists are the purest of pure nurturists. What’s the point of having a revolution if you can’t change human nature? (Remember Lysenko?) Dr. Sun easily negotiates his way through this little patch of ideological white water, concluding that:

"With genetics as its basis, the field of eugenics is established on an objective, materialistic foundation."

So that’s all right then, and we can move right on with:

"As eugenic research becomes widespread and acquires depth, the legal code of China will include more regulations concerning the ways by which the idea of healthier offspring can be given reality."


"Socialist modernization urgently needs a reduction or elimination of genetic diseases and hereditary defects. Only by promoting the births of better offspring can we improve the genetic quality of our population…"

So it seems like this sort of trend - i.e. useful empiricism without worrying about the overarching ideology - can be as much a competitive advantage as a disadvantage. Contra the original correspondent's position that ideology is a plus , in this example the East doesn't worry like the West does about fitting some new scientific advance into the prevailing structure of taboos (whether it be PC or Christianity or what have you).

Of course, that doesn't mean I think the West should engage in forcible eugenics of the Chinese variety, but it does mean that a ban on forcible eugenics that sweeps up voluntary individual genetic engineering in its wake (such as reproductive medicine like GE + in-vitro fertilization) will surely cede the high ground to China.

See also here and here for much more on China's official statements re: eugenics.

Posted by Thrasymachus at 09:31 PM | | TrackBack

Oops, forgot the Christians!

In Isaac Asimov's original Foundation Trilogy, set in a galactic empire thousands of years in the future, computers are prominent in their absence. Fast forward a few decades, and Asimov began to rework his future history with new installments, and all of a sudden, computers show up. What happened here? Asimov admitted that he simply pretended as if they had been in the original works and asked readers not to notice.

Well, as many have observed, science fiction is more often a more accurate representation of the present's perception of the future than the future itself. Jules Vernes' fantabulous steam driven contraptions reflect the 19th century, the fission powered futures that were common until the 1960s projected the nuclear-positive mood of the era, while the cybernetic informationally soaked post-human fantasies of the 21st century foreshadow our own dreams and nightmares. This effect can be observed on shorter timescales, Ender's Game & its follow ups depict a near future where two genius children manipulate world politics through the maelstrom of discussions on the usenet. Yes, you read that right, usenet. Back in the 1980s Orson Scott Card couldn't have predicted the explosion of the web in 1994 with the arrival of Mosaic. If an author was conceiving an Ender's Gamesque piece of science fiction today, I think it is likely that blogs would loom larger than usenet.

Stepping back into the present, and out of the realms of geekdom, scholars and analysts often articulate "known" truisms and "see" the data out there to validate their propositions. For example, in the early 20th century China was hobbled by an archaic world-view dominated by Confucianism. Chinese nationalists who agitated for change, from liberals to Communists, rejected the old ways. The Cultural Revolution was simply the reductio ad absurdum of this process (though in a peculiar way its emphasis on character over competance might have been a reflection of Confucian moralism!).

Fast forward to the late 20th century, and with the rise of Japan and the "Asian Tigers," "Asian values," with Confucianism being a primary ingredient, received much of the credit for the economic dynamism of the period. During the 1998 "Asian Flu," "Crony Capitalism," undergirded by Confucian emphasis on personal ties of blood, was on the receiving end of much of the blame.

Let us disregard the reality that "Confucianism" means many things (the Japanese for one were somewhat anti-Confucian during much of their history in that loyalty toward their overlords was paramount, even over those of blood). What I want to emphasize is that no one has a time machine when it comes to social analysis. Falling into ad hoc storytelling is the human default. Few people make correct predictions, and those who do make correct predictions often can not repeat their prognostication in more than one context, suggesting that blind luck might have been the true source of their wisdom.

This brings me to the terminus of my intellectual circumlocution: on this blog we post many entries about China and its coming revolution in genetic engineering. I myself have engaged in this practice. After all, of the three great civilizations, Western (Christendom & the Dar-al-Islam inclusive), India and China, the first two stand apart from the Han people in their preoccupation with pecularities of principle in defiance of pragmatism. It seems that the South Asian intellectual elite has been far more enthusiastic about arguments based on the "wisdom of repugnance" in attacking genetically modified foods than the Han because this is one way that South Asians (Hindus) resemble the professors of the Abrahamic religions (and their secular children). That is, taboos dictated from On High in defiance of utilitarian gain are more common among the Hindus and the followers of the Abrahamic religions, while the Chinese are often more flexible in following common sense and what "works."

So we have here a proposition that many posters on this blog implicitly assume: The Chinese will have far fewer moral qualms about genetically modifying humans and other living organisms because they tend to view such acts pragmatically rather than sacredly. But, this presupposes some facts that we know to be true, in particular, that the Chinese are a secular and worldly culture. Yet, it is crucial to reiterate that though this fact is true now, it may not hold in the future.

In the book Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power, David Aiken argues that China in the future might be a Christian nation. One can read a review of Aiken's book in Christianity Today. Having skimmed interviews and seen other summations I am skeptical of the author's arguments for a variety of reasons, but seeing as I haven't read the original text itself, I'll hold back on my critique.

What I want to do though is present the what if: what if 21st century China is a Christian country? (or at least substantially Christian) Certainly our projections of the coming Chinese genetic revolution might have to change if one assumes that Christianity has within it a consensus set of views on issues relating to life science and human alteration. There are some tests as to whether Christianity would alter the Chinese attitude toward life science: South Korea is 25% Christian & every executive head of state for the past generation has been Christian, the past two being Roman Catholic (half of the religiously affiliated population is Christian, so the number 50% is often quoted). As late as the 1980s 1/3 of legislators in Singapore's rubber stamp parliament were Christian. The current president of Taiwan is the first in that nation's history not to be a Christian. In contrast, Japan is something of a Christianity-free-zone (in belief and profession if not outward trappings of Christian-themed culture). Is there a difference between nations with strong Christian identities and those without in East Asia in their attitudes toward life sciences and their application to humans?

I will do some digging later on, but first I'll read Aiken's book to see what arguments in he makes in detail.

Addendum: There are some issues whether attitudes toward life science are memetic/axiomatic or consensus-driven in Christianity. In this context it doesn't matter much in the short term, operationally what is important is the extent to which Chinese Christians mimic the viewpoints of conservative Christians in the West, whether by deriving the same conclusions from common axioms or through simple ideological imitation.

Posted by razib at 08:52 PM | | TrackBack

Boys are different

This is the kind of thing that I generally post at my site. In fact, I did.

I know that this has every possibility of generating some serious flames here at GNXP. This is why I'm posting it here too: We aren't a blank slate when it comes to our feelings about sex. Culture has a lot more influence over sexual practices than it does over IQ. But there is still a general template that is substantially genetic.

(To throw some h-bd into this, I will mention that Sir Richard Burton once said that polygamy was a function of climate. To carry that a little further, climate is a function of geography. Which may mean different selection pressures for different ancestral groups, which themselves vary by geography.)

The main point is that we have prejudices about how sex should work that are part of our nature as much as they are part of any rational belief system.

This is what I posted to my site.

CNN headline: Pupil raped by teacher: 'I love her'

Once again the case of the sixth-grade pupil having sex with his female teacher is in the news. The story is an absurdity; the above headline strikes most people as an absurdity, a legal fiction. We moderns cannot admit why.

Boys are different from girls.

Our laws are made to protect young girls from older men. They are on the books in a gender-neutral fashion because that is how we make our laws. But no one (unless ideology makes them rationalize their way to it) has the same gut feeling about an underage boy having sex with an older woman as they have about an underage girl having sex with an older man. Actually, we don't like the idea of underage girls having sex period, but it has been about two decades since we could admit that as a culture.

Before anyone raises the obvious objection, let me state a corollary to the bolded statement above.

Heterosexuals are different from homosexuals.

It's not that we feel comfortable with absolute sexual freedom for young boys. We have a strong gut dislike for young boys having homosexual sex with older men. Or homosexual sex at all, if we can help it.

Since older women generally don't look at younger boys nearly as often as older men look at post-pubescent younger girls, this sort of thing rarely comes up. It does not really impact on our cultural radar. But the gender-neutral approach that this issue's relative unimportance allows does have one serious consequence. We do not admit that, owing to the problem of sexual abuse, adult men have precious little place in the child rearing industry (i.e. the schools).

Posted by Thrasymachus at 08:51 PM | | TrackBack

Propaganda Tactics and Fahrenheit 9/11

A very good paper (here's the pdf, here's the site) asking the question of whether F9/11 is propaganda or documentary by a professor of psychology. The author lays out traditional propaganda techniques and analyzes the occurance of these techniques in F 9/11. His conclusion is, obvious to anyone with a brain, that it is pure propaganda. One thing said that is true of people as a whole but more true of Moorephiles;

Research has shown the quality of an argument is largely irrelevant. Professor James Stiff, a leading judgment researcher, found a wimpy overall correlation between quality evidence and attitude change. He found that humans don’t pay much attention to argument validity—rather, they pay attention to the argument’s claim or conclusion, and how closely that claim or conclusion matches their prejudices. If a poorly argued message concludes with what a person already believes is true, he’ll buy it. On the other hand, most powerfully reasoned arguments with ample supporting evidence will be rejected, if the conclusion doesn’t match what the listener wants to hear. Don’t accuse humans of being logical—they’re not. They’re psycho-logical, which is something else entirely. That’s why it’s so common to see people giving faulty reasoning and invalid conclusions a pass: as long as the propagandist arrives at the “correct” conclusion, it really doesn’t matter how he got there. Mere insinuation will serve about as well as solid evidence to prop up a prejudice.

It is also clear in this paper and by this article (concerning a headline that Moore doctored) that there are out-right lies in F 9/11. It is also clear by this article in the Daily Star that an argument Moore makes in the film has a racist subtext (though Moore, who flunked out of college, is not smart enough to recognize the inherent racism of this argument)

NOTE This piece contains the opinions and views of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of the siteowners (I write this to protect GC and Razib from Moore's sue-everyone-who-questions-him machine)

Posted by scottm at 07:26 PM | | TrackBack

Bone-devouring worms

This is probably the weirdest biology story I've ever come across. I thought it might be a hoax, but it's a long time after April 1st.

It seems that marine researchers have discovered two species of worms that live entirely on the bones of dead whales. The worms have no mouths, but 'roots' which they insert into the whale bones, containing symbiotic bacteria which can digest the fats from the bones. The worms are distantly related to the tubeworms that live around undersea hydrothermal vents.

Oh yes, and the worms are all female. They contain tiny parasitic males, little more than bags of sperm, to fertilise their eggs.

Ain't nature wonderful?

Posted by David B at 07:43 AM | | TrackBack

August 03, 2004

Can I collect disability for this?

Reuters reports on a growing number of Finnish soldiers who are being excused from military duty due to "Internet Addiction"

"For people who play (Internet) games all night and don't have any friends, don't have any hobbies, to come into the army is a very big shock," said Commander-Captain Jyrki Kivela at the military conscription unit.

"Some of (the conscripts) go to the doctor and say they can't stay. Sometimes, the doctors have said they have an Internet addiction," Kivela said.

It's pretty obvious to anyone with an internet connection that many young men would not want to do with out their computer even for a day, and we all know people who have lost jobs or suffered recriminations due to to much web-surfing. So why is the Finnish military allowing this to occur? And if I have this problem, can I take time off and collect disability? ;)

Posted by scottm at 04:36 PM | | TrackBack


An article out about the University of Colorado's (Boulder) policy concerning it's "School and Society" freshman level class. Their Friday section of the class

is reserved for "students of color," (my emphasis)according to a course description. It is also open to those of any race who are first-generation college students. Other students can take the course, which is a requirement for education majors, but during a different period...University officials say the restricted class offers minority students "a much safer and open environment" in which to discuss issues of race, gender and class

This is wrong on so many levels. For starters it concedes the idiotic charge of White nationalists that "students of color" are somehow inferior and cannot compete on equal-footing with their white peers;

Student Antonia Gaona said she resented the course description's implicit message that minority students can't compete with whites. A senior of Hispanic descent, she's one of the three students represented by Mr. Corry. "I'm frustrated with programs like this because they force students to identify themselves on the basis of race," Miss Gaona said. "This is something students my age are trying to get beyond, being identified on the basis of their skin color.

It also creates artificial boundaries between groups and stops the creation of a "student body", which could lead to learning difficulties for everyone.

"It's like the university feels it needs to coddle minority students and have us work with students who only look like us, and that's not how the real world works," she added.

And it is simply unfair to white students, some of who need it for their degree in education.

But before you believe that UC Boulder is alone in this, here's an anecdote from my own life. Two years ago I worked with an East Asian Doctoral Student. At the time he was graduating and looking at getting a Law Degree from Lewis & Clark College. He left one week before the start of school to attend an orientation seminar for "minority, gay, lesbian, and transgendered persons" it was a week long seminar that concluded with a rafting and camping trip. So what you ask? So what that it was paid through student dues and excluded any straight non-minority.

Sadly, these people don't get the idea of integration, and are giving racists the fuel they need for their insanity.

Posted by scottm at 04:19 PM | | TrackBack


My eye was caught by two articles in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph (London).

Poland is commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Warsaw uprising, which was crushed by the Nazi occupiers, killing a quarter of a million people and destroying the city. As every schoolboy knows, World War II started when the Germans invaded Poland, and millions of Poles (quite apart from Polish Jews) died in the war.

But according to the article, the survivors of Germans expelled from Poland after the war ‘want international recognition of their suffering’, and are threatening to claim reparations for their property.

What’s the German for chutzpah?

But what really caught my eye was an article at the bottom of the same page headed ‘Misery never fades for the Roque of Gibraltar’. Apparently there is a town called San Roque a few miles along the cost of Spain from the British colony of Gibraltar. Gibraltar is currently celebrating 300 years of British rule, having been captured by Anglo-Dutch forces in 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession, and subsequently ceded to Britain in perpetuity under the Treaty of Utrecht. Spain now wants it back. The British government, for reasons of Euro-politics, would be delighted to give it back, except for the awkward fact that about 99 percent of its inhabitants (in referenda) want it to stay British.

But what about San Roque? Well, it seems that the inhabitants of San Roque regard themselves as the descendants of the inhabitants of Gibraltar before the British occupation. According to a spokesman, ’We want recognition of what we suffered 300 years ago’. Sound familiar? A statue in the town has the inscription ‘No Spaniard should ever forget…faithful to their eternal right to return…’ I like the ’eternal’ bit!

No doubt local feelings on the issue have been manipulated and inflamed by Spanish politicians for nationalistic reasons, much as Argentinian politicians claimed the right to ‘return’ to the Falkland Islands, on the basis that for a decade or so in the early 19th century a handful of Argentinian convicts and whalers lived there.

But in the Spanish case there are a couple of further twists. One is that Spain (if Spain can be said to have existed before the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile) only captured the area around Gibraltar from the Moors in the middle of the 15th century (in 1462, according to the article). So Gibraltar has been ’British’ for longer than it has been ’Spanish’, and was ‘Moorish‘ for much longer than either!

The second twist is that Spain itself occupies two enclaves (Ceuta and Melilla) on the coast of Morocco, and has no intention whatever of giving them up, as demanded by the Moroccans.

So what’s the Spanish for hypocrisy?

But the underlying point (which makes this a bit more relevant to GNXP) is that there seems to be a strong human tendency to nurse ancestral grievances (real or imaginary) long after the individuals directly affected (and even their children and grandchildren) are dead. If anything, the sense of grievance seems to grow stronger, not weaker, with time. It’s all rather depressing, but it can have its funny side!

Godless comments:

I would add one point, probably unintentionally omitted from DB's account: World War II started when the Germans and Russians jointly invaded and partitioned Poland. See here:

Substantively, of course, I agree with David. It seems that many people have a model of human migration as a sort of "Finder's Keepers" game, where all population groups were concentrated in the Congo at the start and then loosed to grab their spot in the world. Once a tribe landed in a particular area, it was theirs in perpetuity, and any displacement is prima facie a reason for outside tribes to weep and rend their garments in agony at the outrage. I can of course understand the displaced tribes' annoyance (though not when it's more than a generation or two in the past), but I'm generally loath to reflexively sympathize with the losers in territorial combat. To do so is to elevate sympathy for the underdog to a moral imperative.

Posted by David B at 09:17 AM | | TrackBack

August 02, 2004

Support a Worthy Cause

Voting is a sop to the mob and everybody with a basic head for numbers knows it. People who are truly interested in making a difference don't vote, they contribute gobs of cash to their favorite political campaigns.

So in order to stop your natural civic goodwill from making you do something stupid like giving your money to Bush or Kerry this year – an act that will only result in your feeling responsible for the inevitable national disappointment of the next several years – here is what you can do to use up that extra cash in your bank account. Go to iSteve.com, click on the donation link, and do your part to keep Steve Sailer away from gainful work. Not only will this use up your superfluous cash before you waste it on one of our nation's two great losers, but it will also raise the national unemployment numbers, making whoever will be the next President look that much worse.

I may as well mention (before someone who is actually financially responsible for GNXP.com does for me) that you can also click on the donation links on the side column over here.

Posted by Thrasymachus at 08:11 PM | | TrackBack

August 01, 2004

Eurasian American nation

This repulsive article in The New York Times, Young Japanese-Americans Honor Ethnic Roots, seems to wink & nod at those who frown upon intermarriage between whites and Asians, but strewn in the midst of a clutter of anecodte is one pleasant & undeniable numerical fact:

The number of Americans who identify themselves as Japanese declined to 796,700 in the 2000 census, from 847,562 in 1990, partly because of low immigration and birth rates....

Mr. Tate said the tide had turned. Along with those who identified themselves as Japanese in the 2000 census were more than 350,000 who cited Japanese and other backgrounds, the highest rate of multi-ethnic identification of any Asian group.

America works. Sort of.

Posted by razib at 11:29 PM | | TrackBack


Hello from "Big Sky" country! I am now in central Montana. Imbler has bigger trees (in fact, all other trees in the United States sans Redwoods & Sequoias are overgrown bushes compared to the trees of the coastal Northwest), but the sky is "bigger" (rather, it might be that the towering mountains frame deep and wide valleys, creating a series of magnificent vistas between Missoula and Bozeman).

Earlier, we snaked our way up through central Imbler and up into "The Inland Empire" of Washington. We stopped off in Spokane, and I have to say that the town is pretty "happening" for being in the middle of nowhere. Spokane has a population of 196,000 individuals, and so is dwarfed by the two northwestern "mega"-cities, Seattle and Portland (both in the range of half a million), but, because of its relative isolation and the fact that it is the metropolis of Eastern-Washington/Northern Idaho, it seems to be in a "weight class" above what you would expect as far as brand name chain stores and the like. Additionally, the city is informationally cutting edge, with the Spokane downtown wi-fi hotzone that offers two free hours to anyone who can pick up a signal.

Next, we moved through Northern Idaho and Western Montana, country some would call "picturesque," rolling crags separated by lakes. But the same "look & feel" can be experienced along much of the coastal West, from Northern California to British Columbia, so I don't see why anyone would consider the region a "destination" (unless you want to escape the swarms of outdoorsmen in the Rogue watershed for example).

Getting to the point of this post, if you have ever been to Carmel, California, you will recognize it as an affluent & artsy town on Monteray Bay. I live in a small Imbler town where residents complain of creeping "Carmelization," inflated property prices, hordes of "refugees," and the like. In fact, median home prices where I live is in the $300,000-$400,000 range because refugees from Carmel and other locales such as Aspen (not to mention ubiquitous Bay Areaites and ancient New York city retirees) have sold their abodes at extremely high prices and are now looking to buy "cheap." Adjacent communities that are less upscale have homes that typically sell in the $150,000 range. Affluent towns like this are characterized by art galleries, "culture" (the costly form, not the prosaic variety), coffee and fine (often organic) foods. The denizens are a species of "Bobo" (Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There).

Small, quaint, and within the arc of San Franisco's cultural tug, the original Carmel is not so peculiar in its environs. But the Little Carmels, or rather, the partially Carmelized Non-Carmels, are often located in out of place and isolated areas. For example, Bend, Imbler, is to bikers, snowboarders and other outdoor enthusiasts what Carmel is to artists. In the late 1990s Bend experienced an influx of cash rich migrants who had decamped from Silicon Valley, and the town has never looked back. And yet, set in the lee of the Cascades, Bend is also surrounded by communities with long "cowboy" and "redneck" traditions. When I was recently in Bend the weekly paper reflected on angry letters it received for its articles that were pro-F/911 and gay marriage. Remember, this town is smack dab in the middle of "Red America," with barbed wire delineating cattle lands, shaped by the high desert and traditionally powered by resource industries.

Inhabitants of posh and onstensibly pluralistic cities who appreciate the "diversity" outside of the United States often do not acknowledge the multifaceted lifestyles being played out in the hinterland (Scott pointed this out last week). Yet, a large number of them "get away" to these very areas, creating rural oases of organic-food-loving-environmentalists in the midst of established and rooted communities who have focused on resource utilization and farming.

So that shifts me to Montana. I'm writing from a town of 7,500 about 20 miles east of Bozeman, nestled by mountains on both sides. As we drove into town, we noted that the houses seemed less run down and more well kept than is typical in many small isolated western towns. The buildings were vintage, throwbacks from an epoch when my colored ass would have been thrown out of any bar I walked into. It stank of "Old West," but something was off. The second clue was the a local motel which advertised "wi-fi." OK, so I bit. Next thing you know, we walk up and down a few blocks, and notice:

  1. Two very "funky" coffee shops, situated half a block from each other. Around the block, there's a "cafe and bakery," and across the street, another cafe that advertises espresso. Way too much caffeine in this town....
  2. Checking out restaurants, and see a "fine dining" joint. White tablecloths, formal attire and menus which suggest that a $20+ cheque is typical per person. The last is a point I want to highlight because David Brooks suggested that $20 meals were hard to find in "Red America." Montana is generally considered "Red America," right? (and yes, others have already debunked this point made by Brooks)
  3. My girlfriend notices some very posh & pricey kitchenware on sale at a botique store. Also, custom made furniture. Lots of small botiques with items that have price tags that are eye-popping for males and drool inducing for females.
  4. There is a "Fine Foods" store up the block.
OK, houses that are being taken care of (that is, property values must be appreciating), lots of coffee shops, pricey restaurants and botique stores with utilitarian objects that could be had for 1/10th the price if you wanted to purchase Made-in-China. And did I mention a lot of public art? Things that make you go hhhhmmm....

But, not all is "out of place." There are bars that advertise themselves as "saloons," I saw a Native American family shopping and later on some guys in mullets swaggered down the street. When I talked to a bar-tender, her accent seemed Western, not imported. The eateries still slant "American," and steak houses are dominant.

This town, Livingston, Montana, is in the process of Carmelization. It is likely a place with a lot of second homes, close to the isolated backswoods where "authentic" living can still be had. There are towns like this all across the continent, hidden away in isolated locales. This is where "Red" & "Blue" white Americans come together and meet. States like Colorado are basically huge experiments in this, as older residents learn to deal with newer ones, who are still trying to get their bearings. While the children of Red America are leaving the farms, forests and ranches for the big cities and college towns, the middle aged professionals of Blue America are getting away, and revitalizing, transforming, and frankly taking over, many small towns in the West that have been gifted by nature with a great view and endowed with just the right combination of isolation & accessibilty.

Posted by razib at 10:55 PM | | TrackBack

Dum spiro, spero

Is there hope for Godless Capitalist?

Godless comments:


“Godless Capitalist” is an intellectually incandescent and politically juvenile young Indian who sometimes diverges from making interesting scientific postings on the remarkable human bio-diversity blog Gene Expression to his second task: acting as Political Commissar to make sure America is kept safe for high-IQ recent non-white Immigrants.

"Intellectually incandescent", huh? Might put that one on the sidebar, suitably clipped of context :)

Seriously, though...just for the record, I have blasted "hate crimes" and ethnic studies and endorsed profiling before. It'd be a mistake to group me politically with the South Asian studies types at Berkeley (unless you believe that demography is political destiny even at the individual level).

While it's no secret that we've been quite critical of VDare in the past (see here, here, here on the Hmong, here on Rubinstein, and here), and while it's also no secret that many of VDare's writers [1] don't think very much of us...I do think that VDare fills an important role today.

Increasingly, I believe that the demagoguery of La Raza, Tamar Jacoby, and company has to be met with equally ferocious populist opposition from the other side. Despite leftist alarmism, I see little sign of this boiling over into overt violence (for one thing, felons seem to be much more common on the other side.)

With this proviso, I think VDare is useful in that it opens up the space for more moderate organizations, like FAIR, NumbersUSA, and CIS. They've railed against this triangulation strategy in the past, but the fact is that triangulation works to inject ideas into the debate. Consider some examples from both sides, purely as a study in tactics:

  1. Clinton triangulated off the Republicans to pass much needed welfare reform.
  2. Social Democrats triangulated off Communists to pass the welfare state. (bad policy, I know, but a good example).
  3. Entine triangulated off the Bell Curve to publish Taboo, which was just recently cited favorably in Science.
  4. Perhaps most materially, in the UK, UKIP masterfully triangulated off the BNP to make the Euroskeptic/immigration platform a viable vote-getter.

In plenty of publications (such as this one and this one), VDare is cited as the bad cop to CIS or FAIR or NumbersUSA's good cop. What many people don't understand is that if VDare wasn't present, CIS would be demonized as the bad cop.

You can see this in miniature with myself and Razib. When I take a leave of absence, Razib is denounced as beyond the pale. But compared to me, Razib is considered the voice of moderation. It's not so much that we hold different views; it's just that Razib is more willing to compromise. But without me in the picture, he wouldn't be seen as moderate; instead, fanatical "antiracist" types would stalk him and print his home address.

And there's the rub. Sometimes you need dedicated people on the margins to get an ignored but important idea into the center of political discourse. Tax cuts, for example, were an impossibly radical idea in the 70's but a staple of discourse today thanks to the efforts of Friedman and Wanniski (among others).

Our own small contribution to the public discourse is to allow people to triangulate off us. One of the purposes of GNXP is to provide enough information on genetics, ancestry, population groups, and intelligence research to get more discussion of h-bd into the public discourse. Next to the larger reach of authors like Pinker, Wilson, Ramachandran, Sarich, Entine, Stock, Ridley, and many others, we're trying to get the info out there to see more situations like this:

...for example here is an episode in my clash last year with Gene Expression alum "Godless Capitalist" over his racialist take on genes and IQ, here is a post on why intelligence might be societally-overrated, and here is a long post on why it will be much harder than folks think to identify real intelligence genes, and next-to-impossible to do anything to change them. Anyway, I think I've established my bona fides as being (a) not a racist, but (b) still open to the possibility that there is a genetic component to intelligence, so I'm rather depressed to be accused of racism (by email, actually that I "have been in touch with [my] inner Klansman for quite some time") in the long comments section of this Matthew Yglesias post on intelligence testing.

Anyway, it's a subject that is very interesting, racial aspects aside, and I'd love to write more about it in the future, but if people think I'm a racist for my troubles, then maybe I won't bother. Better that than to pretend that the two-ton elephant in the room is just a chest of drawers.

If I could offer any advice for the VDare people, it's this: don't get mad when people triangulate off you. It means your advocacy is succeeding, as the policy is moving to the center of the spectrum - and becoming increasingly feasible. After all, isn't immigration reform more important than ideological purity?

[1] Steve Sailer, of course, is an exception, as is Joe Guzzardi. Just as one can be anti-immigration without being anti-immigrant, one can be opposed to the general editorial thrust of VDare while being favorably or neutrally disposed towards Sailer, Guzzardi, Malkin, etc.

Posted by Thrasymachus at 04:45 PM | | TrackBack

Almost There

The Economist starts off its short piece Empty bowls, heads and pockets with:

PEOPLE in very poor countries are, on average, less intelligent than those in rich ones.

Hold the applause for a moment. The article continues:

Some readers may be shocked by this statement, so let's rephrase it.

Bait and switch.

Without proper nutrition, the human body cannot develop properly. That includes the brain. Those who are ill-fed tend to end up both physically shorter and less mentally agile than they otherwise would have been. Hunger also spurs millions of children to drop out of school in order to scavenge for food, and those who manage to attend school despite empty bellies find it excruciatingly hard to concentrate.

There is nothing untrue here, indeed, the link between nutrition and mental development in the third world should be trumpeted to all ears. But I still have the feeling that The Economist has looked h-bd in the face and blinked.

Posted by Thrasymachus at 01:45 PM | | TrackBack