Adrian Wooldridge has a new book out, The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World. The juxtaposition between the terms aristocracy and meritocracy is amusing.
Obviously, I’ve had less time for this weblog due to other things, like my Substack. Please check out Among Afghans: jewel of the dragon if you haven’t. I post correspondence from a reader here there at the end, so it will be familiar.
Also, my mid-month link round-up is up over at Substack. Please check that out!
I don’t know if I mentioned this elsewhere, but I’m a paying subscriber of FdB. Mostly because I want him to be paid to write stuff like this and this. Most Left-liberals outside of genetics aren’t aware of the decreasing cost of sequencing plot from the NIH, or the existence of companies like Genomic Prediction and Orchid. Freddie is woke to all that. He’s an irascible character; I had my run-ins with him when he decided to send me unsolicited emails telling me what he thinks about me (mixed reviews). But I’ve come to the conclusion only the irascible can really speak the truth at this point. So here we are.
Unless you’ve been asleep, you’ve seen Can Progressives Be Convinced That Genetics Matters?, which is a pretty hagiographic profile of Dr. Kathryn Paige Harden in The New Yorker. This is from the same writer who wrote a hit-piece against David Reich. Is it something in journalism that they can only write hit-pieces or hagiographies? Is this demand side?
– The warm-glow of The New Yorker seems to be allowing the left/mainstream press to approach Harden’s ideas fairly instead of dismissing or demonizing
– A lot of scientists really dislike the profile and there’s been a lot of blowback. This, in contrast to the “circle the wagons” reaction around David Reich more or less. I think this is due to the fact that scientists would prefer more neutrality and a mixed portrait. They thought the profile of Reich was one-sided, and they think the profile of Harden is also one-sided. To be frank, I support both Reich and Harden’s projects.
There are some digs at Reich in Harden’s book, The Genetic Lottery. I actually sent the chapter in question to some human population geneticists to make sure my reaction wasn’t too biased (yes, I’m biased, I admire Reich a lot as a scientist and a human), and they told me I wasn’t crazy. So I have some defense of Reich in my full review of the Harden book (this didn’t make the final cut at UnHerd).
As for Harden’s project, I’m on the more pessimistic side because on social media scientists are connecting it to racism. Whether she’s correct or not if that sticks the project is obviously over. It’s a word of power, and will sink the project before it launches.
The Other Afghan Women. This is basically a story that explains how the rural Afghans viewed the American occupation and intervention, and all the horror we generated. This was published in 2021, but really it could have been published as early as 2001. From what I’ve heard American forces caused a lot of “collateral damage.” In the early years, the press was sympathetic, so they never reported on that. And, the US military has clamped down on leaking too much about the atrocities. When I was in grad school I randomly had beers with some construction workers at UC Davis. One of the guys went into a mental fugue and told us that he shot a dozen Iraqi prisoners in the head after one of his buddies got blown up by an IED. He kind of apologized for freaking us out, and explained: “you all don’t know anything about what’s going on, they cover it up when they can.” Others have told me the same, though they haven’t copped to war crimes.