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August 28, 2004


Supermodel/Oxford PhD Olivia Judson

Godless Capitalist generously invited me to post something on GNXP, as my blog, Beautiful Atrocities is very similar, since I'm primarily concerned with soap operas, innuendo, Ann Wilson, low-rent pop culture, septicemic humor, & asthmatic prose. Here then is what I learned from the delightful Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation, by Olivia Judson, the world's most pneumatic Oxford Phd.

• Hyena scats are white because they're mostly bone powder; unlike most carnivores, hyenas can digest bone.

• Lionesses have a clinical sex mania, requiring so much stimulation - hundreds of romps - to become fertile that, by some estimates, less that 1% of copulations produce litters. Why such inefficiency? If the males of a pride are defeated, the new males kill all the cubs, which stops lactation, which brings the females back into heat. It's possible that the uber-virility required of males is a test to make sure they're strong enough to defend the pride.

• Male redback spiders have a unique fetish for being cannibalized: a male will snatch rivals from the jaws of death and leap into the meat grinder, during which process he slips her his pedipalp, thus fertilizing more eggs than if he'd survived. This curious ritual does not seem to have caught on in evolutionary circles.

• Contrary to John Derbyshire, sex is not congruent with reproduction, but refers to any process by which individuals exchange genes. Bacteria reproduce by cloning, but have sex to swap genes. Viruses can't reproduce, but still have sex & swap genes, which is why we need a new flu vaccine every year.

• A human male typically has enough sperm for 1½ ejaculations; a ram has enough for 95.

• Female sagebrush crickets drink the blood of their mates, who have evolved a pair of useless fleshy hindwings for this purpose. The female climbs on the male's back & chews on them while copulating. But since females don't like used goods, males have evolved a brutal countermeasure: when a female climbs onto a male cricket to check out his hot wings, an extra set of teeth on the male's back stabs her in the belly & holds her fast, whether she wants it or not.

Banana slugs are hermaphrodites whose gigantic phalluses sometimes get stuck during the deed. The organ is then gnawed off, & doesn't grow back, making the slug a female. Foreplay for the European giant garden slug consists of sitting on a branch oozing mucus for an hour. Then they wrap themselves together and bungee jump, hanging by a mucus rope, unfurl their penises (from the side of their heads, who knew?), and dangle.

• Black vultures are not just faithful, they're prudes, & won't tolerate sex anywhere but the privacy of the nest. If a young randy tries to get laid at a roost, the others will flame him.

• Male scorpionflies are scavengers who present females with dead insects as a bribe. If they can't find any, they'll steal from a spider, which is dangerous to say the least. Fortunately they have a huge member with which they whack! the spider if caught. (If they're such a loser that even spider-filching doesn't work, they secrete a large gelatinous blob of saliva, which is better than nothing.)

• Spotted hyenas live in matriarchal packs led by a dominant female. Females have an enormous clitoris, capable of erection. The lips of the vagina are fused shut in a sort of pseudo-scrotum, so that urination, copulation, & birth occur via the clitoris. Thus 10% of females die in birth when the clitoris rips. How could this be an advantage?

Possible explanation: High exposure to androgens in the womb makes hyenas extremely aggressive (& in humans, gives females a huge clitoris). Hyenas are usually born in litters of 2, upon which one will immediately kill the other. Such siblicide is most common among pairs of females. The offspring of dominant females survive at twice the rate of their less aggressive peers, possibly offsetting the lethal cost of the phallic clitoris.

Posted by jeff at 06:53 PM | | TrackBack

Indian Renaissance

Interesting article in the new National Geographic about the state of "native" peoples in America (here's a map which goes along with the article, giving info on native population around the U.S. plus percent of Indian owned businesses).

Here's a quote that kinda summarizes the article:

If there is strength in numbers, then Indians are gaining might. The number of Americans who identify themselves as at least part Indian grew from a low of about 240,000 in 1900 to more than four million today (including the 2.5 million who claim American Indian or Alaska Native as their only race).

Showing that yes, we have reversed course in this country to a point where "Native" identity is something desirous. Or this from the person on the front of the article:

For Brad and many thousands of other Indians, Native identity is a growing source of strength that helps them cope with the mainstream America that flows all around them. Yet it can also be a source of turmoil. I speak from personal experience: Like many Native Americans today, my heritage is mixed. My mother was Abenaki, my father was Slovak, and it didn't really dawn on me that I was Indian until I was in my teens. Even then, it took a long time for my own mother to accept that I was the first of my family in three generations to go "public," to seek out relatives and elders who could teach me the stories and language my Abenaki grandfather never shared with me. For a while my mother referred to me as, "My son, the Indian," until my younger sister Margaret asked, "But Mom, what does that make you and me?"

I know that many cynical people would see accepting Native identity as a way to get government benefits and privileges, but Natives in this country have a long history of actually being damaged by government "largesse" and many refuse. I see it more as a grasping, by these mixed persons, for something substantial in a society that is increasingly becoming homogenous which fears emphasizing any sort of Western Ethnic or Cultural values.

Just my thoughts.

Posted by scottm at 01:13 PM | | TrackBack

August 25, 2004

Colorblind medicine

The Boston Globe has an article titled Should medicine be colorblind? that addresses the "debate" over the heart medication that seems to be optimal in the case of African Americans. In a pefect world all medicines would be tailored for each individual, but we don't live in a perfect world, anything that keeps people alive without killing other people is good by me. Wonder how many of the scholars who expressed worries about giving amunition to those who believe in the biological basis of race have very sick relatives of color?

Related: Abiola posts about Vitamin D Deficiency (he links to a piece in Slate, via Brad DeLong).

Posted by razib at 12:56 PM | | TrackBack

August 24, 2004

God & race

Christian pollster George Barna has a new report up: Ethnic Groups Differ Substantially On Matters of Faith. Here are some the results:

  White Black Hispanic Asian
Attended religious service in past week 41% 48% 38% 23%
Prayed to God in the past week 81% 91% 86% 46%
Bible is totally accurate (strongly agree)         36% 57% 40% 24%
Born again Christian 41% 47% 29% 12%
Atheist or agnostic 12% 5% 7% 20%
Aligned with a non-christian faith 11% 12% 10% 45%

The data sample isn't the largest, but tends to agree with the key findings of The Religious Identification Survey. An interesting point is though, as George Barna himself has noted, there has been an upsurge of evangelical activity among Asian Amerians, it starts from such a low base that the impressive growth is not that astounding (similar to the Asian HIV "epidemic").

Also, Barna reports that African Americans are rather strong Christians, and as everyone knows they are pretty solid Democratic voters. That makes interviews like this with white evangelical Christians illuminating. In answer to questions about John Kerry and his possible victory, Michael Evans offers the following responses:

  • Number one, we’re in a horrendous battle between darkness and light. We began with a distraction of our moral principles We saw it through the 1960s and the 1970s. We saw it through abortion and prayer in school and all these other issues. We saw it in the White House through Clinton.
  • If Kerry wins, we get Clinton all over again because Kerry has already brought in most of Clinton’s holdovers. We’ll get New Age liberals who will have the same Middle East policies that Clinton had
  • We’ll get two Sauls in a row. King Saul was rejected by God. We’ll have gone from a Clinton Saul to a Kerry Saul.
  • This is a battle between two books, two kingdoms and two spirits.

I don't disagree with everything Michael Evans asserts, but his vehemence and demonization (in a close to literal fashion) of his political enemies quite clearly makes him a mirror image of Michael Moore & co. The transformation of religious beliefs into political positions is pretty disturbing, and rather antithetical to the perpetuation of an open and pluralistic society where defeat is accepted as only a temporary set-back in the democratic process. I'm not the only one, National Review Online has published several critical articles by Catholic author Carl Olson about evangelical eschatology. I have criticized this in the past because of the unseemliness of the establishment intellectual Right turning on evangelicals after using them for their ends for so many years, but I think the fact that NRO signed off on these articles indicates that portions of the elite Right (more Catholic and Jewish than grassroots conservatives) are getting nervous about the tiger they've been riding since the rise of the Christian Right.

Addenum: Mr. Evans is a somewhat extreme form of evangelical Christian, and if you read the interview you will understand why he is so focused on Middle East politics. But, many of his views could be found in a diluted fashion among my evangelical friends during my youth.

Posted by razib at 08:36 PM | | TrackBack

Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge....

An anecdote from The Red Queen:

Learning that a cockerel could have sex dozens of times a day, Mrs. Coolidge said: "Please tell that to the president." On being told, Mr. Coolidge asked, "Same hen every time?" "Oh, no, Mr. President. A different one each time." The president continued: "Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge."

We all know about these sort of truisms, and they are so banal that they can show up in Jay Leno's monologue. In this vein, I was pointed by Abiola to this new paper, Genetic Evidence for Unequal Effective Population Sizes of Human Females and Males (be sure to check out Carl Zimmer's excellent review). This isn't unsuprising, last year another team published Reduced Y-Chromosome, but Not Mitochondrial DNA, Diversity in Human Populations from West New Guinea. About a month back I posted about Bobbie Low's Why Sex Matters, which highlights affinal issues from the perspective of behavorial ecology and cross-cultural anthropology, that is, greater male variance in reproductive success seems almost universal. Genetic studies like the one above point toward the historical depth of this pattern, in other words it is not a reflection of current conditions. Human sexual dimorphism and comparative examination of human testicle sizes in the context of homonoids suggests a mild level of polygyny being normative for our species.

But one must also be cautious. When we think of polygyny we often conjure up images of harems ruled by potentates and guarded by enuchs. As Bobbie Low points out, many Western societies that are socially & legally monogamous tend to exhibit more male reproductive variance (skew) than female reproductive variance. Obviously, in a society where a small group of men monopolize sexual access to women through force of arms, the variance differential between the genders will be great and intuitively obvious, yet one may conjecture other scenarios that might result in the same gap.

Imagine a society characterized by endemic warfare where the mean age of death for males is 25. Many men will live past 30, but men will also die before the age of 20. The latter may never have an opportunity to father children. Additionally, high female mortality rates during childbirth might also mean the ancient men who make it past the age of 40 could be de facto serial monogamists (they have had several wives who have eventually died in child-birth). In contrast, imagine a society, such as some of the tribes of central Australia, which practices gerontocratic polygyny, where rather old males are "married" to the nubile females. In these circumstances, it has been attested that the official husbands often look the other way when their young wives have affairs with other men of the tribe. In this situation, you would see lower reproductive skew than one would expect from the official cultural practices.

As for the above study, I am curious as to possible long term differences between different populations because of reproductive skew and lower male effective population size. Low emphasizes the importance of a pathogenically constrained environment is favoring exogamous polygyny, while others have suggested that resource constraints might have imposed long-term monogamy upon certain populations. For example, would Northern Europeans and Inuit show less of a gap between male and female lineages? What about the Highland Ethiopians (who are generally monogamous) vs. the Sub-Saharan Africans in the lowlands around them?

Posted by razib at 01:13 PM | | TrackBack

August 23, 2004

Nader was right! (sort of)

Reprinted from here

[American voters sympathetic to Palestine (whether progressive or Muslim) have always faced a Hobson's choice in the voting booth]....Jews are a crucial constituency for the Democrats, the mainstream American progressive party [and evangelical Christians, who tend to be staunchly pro-Israel, a, if not the, core constituency of the Republican party.]. I suspect that many of Ralph Nader's supporters [in 2000 (and possibly this time around) were] progressives whose sympathy for the Palestinians [was] strong enough for them to break with the Democratic Party. On Israel/Palestine, if nothing else, Nader is correct (No, I can't believe I wrote that either): the difference between most Democrats and Republicans is negligible.

Reprinted from here

Muslim, and even some European, commentators see the fingerprints of a Jewish conspiracy in American support of Israel. The notion of a shadowy cabal subverting democracy dovetails nicely into a gripping black-and-white, good-and-evil narrative of moral absolutes that corroborates European anti-Americanism and Muslim anti-Jewish sentiment. However, American support of Israel is a textbook example of electoral politics working exactly as intended.

Many would ask why the Jewish vote is so important—Jews comprise less than 2 percent of the country's population. But their significance comes from three key factors:

First of all, Jews tend to vote in larger numbers than other ethnic groups. Secondly, their concentration in urban areas in high-population states means their votes help determine the allocation of large numbers of Electoral College votes. And finally, they don't limit their political activism to Election Day; Jews have been among the most generous supporters of political campaigns, especially those of Democratic candidates.

The point bears repeating, "[Jewish] concentration in urban areas in high-population states means their votes help determine the allocation of large numbers of Electoral College votes." In only one state with a population greater than 10,000,000 is the Jewish percentage of the population less than 1%. In that state, Texas, and many of the rest of the so-called red states, fundamentalist Christians, who tend to be pro-Israel, are well represented. Because of American Jews' largely liberal sympathies, Republicans compete with Democrats for Jewish voters, especially in the liberally-inclined, high-population blue states, through vocal, strident and unwavering support for Israel.
"What am I supposed to do in November?" she asked. "Bush has been so good for Israel, and that's so important to me."

"So, what's the problem?" I asked, even though I knew exactly what her problem was. I hear it every day.

"I'm a lifelong Democrat," she said. "How can I vote for Bush?" She is gratified by Bush's support for Israel in the post-9/11 era, and she believes he's right to pursue the war on terror. But she disagrees with just about every plank of his domestic agenda, and she can't conceive of casting a vote that might mean further weakening the separation of church and state or an end to Roe v. Wade.

Muslim immigration to the US has been concentrated in the last three decades. Less than one-third of of the 6.2 million-strong American Jewish population are immigrants or the children of immigrants whereas probably only about 36% of the estimated 3 million to 9 million American Muslims are US-born. Being born in the US entitles one to US citizenship and therefore eligibility to vote. Immigrants to the US obtain citizenship through the naturalization process, which takes time. However, some immigrants don't even bother to apply. In contrast to Muslims, the bulk of Jewish immigration to the US took place before the First World War. A longstanding electorally significant Jewish presence in the US, coupled with traditionally high levels of both political activism and voter turnout, accounts for the American Jewish population's ability to "punch above its weight."

Larger numbers of Jewish voters than Muslim voters in high-population states coupled with fundamentalist Christian support for Israel creates a very powerful incentive for American elected officials to side with the Israelis rather than the Palestinians.

There's no conspiracy, just democracy. The same could be said of European governments, whose sympathy for the Palestinians is explained by the larger number of Muslim voters there.

A shadowy cabal of Jews conspiring in some dimly lit, smoke-filled room? No.

The animating spirit of the Inquisition and the Holocaust rearing its ugly head yet again? Not really.

Pandering to voters? Hells, yeah.

Reprinted from here

[B]efore September 11th, elected officials were reaching out to Muslim-Americans and even continued to do so afterwards, though they were no longer willing to stick their necks out quite so far.

Michelle Goldberg, "Banished from the American dream," Salon, April 26, 2004.
[T]he Kesbeh family tried everything imaginable to remain in the United States. They enlisted the media, briefly becoming a cause célèbre in Houston, where protesters held vigils on their lawns and local churches offered to shelter them from the immigration authorities. Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee introduced a bill in the House that would have granted them legal residency. Republican Rep. Daryl Issa, an Arab-American from California, spoke out on their behalf, and Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy reportedly intervened with immigration to delay their deportation.

In post-9/11 America, though, it proved impossible for a family of illegal Arab immigrants to garner enough political support to stay. So on March 28, 2003, they were put on a plane bound first for Amsterdam, Netherlands, and then for Amman.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee saw the family on TV, and a week later, she made a public statement praising them as the embodiment of America's values. Soon, there were stories in the Houston Chronicle about the "Palestinian Cleavers" and reports on Amy Goodman's radio show "Democracy Now." Lee introduced a resolution in Congress that would have granted the family legal residency.
Under pressure from New Jersey's Arab community, Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli agreed to introduce a companion bill to Jackson Lee's in the Senate, and Sen. Edward Kennedy intervened with immigration to have Sharif and Alaa released while the legislation was pending. The family's deportation was stayed for six more months.

Asmaa was in the hospital waiting to go into surgery for a hernia when Noor told her that their bill had found a sponsor in the Senate, and that they might be able to stay. She fell to the floor, thanking God and crying with happiness and relief.

But Torricelli, in the midst of an ethics scandal, withdrew from the Senate race at the end of September. After that, the Kesbehs were unable to find another champion in the chamber.

The publicity their case had generated began to backfire, with the right seizing on their story as an example of Democratic squishiness on illegal immigration. Michelle Malkin, the caustic conservative author of the book "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores," wrote a syndicated column called "Lawmakers Who Love Lawbreakers," which excoriated those politicians who'd risen to the Kesbehs' defense. Senators that initially had seemed sympathetic backed away.

Even though scandal prevented Senator Torricelli from following through, the point remains that the Arab community was successful in pressuring him. September 11th not only was the impetus for the deportation of the Kesbehs and others like them, but also made it difficult for elected officials to stand up for Arab and Muslim Americans.

Sometimes you have individuals who support homosexual values, abortion, and marijuana legalization, but at the same time take an anti-Israel stance. BOOM! The lesser of two evils!

It seems that no matter how many times Americans intervene on behalf of Muslims in situations like Kosovo and Bosnia going back at least to Suez, the United States will never earn enough merit in the eyes of Muslims to make up for its support of Israel. Fair or not, in the eyes of Muslims, Israel/Palestine supersedes all other considerations.

But even on that front, do American elected officials invariably side against Muslims and Arabs? One of my very first posts argued that US foreign policy towards Israel/Palestine is better explained by electoral politics than elaborate conspiracy theories. Most Republicans' positions on Israel/Palestine will be determined by the staunchly pro-Israel attitudes of their evangelical Christian constituents and those of most Democrats by the staunchly pro-Israel attitudes of their Jewish constituents. But it follows that some elected officials, specifically those dependent on Muslim or Arab votes, will express sympathy with the Palestinians.

The voting records1 on 107th Congress House Resolution 392 and 108th Congress House Resolution 294 bear this out, though a comparison between the two shows just how difficult it is for elected officials to show sympathy for the Palestinians when American voters feel threatened by Islamic terrorists.

House Resolution 392, 2 May 2002, Expressing Solidarity with Israel in its Fight Against Terrorism
NoesAnswered "Present"Not Voting
New Jersey-11
New York--1
North Carolina-21
West Virginia11-

House Resolution 294, 25 June 2003, Condemning the terrorism inflicted on Israel since the Aqaba Summit and expressing solidarity with the Israeli people in their fight against terrorism.
NoesAnswered "Present"Not Voting
New Jersey--1
New York--1
North Carolina-1-
West Virginia1--
Source: Office of the Clerk, US House of Representatives

These voting records show Representatives from California and Michigan willing to publicly express sympathy with the Palestinians, though either that willingness or their numbers were much reduced by June 2003, when Resolution 294 was voted on. Open sympathy with the Palestinians could lead to perceptions of being "soft on terror," which would likely have been problematic in the first post-September 11th Congressional elections. The House of Representatives that voted on Resolution 392 took office before September 11th, as did George W. Bush, whom Stephen Waldman has credited with coining the rhetorical innovation "churches, temples and mosques" as a candidate.

I do not believe it is a coincidence that California and Michigan are home to two of the largest Muslim communities in the United States. Though their frightened neighbors may have demanded Representatives with a harder line on terrorism on Election Day 2002, some of those elected in 2000 were clearly unafraid of displaying pro-Palestinian sympathies even after September 11th.

Though the numbers are small (and after 2002 almost insignificant), what this shows is that, on the issue of Israel/Palestine, American elected officials have demonstrated a willingness to court Muslim voters that was largely destroyed after September 11th. If Arabs and Muslims, especially Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans, want to counter the pro-Israel leanings of American foreign policy, they must win over the hearts and minds not only of American government officials, but American voters; they cannot afford not to. Just as Abu Ghraib has damaged the American struggle to win Arab/Muslim hearts and minds, September 11th damaged the Arab/Muslim struggle to win over American hearts and minds. The tragedy is that it occurred just when they were making some real progress (unlike Abu Ghraib).

1I totally busted my ass researching voting records and coding these tables, so if you want to borrow them, I'd better see some credit.
2On June 25, 2003, the Aspen Wildfire, which ultimately scorched 85,000 acres just north of Tucson, was still burning, probably explaining the failure of 6 of Arizona's 8 Representatives to vote.

Posted by jeet at 09:35 PM | | TrackBack

Why the "Jews" reject the GOP

About a week ago Steve Sailer noted that a new poll by the Kerry camp shows that Bush's support from "Jews" is around 22%. This might be a low-balling, but nevertheless, it shows that the "Jewish Republican" is a minority orientation, something that has been typical ever since the political realignment of the New Deal when the Democrats and Republicans crystallized their modern incarnations as catch-all parties of the Left and Right. Godless has blogged about the right-ward shift of American Jews before. Since Jews start out so far Left, it is pretty easy to push them a bit to the Right (though the "Right" credentials of some of the Jewish neoconservatives do I think seem a bit shaky upon closer scrutiny).

But the problem about many of these generalizations is that we are still wedded to a concept of a unitary "Jew." Everyone's definition of Who Is a Jew differs. The American Jewish Identity Survey offers data to reformulate, and add a finer granularity, to these typologies. There are, roughly speaking, three important groups of Jews that I think need to be separated:

  • Jews by religion and ethnicity.
  • Jews by ethnicity of no religion.
  • Jews by ethnicity of another religion.

There are of course other combinations, Jews by religion but not ethnicity, but the above three are numerically preponderant. My argument is, roughly speaking, that pro-Israel stances evinced by Republicans (in comparison to Democrats) have the most salience for religiously Orthodox Jews who are already more likely to be Republican. Highly secularized nominal Jews who are mostly Democratic simply can't be shifted very much on purely "Jewish" issues, because Jewishness is a subset rather than the centerpiece of their identity.

One of the most importance statistics one can find in the survey above is this:

"Do you agree or disagree that God exists?"

Jews by religion: (2,930,000 of total population)
Disagree strongly - 5%
Disagree somewhat - 9%
Agree somewhat - 23%
Agree strongly - 54%
(not determined) - 9%

Jews of no religion: (1,200,000 of total population)
Disagree strongly - 17%
Disagree somewhat - 6%
Agree somewhat - 29%
Agree strongly - 35%
(not determined) - 13%

Jews of other religion: (1,470,000 of total population)
Disagree strongly - 3%
Disagree somewhat - 1%
Agree somewhat - 14%
Agree strongly - 80%
(not determined) - 2%

As you can see, "Jews of other religion" (no doubt mostly Christian), pretty much track the American public, with ~5% level of unbelief (many Jews are also part of "New Religious Movements" and Eastern religions like Buddhism, which might explain those who don't believe in God). The "Core Jewish Population," that is, Jews who are either of Jewish religion or Jewish ethnically, and presumptively have no other religious loyalties, display a far higher level of atheism than the general public. Many of these people are the ones who react negatively to G.W. Bush's religious background. Additionally, many moderately religious Jews also tend to react negatively toward Christian evangelical talk, but I think a key point is that non-Jewish secular people in the United States tend to be highly skeptical of the religious orientation of the Republican party (I saw a statistic in The Almanac of American Politics that 40% of people with "no religion" voted Republican, but most people who offer "no religion" as their identification are not atheists or agnostics). Secularism, the child of the gentile Enlightenment has been taken up by Jews with gusto, and it is a major element in the identities of many ethnic Jews.

I suspect that Jews who might be won over to the Republican cause are those who:

A) "Drop out" of Jewishness, that is, converts to evangelical Christianity, who after a period might not want to identify as Jews.
B) Religiously observant Orthodox Jews who still vote Democratic for local political reasons or because of a historical tie to the party.

Because of A), the tendency for Jewish converts to disappear into the population after a generation or two of intermarriage (I recently had a Mormon missionary with a Jewish last name knock on my door, he was really embarrassed when I asked him about it, as he said, "it's a family name, I don't know much about Judaism, my grandfather was Jewish") means these "Jewish Republicans" will fade away as generic Republicans. As far as B), this group just isn't numerically that large, I don't see numbers that suggest the various shades of Orthodox Jews form any more than 10% of America's Jewry.

Certainly Leftist anti-Israel rhetoric that starts to veer toward anti-Semitism might push Jews toward a philo-Semitic Republican party, but I think there are special conditions that need to apply here.

A) Their Jewish identity has to be strong enough to overrule their Leftist adherences. So, extremely Left and religiously observant Jews are good opportunities for Republicans, but how many hardcore religious and liberal Jews are there?
B) They have to live in an area with a high concentration of Left-wing radicals and low concentration of "Bubbas," so that the former "threat" is more salient than the latter "igorance."

To clarify, many Jews in small towns seem to me part of the liberal rump within the community. I speak as someone who spent my adolescence in a very conservative small town where the Jewish families would never consider aligning themselves with their Republican neighbors, who regularly preached to them and tried to "witness" to them. Israel was mildy important to my few Jewish friends, but the cultural sense of alienation from their Mormon & conservative Protestant friends was a daily reality. To give an example, a conservative Protestant preacher was spreading word among some local Baptists that Mormons and Jews grew horns at night. Something straight out of the most stereotypical depictions of conservative Protestants, but it was a reality during my high school years. I also know that the same Baptist church where these opinions were spreading was extremely pro-Israel. But my Jewish friends really didn't give a rat's ass about Israel when set against the fact that some of my Baptist friends were arguing pro or con about Jews in insulting fashion (there were also debates about whether blacks are descended from Ham or Cain during the lunch period).

Jewish loyalty to the Democratic party is not something essential, or part of a "group selection strategy." Rather, it is something motivated to important personal interests and priorities. Jews are atypical Americans. Their IQs are about 15 points higher. Non-Christian Jews (that is, Jews who attend temple and those who don't) are five times as likely to be atheists. They are often (in my experience) likely to hold strange stereotypes about conservative Christians because of lack of familiarity with them, or, if they do live by them, to have had unfortunate cultural misunderstandings that solidify their anti-Christian inclinations. Various elements of the broad coalition of groups that exist under the umbrella of the American Jewry vote Democratic for different reasons, so a assertion of the Republican party's philo-Semitism via their pro-Israel policy prescriptions might not yield as much party-switching as one might anticipate.

Addendum: It seems to be that many of the neoconservatives are a small subset who live under the delusion that they are very numerous, that is, highly secular personally, but still expressing a strong awareness of ethnicity which they transfer to the Israeli state. I would assert that the more atheist and secular the Jew is, the more likely ethnic awareness is to drop.

Posted by razib at 02:53 PM | | TrackBack

Sexy Names

Is your name sexy?

Men with a "front vowel" sound made at the front of the mouth, such as "a" in Matt, were most attractive to women.

Those with a "back vowel" sound, such as "aw" in Paul or George, were less sexy, New Scientist magazine said. In women, the situation is reversed.

Of course, given how names in our culture (excluding certain subgroups) have long historical lineages, how much sexual selection for names has there been? Has our collective namebase evolved through competition?

(I was joking, but now that I think about it, you could actually test this by browsing through old geneology charts and checking off the names that you think are sexiest.)

Posted by Thrasymachus at 01:49 PM | | TrackBack

Brain structure correlated to political ideology

Caught this on Slashdot.

The Political Brain

As The Times reported not long ago, a team of U.C.L.A. researchers analyzed the neural activity of Republicans and Democrats as they viewed a series of images from campaign ads. And the early data suggested that the most salient predictor of a ''Democrat brain'' was amygdala activity responding to certain images of violence: either the Bush ads that featured shots of a smoldering ground zero or the famous ''Daisy'' ad from Lyndon B. Johnson's 1964 campaign that ends with a mushroom cloud. Such brain activity indicates a kind of gut response, operating below the level of conscious control.

I have to admit that my politics are based on gut responses to issues, followed up by reasoning to justify myself. Luckily, I'm a Conservative, and that's how we're supposed to be. Gut response Liberals are probably more conflicted.

The biggest single predictor of party affiliation is who your parents voted for, of course. But did your parents give you their ideology or their genes?

Posted by Thrasymachus at 12:27 PM | | TrackBack

Mental Illness

The New York Times has an interesting article, Did Antidepressants Depress Japan? I especially like the experience of Mitake on the last page. After months of treatment, he attended a fasting retreat for a week and it "broke the cycle."

The great problem with the pharmaceutical treatment of mental illness is that the complexity of the tools is not nearly up to the complexity of the system it is trying to treat. Try to fix your automobile with a stone hand-axe and see how far you get.

A lot of mental illness is undeniably biochemical in origin. Many of the kids here at work have histories of head wounds or the use of inhalants. They are on the low end of the IQ scale (though theoretically above a minimum of 70). At the same time, though, the relational side of mental illness is probably more important. Almost without exception the kids have had someone actively working to make them crazy.

Drugs can appear to have a positive effect, but we usually do not know enough about the brain to be able to say exactly what they are doing. Are they curing an imbalance or are they changing behavior by damaging some part of the brain? The later is probably true a good deal of the time. And while that may mask a problem, it can wind up causing results like this.

A treatment regime on the proper level of complexity would, in my opinion, first address things like diet and exercise. Good food, hard work, and lots of sun. (All usually inadequate in the institutional setting.) More important is establishing good relationships. Effective treatment would also consist of good friends and loving family – the human brain is the best tool for fixing the human brain. That is certainly impossible to provide by the medical community, but whatever approximation is possible needs to be attempted.

One important point, I think, is for doctors to let patients know that a lifestyle change may be the best and safest treatment. Instead, the patient often comes away with the impression that all their problems can be solved with a pill. One of our psychiatrists compares his arsenal of drugs to an electrician's toolbox. All it takes is the right combination of tools and tinkering to solve the problem, he claims. That is rarely true.

Posted by Thrasymachus at 02:46 AM | | TrackBack

Ashkenazi selection for fairness?

Earlier this year, I presented a post that offered the following data:

From the book On Blondes, a survey of Jewish school children in Nazi Germany suggested that the following was the hair color breakdown:

  • 10% blonde.
  • 50% "mixed."
  • 40% black.

David B also forwarded me this data on Jews from 19th century London:

  • English Ashkenazim: Blue 11.1 Grey 30.1 Brown 58.8.
  • English Sephardim: Blue 21.3 Grey 11.9 Brown 66.8.

My own personal opinion is that these data points can be explained by admixture from the surrounding non-Jewish populations (and likely a non-trivial amount). Some, like researcher Michael Hammer, argue for a predominantly Middle Eastern origin for Ashkenazi Jews (see his paper), often on the basis of NRY data. Seeing as how the Bene Israel Jews of India display a prevalence of the Cohen Modal Haplotype and an Indian physical appearence, it seems that predominant Middle Eastern Y lineages and a high rate of mixture with non-Jews can coexist (through intermarriage with local women).

But what if the admixture level was low? What if Hammer & co. are vindicated by a large number of studies on neutral markers over the next 10 years? What could explain the relatively high frequency of blue eyes and blonde hair among Ashkenazi Jews (in comparison to their putative source population).

Perhaps the introgression of Sub-Saharan genes into Arab populations might have resulted in a decrease in the expression of these phenotypes from their earlier norms. On the other hand, Yemeni Jews, who have not been nearly as heavily impacted by this genetic flow are, to my knowledge, a rather swarthy population. Additionally, the Anatolian population has not been as deeply impacted by Sub-Saharan gene flow, but I am skeptical that the frequency of blue/grey eyes is as high as 10%.

OK, cutting to the chase, I wonder, could the shift in phenotype be the result of selection? Greg & Henry's paper focused on IQ, but there has been a lot of work done recently on human color variation. One hypothesis holds that when homonids lost their body hair they became heavily pigmented (this Nick Wade article sketches out the interconnected theses). After "sweeps," where selection operated upon the MC1R locus and forced any given allelic form to fixation, humans spread out of Africa, and the constraint (the negative impact of high levels of radiation on exposed skin) was "relaxed." Not only did the level of radiation decrease (both latitude and greater cloud cover could be a factor), but the need for clothing in more frigid climes was likely an important factor.

Some have argued that sexual selection played an important role in the prominence of blondism in northern European (sexual selection could play a role if environmental selection was no longer a limiting constraint). Additionally, there is the old theory that light skin facilitates the synthesis of Vitamin D in regions characterized by low levels of sunlight (so, positive environmental selection).

Ashkenazi Jews were predominantly an urban people, and traditionally do not have "outdoors" reputations. One could posit that selective constraints against a expression of fair phenotypes might have been relaxed as Jews made a transition from being farmers in the Levant to merchants in North-Central Europe. Perhaps a "natural" human tendency to prefer fair skin, or, more precisely, for human males to prefer females fairer than the population mean, was given free reign in the context of an urbanized culture living in a region where sunlight was no longer an overabundant danger?

Ultimately, I do think admixture is the primary causative agent for the relative fairness of the Ashkenazi in comparison to Middle Eastern populations. My personal impression is that many Ashkenazi Jews also reflect Central European populations in traits of facial morphology. But, it is something to wonder about.

Addendum: One point people bring up is the relative darkness of Australian Aboriginals even though much of the continent is in the "temperate" zone. It could be fairness (or the genetic variants that result in it) is not in the "genetic" background of this population, but blondeness among Aboriginals of the deep desert seems to falsify this thesis, and one supposes that the original populations that exited northeast Africa were also rather small and lacking in genetic diversity.

But, Australia is mostly dry, and so rather sunny, in comparison to Europe. Only Victoria is really in a temperate maratime climate. And, to my knowledge, no group of Aboriginals wore very much clothing.

A more interesting case is that of Tasmanian Aboriginals. This group, now extinct in an un-admixed state, was very dark skinned, and had been isolated on Tasmania for about 10,000 years. Tasmania does have a cool maratime climate like much of Europe. My impression is that Tasmania aboriginals were not totally naked. For me, this is a strong argument against the idea that relaxed constraint on the MC1R locus always leads depigmentation because of sexual selection, possibly due to sensory bias or sexual dimoprhism and fecundity indicators (that is, lighter skinned women within a population are more fertile).

Posted by razib at 12:23 AM | | TrackBack

August 22, 2004

NCLB comes to town

As the US Men's basketball team is abroad breaking down stereotypes, the NCLB is helping propel them, at least in Missouri.

In the local paper today, they reported the pass rate of the state standardized achivement test for each school, which got me wondering about pass rate over a number of variables, including race. So, I went data hunting.......

.....I found the pass rate per race for MO.* No surprise on the outcomes, and I made a graph to ease trend analysis:

Chart for Math (opens in another window)

Chart for Communication (opens in another window)

Here are what is considered proficient: (math) (CA)

What worries me is that all groups are far less than 100, which is the NCLB ultimate goal (which is an asinine goal, anyway, IMHO). Also, some slopes are negative(!!!!), which isn't good as the pass rate threshold is increasing each year (plateauing at 100 in ~10 years).

The results if your school screws up consistently: the school, in addition to loosing Title 1 money**, must offer the parents the option of transferring their children to better performing schools (at the school district's expense, of course), subject to the other schools' space availability.

Putting on my Nostradamus hat, I predict that by as the 100 threshold nears, the only schools who are reaching the mark are those who have de facto segregated themselves by competency via the transfers, and we can all guess how the segregation will look racially.

*One nice thing about NCLB (maybe one of the only things) is that it mandates certain data (i.e., pass rates by race, SES, etc.) be accessible to the public.

**Money to help educate poor kids

Posted by A. Beaujean at 12:03 AM | | TrackBack