Saturday, August 31, 2002

Raw and unflavored You need to read this freaky article on the "Raw Food" movement.
...According to one of the few studies available on raw-foodists, the body-mass indices of a quarter of women and a fifth of men who maintained the diet for an average of four years were below normal, and a third of the women had stopped menstruating. In April, a severely malnourished 20-month-old in Queens who had been fed from birth on an all-vegan (though not raw) diet was removed from her home....
Now, the thing is, didn't Homo Erectus use fire? That pushes the possibility of cooking real far back in terms of evolution. These people are going back to authentic our "pre-hominid" state, in more ways than one....

Race matters - but not for the reasons you think it does Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Race matters - but not for the reasons you think it does Dale Amon has a thoughtful post up at Libertarian Samizdata on race, but he inadvertently falls into a Tranzi trap. The Tranzis' influence means that any contemporary discussion of race must include a discussion and condemnation of racism, Nazism, and the like and (possibly) a prequel of a utopian future empty of racism. As Razib has discussed recently, discussions of race need not necessarily lead to racism any more than discussions of egalitarianism invariably lead to Communism:

Nazi, the word carries such opprobrium. It even sounds a bit disreputable rolling off the tongue, the disconcerting mix of German abruptness and sibilance. It has been observed that to be a former Nazi is a far graver crime than being a former Marxist-Leninist. That is a different topic, but let us say that both the Left and the Right have blood on their hands. Humanity is an imperfect species by any measure. But since my evolutionary conservative perspective might have some points of intersection with National Socialist ideals-I am tainted no? And yet somehow, Leftists are never tainted by the fact that Marxist-Leninists killed in the name of egalitarianism....

In other words, it's no more reasonable to bring up Hitler's crimes in a routine discussion of race than it is to bring up Stalin's crimes in a routine discussion of class. I encourage you to read the whole post for an elaboration on this theme. As I've said before, the reality of genetic differences is the root of our quarrel with the Tranzis. In this battle of ideas, establishing the biological reality of race is the first and last step in the refutation of the Tranzis' fundamental belief in what I call the axiom of equality: "Genetic differences between humans are of no importance and have no influence on behavior." But today I want to take a different tack. Forget about the political implications of race for a second, and let's focus on science - particularly biological science. As some farsighted commentators have observed, we are on the verge of genetically reengineering humanity. [1] A key and underappreciated step in this process will be a large-scale survey of human allelic diversity . This project (which I've commented on before) is called the haplotype map. As I said before:

In other words, if you think of the human genome project as a massive effort to provide a "first order" approximation to human sequence space, the HapMap will be a massive effort to provide a "second order" approximation to human sequence space. How is this useful? Suppose we want to describe the sequence of a randomly selected Joe. If you're limited to describing Joe's sequence with a single string, you'd give the consensus human genome sequence. If you can afford to be more accurate than that, you'll start figuring out which haplotypes are most common in Joe's population group, and give the haplotype distribution instead. A higher degree of accuracy would of course be to sequence Joe's genome de novo , but that's not yet cost effective.

In other words, we are moving towards a future in which one's biological origins become ever more important in one's life. We are moving towards a future in which genetics matter profoundly. The fact is that humans are not laboratory animals in the Western world.[2] Because of this, most of the standard tricks in a geneticist's arsenal - gene knockouts, mutagenesis, etc. - are simply unavailable when studying humans. Many clever methods have been developed to route around this problem, but the data thus obtained is far inferior (from a biologist's point of view) to the information that could be gained through the methods of standard genetics. It is for this reason that a survey of existing human biodiversity is crucially important . The determination of a human gene's function involves many steps (e.g. studies in animal models, bioinformatics, expression data, etc.) but the most important data of all comes from a survey of the phenotypes associated with the natural human variation in that gene. Despite the efforts of many obfuscators, the fact is that after describing you as human, the second most important fact from a geneticist's viewpoint is your race. [4] What do I mean by race? Steve Sailer has an excellent layman's description here, but from the genomicist's viewpoint a race is a cluster in genome space. (You may want to read these references before continuing.) Forget about the squid ink you've heard about the "biological irrelevance" of race. There is a huge amount of genetic variation that's more than skin deep that covaries with race. Examples include (but are not limited to): drug response, preponderance of genetic diseases, organ transplant acceptance,stem cell suitability, and most importantly haplotype distribution . Here's a quote from the genomicists building the hapmap:

The first will be to create haplotype maps of the genomes of three populations: those of northern and western European ancestry, Japanese and Chinese, and Yorubans.[From Africa.] In the second stage, scientists will test whether the haplotypes they find in those very large populations also appear in about 10 others.

These genomicists understand what the Tranzis do not, even if they have to speak in code to get their meaning across. The importance of race will only increase in the years to come. [3] [1] A crucial question among futurists is whether our destiny will be dominated by genetic engineering or cybernetics. There was a fascinating debate on this some time ago. In my opinion, these futures are not mutually exclusive. [2] China is a different story altogether. [3] Many believe that the inevitable problems that will accompany a revelation of the biological differences between races will be best solved by a program of large scale interracial marriage. It is doubtful that such a campaign will solve anything. For one thing, such campaigns don't remove racism - witness Brazil or Mexico. For another thing, genetic engineering will be far more effective in blurring racial boundaries - at the cost of introducing generational conflict, as new models with vastly higher intelligence supplant the old... [4] And sex, of course. Thanks to Smith for noting this. Note: usually we don't explicitly mention sex because we consider the case for genetically important sex differences to be overwhelming, but in this case it should have been included.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/31/2002 06:54:00 PM | |

Are we a minority position? I'm 3/4 of the way through finishing The New White Nationalism in America by Carol Swain. She mentions a study I've been trying to track down for a while now. Here is the relevant quote:
At least one important survey suggests that a belief in the biological inferiority [notice the loaded terminology here] of some races in regard to intelligence is more common than generally supposed. Smith College professor Stanley Rothman and Harvard researcher Mark Snyderman surveyed a sample of mostly scientific experts in the field of educational psychology in the late 1980s and found that 53 percent believed IQ differences between whites and African Americans were at least partly genetic in origin, while only 17 percent attributed the IQ differences to environmental factors alone (the remainder either believed the data was currently insufficient to decide the issue or refused to answer the question).
The footnote pinpoints the study as the Survey of Expert Opinion on Intelligence and Aptitude Testing, in American Psychologist 42 (1987): 127-44. Swain's book is pretty good-and despite the title is rather expansive in its treatment of race relations. Book review sometime next week (when I'm supposed to get back to blogging!).

Libertarian Utopia? I love Libertarian Samizdata.Their mere existence proves that not all Europeans are political morons. That being said, Dale Amon has posted something to the effect that race doesn't matter. Of course, I beg to disagree. Let me give you an example of how race does matter, ripped off from Steve Sailer:
You're a 5'0 tall female walking down the street. Coming down the street on your side are four black men loudly talking to each other. On the other side of the street you see four Chinese men, again, talking loudly to each other. What do you do?
Of course, the non-race-realist thing to do is keep on walking. And it should be fine, not every black man is a criminal, not by a long shot. But there is little effort in just crossing the street, and though you probably won't get bothered by the men, would you take a chance? In any case, Mr. Amon gives a lot of weight to intermarriage. And it is increasing. But intermarriage is as old as time itself, and races still exist. In fact, Latin America is full of mostly mestizo race conscious nations. The experience of Latin America suggests that interracial marriage is not the panacea that it's often made out to be. OK, I said I wasn't gong to blog, so I'll be good.

Too soon for Soon My friend Jason Soon of Catallaxy Files does not believe that we of the race realist perspective have convinced him of our case, and even if we had, he sees no public policy implications [1]. Fair enough, reasonable people can disagree. Here is the general paraphrase of an e-mail I sent to Steve Sailer in the winter of 2000:
The hereditarian position elucidated by J. P. Rushton is far more persuasive than I would have thought, but I still hew more to a culturalist line, a la Thomas Sowell....
Sound familiar? My acceptance of race realism does not follow from my upbringing or my political beliefs [2]. At some point my paradigm shifted, and please excuse the overused phrase. I simply could no longer look at the evidence and state that my rather Byzantine culturalist reasoning was simpler than a bio-cultural framework [3]. I came to the bio-culturalist position both on the basic level of empirical evidence in specific cases, and through an axiomatic process. Let me elaborate.... The axiomatic reasoning is simple.... 1) I accept-after some anguish-that 40-80% of the difference in g is genetic between individuals. 2) So you have an x number of alleles that likely contribute to g. 3) Human populations a, b, c, e and so forth exist as distinct reproductive groups. 4) These human populations exhibit mild differences in the frequencies of many alleles (cystic fibrosis, etc.) It seems not unreasonable for me to think that perhaps that all human populations don't have the same frequencies of the alleles that contribute to the phenotype we term g. Simple enough, but what about the specific evidence in the ground? Arm-chair theorizing does not a paradigm shift make.... The point of evidence that bothered me....
  • The 1 standard deviation (15 points) IQ difference between American blacks and whites has been relatively constant....
What bothered me is what combination of cultural forces would remain constant for the whole 20th century to maintain this gap? Though the Lynn-Flynn Effect has increased the mean IQ of both whites and blacks over the century, the underlying differential remains. The culprits?
  • Racism (from the Left)
    • Is it reasonable to assert that the level of racism has been constant over the past few decades? Many indicators of racism has shifted. Black income has increased, residential segregation has abated (though still remains), interracial marriage between blacks and whites has increased, many blacks have attained political power and black Americans have national prominence as role models for all American youth in sports and entertainment. I am skeptical that a constant level of racism could be the primary factor in maintaining this 15 point differential. In addition, in The Bell Curve Hernstein and Murray indicate that blacks and whites of the same IQ earn the same incomes (blacks slightly more actually). This is very suggestive that racism is not that great a barrier to competence (also see the anecdotes that McWhorter and Sowell note about West Indians). In addition, other minorities show different IQ differences with whites, some like East Asians and Jews are higher, others like Latinos and American Indians score lower than whites but higher than blacks. One could reasonably assert that the level of racism is lower against these groups, though the high IQ of both Jews and East Asians indicates that racism can be overcome.
  • Culture of social pathology (from the Right)
    • Dinesh D'Souza is a prominent recent proponent of this thesis in The End of Racism. The book is caustic in its prosecution of the African-American underclass culture (to some extent, D'Souza sees underclass culture as black culture). John McWhorter presents a milder and more empathetic picture in Losing the Race. The key here is the assertion that it is the underclass culture that pervades blacks from top to bottom, that African-Americans do not emphasize academics and that this cultural bias against scholarship and acting "white" means that they underperform. McWhorter asserts that students from the Caribbean background are far better students than native African-Americans (Thomas Sowell indicates in Race and Culture that West Indians in New York City have the same income level as whites). This is persuasive, to some extent [4]. Both McWhorter and D'Souza point out that middle and upper-middle class blacks do worse academically than poor whites or Asians. They have to indict the whole black ethnic group, from the ghetto to middle-class Montgomery County in Maryland for their culturalist theory to hold. Unfortunately, though I sympathize with the culturalist explanation, and was very convinced for a long time by it, I think it leaves some gaps. Why for instance do black children adopted by white families still have lower IQs compared to white adoptees? [5] I will agree that racism and possible openness to black social pathologies because of their physical appearance may be factors, but one would still expect them to be in between the two cultures, the supposedly upstanding mainstream culture and the negative black underclass culture. Another problem with the culture of pathology position is that the low black IQ is cross-cultural. Now, I am on the record as saying that the low IQ scores of African and West Indian nations will increase with social and economic development, but they are in general far lower than other low income countries. Though I quibble with the details of Lynn's book, there are some general trends that occur in groups of countries that I just can't ignore (see Steve Sailer's critique of the book). And trust me, I wish I could.
OK, I could keep trotting out data and inferences. You see the general reasons why I believe what I believe. Godless can-and does-data flood you constantly, so I'm going to move on. Why does this all matter? Godless has already touched on a lot these things, but let me see if I can add a "softer" touch. I'm going to simplify things and simply present the three options that I've indicated, the two non-genetic explanations, and the genetic one [6]. What might their implications be for public policy? The Leftist idea that racism is the problem has great costs for society. Affirmative Action is the main cost we see, but there are subtler and more insidious consequences. For instance, the idea that only whites can be racist creates a bizarre inversion of morality. I believe that liberals hold whites to higher standards. This implies that non-whites are indulged as if they were child-like beings without the same sense of morality as cultured white liberals. Cornel West is a brilliant man (he knows Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew from what I read), but 20 years of indulgence by the white elite have led to Sketches of My Culture, go check it out and remember this man makes millions every year! And the racist assumption also creates resentment from whites, and I think in the long term is fueling white nationalism. And of course, in the end the perception that racism is the root of group differences is undermining the idea of individual responsibility. As a classical liberal I deplore this. The conservative idea that black social pathology is part of their culture also leads to a patronizing attitude. The fact that black Americans are religiously conservative is always referred to, and black Americans are encouraged to reform their ways and join the mainstream. Black failure to attain the levels of social well-being of white ethnic immigrants is a indictment of their culture and its failures, and also points to personal failings. Conservatives, like liberals, also want to engage in their own form of social engineering. Welfare must be ended, marriages must be encouraged and Christianity must be fostered. In the end, conservatives believe that blacks are only different on the outside, and failure to conform with their standards of success and social norms are evidence of laziness or obstinacy. Of course, the last option, the most horrible of all to contemplate for many, is that race does matter on some basic level. Yes, we all agree that medicine needs to take into account race, but who wants to open the possibility that the ancients were right, and that temperament and intelligence might be different from race to race? The implications are obvious. Genetic engineering is important as a long term goal to equalize endowments. And one should not generalize from the experience of one race to another. Here I want to give an example. The AIDS epidemic in Africa has followed a different path than on the other continents. Look at the UNAIDS site and look up which countries have the highest HIV infection rates. Yes, African ones stand out (though not all, some like Senegal have pretty low rates-at least by African standards). But most of the other countries that have high HIV rates outside Africa have large or predominantly African populations. One could argue that a common pan-African culture exists, but I am skeptical of this. You can draw your own conclusions, but as I've said before, I think imposition of European norms on African cultures has been disastrous because they don't take into account behaviors that have evolved over tens of thousands of years in the African environment. But even today, epidemiologists spend their time worrying about the coming AIDS epidemic in China or India. The fact is that the Thai epidemic was far less grievous than expected. The First World heterosexual epidemic is concentrated to marginal individuals, and in the United States, to African-Americans. This is the problem with the conservative idea that only culture matters, and everyone can be turned into fastidious Calvinists-in behavior if not theology (much of Christian Africa is simultaneously sexual conservative in outward mores but has HIV rates between 10-30%). All this being said, reasonable people can disagree. The dominant shapers of public thought all disagree with me. My opinion is that of a radical minority, at least if it came down to taking a show of hands in public. But if you apply the three rules, skepticism, empiricism, and rationalism I think you will find that I am not being totally unreasonable. I am not making a grand claim that genetics explains everything. People haven't said that Huntington's Clash of Civilizations has been disproved because Taiwan and South Korea seem to be following western liberal democratic traditions of late rather than "Sinic"ones. While it seems broadly acceptable to make culturalist statements, bio-cultural ones seem off limits, and I hope that will change. Is the bio-cultural explanation more ornate and difficult to juggle than the idea that low IQs of those of African descent world-wide is a matter of common culture or global racism [7]? [1] I prefer race realist to racialist-because the latter has a negative connotation, and I am far too gone in being a racial "sellout" to be considered a racialist. In addition-here is my wish list for Catallaxy Files: 1) Comments! I want to be a pest on that site just like everyone else pesters us. Since I tend to agree with the classical liberal perspective of CF I won't be disagreeing too much alas.... 2) Standardize the font. Some of it is serif and some sans-serif. I figure I'd pipe in since I already prodded Jason to increase the width of the content text region. [2] I was raised under the strict dictum "to each according to their effort." ergo, I had nothing but contempt for those less academically adroit than me, because their lack of success indicated their inherent laziness. Perhaps one could say I was a non-Calvinist Calvinist? Politically, I have tended to be something of a right-libertarian, and so I see the individual as the central organizing principle of a successful polity. I have over the years become more understanding of the position that human beings exist as part of an organic whole, but the great insight of classical liberalism and the liberal tradition is that government need not operate on the level of clan, tribe or nation beyond certain necessities (defense, utilities, etc.), because the "nation" operates above and beyond the purvey of government. [3] Culturalist explanations are not always Byzantine, but mine were starting to become a little convoluted as I needed to reassess in light of new data on differences between ethnic groups that I had only become aware of. [4] Unfortunately, I can't track down any numbers on Sowell, and McWhorter was basing his opinion on personal anecdotes as a professor. I remember as a child my father complaining to a friend that the black students in his chemistry laboratory had great difficultly with the subject matter, the friend responded that there must of been a cultural deficit, to which my father responded that no, African and West Indian students still had problems too. Now, who to believe? One could possibly assert that a common black culture exists through the Diaspora and in Africa. I think this is stretching it a bit though, I have far more confidence in the diversity of culture than genetics. The latter tends to mutate faster than the latter, so I lean toward an explanation of the latter as the cause for a common level of g. By the way, anyone who hasn't should read Thomas Sowell's books. I was reading them back when I was a conventional liberal, but they are so expansive that you can't put them down. Sowell is a gem. [5] The interpretations can differ to be fair. I am going to look at the primary sources myself and make my own judgements. But from what I've read, I am generally convinced more by the pro-genetics camp simply because their interpretation seems more straightforward. Of course, it may seem straightforward since it already matches my current position. [6] All three sure have some validity. Racism exists-though to be honest it's never effected my self-esteem when I've experienced it, in fact quite the reverse. Culture and genetics can in my opinion feed into each other, and small genetic differences can be amplified by cultural factors (for instance, a black student that performs poorly at school comes to detest the institution and fail and is reinforced by the social norms of his poor performing peers). [7] OK, Phil Shropshire will get on my case for pointing at Africans, but frankly it is easier since they are an outlier in this area. Caucasoid and Asian groups have big IQ ranges, but again, the overlap tends to follow Rushton's Rule (Asian -> Caucasoid -> African). No blogging this weekend-back to less controversial stuff next week...let's hope....

Friday, August 30, 2002

Bush = protectionist + AA supporter + social conservative Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Bush = protectionist + AA supporter + social conservative Every once in a while, some news article makes me feel the need to vent about Bush. Recently I read about the Kass commission's soon-to-be-announced decision supporting a research cloning moratorium, and I felt the need to explain one more time just why Bush is an awful president. 1) Bush supports Affirmative Action (AA) Bush supports amnesty for illegal aliens. He's practiced blatant AA with his cabinet and judiciary appointments. Now, perhaps the AA cabinet is necessary to ward off charges of racism. But the amnesty proposal is moronic and so is the de facto ban on racial profiling carried out by Mineta at the airports and Ashcroft on the streets. His pandering to minorities hasn't paid off in votes. In fact, his justice department under Ashcroft has vigorously argued the pro-AA case in the courts. Bush isn't just "not an opponent" of AA - he's a champion of AA. 2) Bush is a protectionist Europe may start a trade war partly because of these steel tariffs - see for the $7B sanctions the WTO just approved. I'm hardly one to support the European side over the US, but they really do have a point this time. How shortsighted can Bush be? He doesn't even win votes-wise, as he alienates free traders and the vastly larger section of the economy that consumes steel rather than produces it. The steel tariffs aren't the only thing - he's also supported the dairy compact and the textile tariffs. One thing is indisputable: Clinton was a hell of a lot better on free trade. Bush is a protectionist. 3) Bush is a social conservative Bush's social conservatism matters in terms of what Ashcroft will enforce. Little things like the ban on scholarships for drug users, the prosecution of pornographers, and the coverup of the justice department statues start to add up. Abortion isn't really going to be banned, though they're making it more and more difficult to get abortion on demand. His support for government funding of religious charity centers (pre 9-11) was likewise motivated by his social conservatism. Perhaps the WORST feature of his social conservatism was the appointment of the Kass commission and the ban on stem cell research; that directly affected research and has been a huge pain in the ass. The Kass commission is going to announce a full fledged moratorium on all kinds of stuff related to stem cells and human research, and if the ban's term lasts long enough scientists will seriously consider leaving the country to pursue research elsewhere. (Singapore in particular looks promising.) The one good thing to come out of his social conservatism was the effort to encourage marriage among welfare mothers - I don't know where that's headed, though, and it's small change compared to the stem-cell issue. We are talking about national security in the race with China, and Bush is willing to piss it away for the idiotic Christian right constituency....arrrrgh. Makes me see red just thinking about it. One other thing - Bush is far less pro-science than Gore is. Several important positions remained unfilled for months and months (some of which are still unfilled). He's supported the conversion of Lawrence Livermore Labs to a defense oriented research facility - also idiotic. 4) Bush's terrorism policy leaves much to be desired Finally, as for foreign policy & terrorism, the ONE good thing Bush has done so far is invade Afghanistan. Homeland security with its color codes and nailclipper seizures is a joke, as is the new and massive 200000 person bureacracy he hopes to create. If he successfully takes out Iraq and establishes a US protectorate, I'll give him big props. But I don't think he'll play his cards right. The smart thing to do would be to broadcast Hussein's nascent nuclear weapons program 24 hours a day on CNN to show everyone that we were the cop with a good hunch rather than the evil preemptive strike nation. This would be a big fat "I told you so" to the anti-war Europeans. But I doubt he'll be smart enough to do that. 5) Bush is hopelessly inarticulate. Perhaps Bush's stilted speech is not representative of his hitherto hidden intellect. But I doubt it. As I said in an earlier post:

Yet I have seen nothing from Bush that hints at high intelligence. I think it indisputable that Bush regularly mangles both argument and grammar in his public utterances. The latter is forgivable, but the former is not. Did you see the first debate with Gore? Have you ever heard Bush speak without a prompter on the issues? It is not my opinion as a scientist that Bush is unintelligent, but it is certainly my personal opinion. ... I have never seen Bush respond to a substantive policy question with anything more than a stock answer, and I've watched a lot of Bush press conferences. I can only compare it to a professor who's unable to answer questions that require answers more complicated than a quote from the textbook. On policy matters, Bush ostensibly wrote the "textbook", yet he seems so unfamiliar with its contents that the White House regularly issues corrections on what the president "really meant". Not only is he inarticulate, he is neither well read nor curious to find out what he's missing. The man quoted "Jesus" as his favorite philosopher. Jesus! Now, perhaps my atheist bias may be showing, but I doubt that Bush would have been able to fill spots two through five on that list of the all time philosophical greats. Whether you believe that Jesus was really Bush's favorite philosopher or not, such a remark is equivalent to answering "E=mc^2" to "what's your favorite equation?" or "Einstein" to "who's your favorite scientist?". It's not that it's impossible that these are indeed the favorite equation or scientist, but rather that there is immediate doubt as to whether the questioned individual has any knowledge of science beyond popular culture.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/30/2002 06:35:00 PM | |

Quick recap for new visitors Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Quick recap for new visitors Ok - I've gotten several emails/comments that suggest I should once again go over the evolutionary case for the possiblity that human genetic differences exist and are important. Let's begin by making clear our points of agreement: 1) We agree that races exist, and that genetic differences between ethnic groups go more than skin deep (as evidenced by organ transplants, medication responses, hormone levels, etc.) 2) We also agree that some racial differences like melanin-rich/poor skin or the epicanthic fold of the Asian eye are responses to selection pressure. The epicanthic fold, or eyelid fold, of Asian people is believed to have evolved on freezing windswept plains of northern Asia, to protect the eye from extreme cold. At the equator, people came to be darkest--because darkness is and adaptation to intense sunlight. It was found years ago that among black sailors in the American navy (sailors were exposed to the sun for long hours), skin cancer was far less than among white sailors. As one travels north though Africa, away from the equator, skin becomes increasingly light. Continuing north, from southern Italy and France to northern Sweden and Finland, skin becomes still lighter, as does hair. The reason is this: is the north, where the sun is weaker and there is cloud, its rays cannot penetrate a darker skin to create vitamin D, without which a person many years ago would get rickets. So a light, transparent skin was an adaptation to weak sunlight. Thus, at least some of the genetic differences between people from different ancestral geographic regions are due to differential selection pressures. Some, of course, are due to genetic drift (which is random-walk evolution in the absence of a directional "wind of selection"). 3) So we have established that there are differences that go more than skin-deep and they are sometimes important. A priori, then, we cannot do as Stephen J. Gould does and assert that "human equality is a contingent fact of history". Some features of all humans are in fact equal - we (mostly) all have two eyes, two ears, etc. But we agree that there are genetic differences in intelligence between individuals, and that there are genetic differences in other properties between groups, so a priori we can't discount the existence of genetic differences in intelligence between groups. We need to use the methods of science to see whether such differences exist.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/30/2002 12:15:00 AM | |

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Testosterone, Violence, Gender, and Race Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Testosterone, Violence, Gender, and Race There are some who question whether the difference in crime rates between men and women is due to culture or genetics. The fact is that it's mainly genetics. Differences in testosterone/estrogen levels are among the most important differences between men and women, as these differences control a host of downstream processes. See here for a layman's discussion of the effects of testosterone. In particular, from salivary testosterone measurements alone you can definitively identify someone as male or female because there is essentially no overlap in the male/female testosterone distribution:

"Men and women differ biologically mainly because men produce 10 to 20 times as much testosterone as most women do, and this chemical, no one seriously disputes, profoundly affects physique, behavior, mood and self-understanding"

Furthermore, the effects of high testosterone levels have been well documented. You might have heard of it as roid rage, but across species, testosterone leads to increased violence in males and females. There is no dispute in the technical literature over whether testosterone is responsible for the differences in violence between males and females. An interesting fact that you may be unaware of is that studies from many different fields - from sports medicine to prostate cancer have shown that Asians < whites < blacks in testosterone levels:

Race and hormone levels: There seems to be a direct relationship between high levels of testosterone and high incidence of prostate cancer. Further, research has revealed a direct relationship between hormone levels and race. From a race standpoint, Asians are in the group of lowest testosterone and, therefore, at least risk of prostate cancer. Caucasians fall in the middle risk group. Blacks, who have the highest testosterone levels , have about twice the incidence of prostate cancer as other groups.

When combined with Interpol data, the implications for criminality distributions are clear.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/29/2002 11:53:00 PM | |

Update on Boosting Intelligence Here's a summary of the important recent research on genetically engineered intelligent mice: 1) Mice with large brains are covered here. It's not clear yet whether the folds thus created mean smarter mice. 2) Modified NMDA receptors are the basis of Tsien's work on the Doogie Mouse 3) Modified calcineurin regulation is the basis for the Vanderbilt work here. 4) Modified nerve growth is the basis for the Northwestern work here. Thus, we have 3 (possibly 4 if the brain enlargement one stands up) independent routes to boosting mammalian intelligence. I find it amusing that obfuscators and doubters continue to insist that modifying human intelligence is "too hard" or "impossible". Ah, well, what would a supervillain like myself be without a foil?

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/29/2002 11:30:00 PM | |

A group of one I've noted earlier how I consider myself a group of one. I guess if Carlton Coon was resurrected he could classify me as "Aryo-Dravidian-Mongoloid" or something of that mix. What the hell do I care? Race differences and ethnic groups interest me, but it is just a reflection of my interest in human evolution and history. Murray & Hernstein always said what they asserted about the average IQ of black Americans did not effect the individual black American. Now, that's not totally true, people do make assumptions based on generalizations. That is a sad fact. That being said-why should someone really care if their group is disfavored somehow? I've mentioned before-the average IQ of India is around 81. So that is the average IQ of my group, right? Or is it? I could choose to "reclassify" myself with upper class Bengalis, who might have a higher IQ. Or I could choose to reclassify myself with my family-many of whom have graduate level science degrees and so probably have a higher IQ. Or I could reclassify myself as just the group of Razib, and be done with it all. All these group differences will be a thing of the past if godless has his way anyway-we'll be a lot more diverse, and our identity will be much more under our control. [1] The problem is certain people choose to view the ethnic group or race as the central organization principle of the human race. Yeah, race matters. But for most highly educated people, I don't think it really does. You pick your sexual partners and friends more on brains and beauty than their racial physiognomy. For those who might not be as well endowed intellectually-or were raised in an environment that doesn't value thought for its own sake-race might matter more. But once the arms race in germ-line treatments gets going, a much greater portion of the human race will be hyper-intellectual geeks. [2] I also want to add that on my previous post about why I am not a Nazi, and why I want to break taboos about race differences, that I brought up the bigotry I had personally experienced with a wink and a nod. What I mean is that I know women who have to deal with assholes yelling at them everyday. I knew nerds that wouldn't stand up for themselves that would get pounded by cowboys back at my high school at least once a week. I didn't have to deal with that kind of crap, so I consider myself lucky. But, it seems today that being of a minority, and being "oppressed" exempts you from a lot of accountability, and people sympathize so much. I don't want to minimize what I've gone through, but really, I don't live in dread of a hate crime. The people around me are far more shocked when someone hurls a racial insult than I am, because to them it is so much worse than yelling, "Hey ho, you have nice big titties and I wanna do you!" I've mentioned this before, certain oppression is more objectionable. So we don't make a fuss about the semi-enslavement of women in Saudi Arabia, but we would if they were black or Indonesian (OK, the Filipinos might object to this point....). My experiences don't make me more authentic than anyone else-and there is plenty of hurt and rage to go around in his world without me piling on. I happen to come from a very privileged family in Bangladesh, and had several nannies attend to me in our family compound when I was a toddler. Now, does that make me less sympathetic? Just for good measure-I come from a long line of evil landlords. OK, I hope that allows some to look deeper than the color of my skin.... [1] One of the first things that someone might do is genetically engineer their kids to be white-a lot of people in India and the Middle East would probably want white skin so they could take advantage of "white skin privilege." Of course, a boost in the number of white people would dilute that privilege greatly.... [2] More geeks would probably reduce the stigma associated with being smart, because the super-smart kid isn't going to be beaten up regularly at school if all the other kids are super-smart and don't resent him or her. Godless comments: I wanted to make a couple of points. First, I believe that whenever possible we should invest the time to treat each person as an individual with no reference to his or her preconceived group. Sometimes, however, this is not pragmatic; witness airport security. It's for this reason that people care whether they are members of a disfavored or favored group. Also, as for "white skin privilege" - I don't really think this will be as much of an issue as Razib thinks. Females will likely be lighter, and males will likely be darker. See here. Some of the changes I envision: 1) Possible scenario of runaway sexual selection, with ultrafeminine females and ultramasculine males predominating due to their reproductive advantage (assuming basic reproductive urges aren't changed). For example, women may be engineered to have no body hair, while males may have far larger muscles and height. 2) Bootstrapping effect on intelligence. I've written about this before, but basically I envision an exponential growth in intelligence much akin to Moore's Law, in which our increased smarts allow us to design smarter people. 3) Other possibilities: reduction or elimination of need for sleep, silicon-neuron interfaces that allow telekinesis, and animal-human hybrids.

I thought liberals wanted a bridge to the 21st century-not a bridge to the past! Nazi, the word carries such opprobrium. It even sounds a bit disreputable rolling off the tongue, the disconcerting mix of German abruptness and sibilance. It has been observed that to be a former Nazi is a far graver crime than being a former Marxist-Leninist. That is a different topic, but let us say that both the Left and the Right have blood on their hands. Humanity is an imperfect species by any measure. But since my evolutionary conservative perspective might have some points of intersection with National Socialist ideals-I am tainted no? And yet somehow, Leftists are never tainted by the fact that Marxist-Leninists killed in the name of egalitarianism.... Why would someone deign to call me a Nazi I wonder? Most of my political positions are generally of the libertarian-conservative slant. Certainly I am not a Nazi for the following reasons:
  • I support a woman’s freedom to kill her fetus.
  • I support a woman’s freedom to take up arms and fight for her God, nation and family.
  • I support the freedom to ingest all sorts of psychoactive chemicals into the body-irrespective of the effects.
  • I generally favor a high wall of separation between Church & State (though I will admit the ACLU sometimes makes me feel like a religious conservative!). [1]
  • I support the freedom to copulate with man, woman, beast or fowl, what ever tickle’s your fancy.
  • I support the freedom to express ideas in whatever medium one chooses without the state’s interference.
Certainly I am a rather “liberal” Nazi if that is what I am. Granted, I do hold many “conservative” views.
  • I reject state-mandated affirmative action/quotas.
  • I am highly skeptical of anti-discrimination laws.
  • I am sympathetic to those who assert that male and female have different strengths. [2]
  • I am high skeptical of the Leviathan, I believe that government is a necessary evil. In this case, less is more.
  • I reject the dogma of multiculturalism-that all cultures are equal before God and Nature. [3]
But these are standard conservative positions and I don’t expect that liberals will accuse conservatives of being Nazis, at least more than once every month or so. What exactly do I believe that is so heretical? What warrants my label as a Nazi? Perhaps it is that I believe that the preponderance of evidence points to average differences in many phenotypes between different populations. In other words, I do believe race matters. Today this is heretical, but it was not always so. Not only the Nazis believed this, they were no aberration. The idea that races have different temperaments was first elucidated by the Greeks. The Arabs, the Chinese, and so forth followed in the footsteps of the first classical philosophers. The Enlightenment made these beliefs more rigid and “scientific.” Voltaire, Hume and Kant, all these Dead White Men, anti-religious seculars and the bane of the ancient regime, believed in race differences. They were in fact precursors of polygenism, the idea that the different races of man were not descended from Adam and Eve but well nigh separate species. [4] The polygenists were the progressives of their day, hurling contempt at the monogenist yokels who generally hewed to the traditional Biblical interpretation of man’s origin and dispersion during the Tower of Babel. Only with Darwin did the non-religious monogenists rise to the fore and polygenism decline toward insignificance. [5] And yet Darwin himself believed in race differences. Nevertheless he was something of a liberal in his day, and an opponent of slavery. His cousin Francis Galton used the incipient evolutionary science to formulate eugenics, a word that has gone into ill repute. Liberals use it to smear others and spit on it, for its association with the Nazis is clear, no? And yet, Winston Churchill was once a proponent of eugenics. If that’s not anti-Nazi enough for you, what about Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. How many liberals would call Planned Parenthood a Nazi organization? (OK, now there is name-hurling from the Right-we can’t win! I linked to the Planned Parenthood site, they soft-pedal Sanger's views but disavow what they can't deny. Use Google and you'll find plenty of damning stuff) Social Democratic Sweden has also had its fling with coercieve eugenics-as late as the 1976. Oh yes, we all have blood and guilt on our hands. Human hubris allowed the partial insights of Galton and his proteges to mutate into brutal race science. Progressive and Regressive looked toward eugenics and the scientism that underlay it (though true many Progressives like J.B.S. Haldane, a Marxist, pulled back from eugenics after his initial flirtation) . The Modern Synthesis had not yet come to fruition, we did not have PCR in the laboratory and mathematical population genetics in the offices. But the pioneers of the early 20th century thought they knew it all and endeavored to forward the eugenic project. They were trying to “build a better man” with a sledge hammer, reconstituting a work of ages, eons even. And alas, it was as failure as a science and worse, a monstrosity as politics. [6] But godless has pointed out how we are genetic engineers - and thus radically different from the eugenicists of the past. I won’t rehash it too much, I simply want to reiterate, we aren’t shouting, “To the gas chambers go!” to anyone. We offer freedom and liberation for the descendents of those who have not won the genetic lottery. If our assumptions are correct, than it seems a liberal, at least a Rawlsian, position that we should aim toward to help those who were born with fewer endowments through no fault of their own. And this would no doubt help society as a whole (and elevate the level of banter in coffee shops greatly!). While the eugenicists of the past had only crude methods, ascertaining phenotype and attempting to encourage reproduction of those deemed fit, and discouraging that of those deemed not fit, the genetic engineering of the future will be based on the freedom of choice and not government whim. I suspect that people will flock to opt in to the new therapies to improve their germ-line. In fact, what distinguishes godless' project really from the futuristic boosting of genetic engineering that others on the blogosphere engage in? As the estimable Glenn Reynolds notes:
What was bad about eugenics was that it involved overriding people's reproductive choices, typically by sterilizing them so that they wouldn't pass on genes deemed defective. Conflating forced sterilization with voluntary use of reproductive technologies -- a common move among opponents of genetic science -- is either ignorant, or dishonest.
Ron Bailey of Reason warns that many conservatives will also oppose genetic engineering:
Wolfson does, however, alert us to a truly pernicious idea that is lurking in some quarters of the intellectual left: mandatory government-subsidized eugenics in the name of equality. He cites leftist thinker Ronald Dworkin as a strong supporter of such a project. This elitist egalitarian impulse, not biotechnology, is the real threat. Wolfson realizes this and he does properly condemn egalitarianism, but his fear of how egalitarians could misuse biotechnology drives him illogically to condemn the technology as well. That is somewhat akin to arguing that simply because airplanes can be used to bomb cities, we should ban jetliners.
We here at Gene Expression support something different. Bailey ends his piece with a word to conservatives, and this applies to those on the Left and the Right:
Ultimately, the conservative worries about technological progress are rooted in a deep skepticism about human intentions. And we must surely be vigilant against people and ideologies, including conservatism, that might attempt to misuse technology to limit human freedom. But the plain fact is that despite the horrors of the past century, technology and science have ameliorated far more of the ills that afflict humanity than they have exacerbated. In the end, the highest expression of our human nature is our ongoing quest to understand ever more of the world around us and ourselves.
The time is right, the science is here,and we have the technology (almost)! [6.5] Our great sin, godless’ and mine, and those who in the shadows may agree, and those who have come before us, is to think that races do differ, and that it is more than skin deep. Yes, the earth does move, and black men are faster and Asian men more intellectually prepared to handle advanced topology. We dare to say what one does not say. Oh, you whisper, you think, but never, never clarify your opinions lest you be heard by those would accuse you of being a reprobate. I’m going to stand up and say what I believe. And I am not a Nazi. I have many liberal friends, yes, those who voted for Gore and Nader. [7] And yet perhaps the contagion has passed to them, for they will admit in the privacy of their own homes, that perhaps biology does have a role in our behavior, that perhaps differences do exist between races. Not that they would say this aloud, but the voiceless are out there, from Left to Right, they see and think, and they draw their conclusions, right or wrong. Perhaps someone should hunt me down and shoot me in the head, for yes, I am a horrible vector for this dread disease! (please see picture attached-I was so cute once!) I am not a white racialist. But I think what drives those who lean toward white racialism is the anti-Western intellectual climate that pervades many of the halls of academe and media. The white race is more associated with the red blood that it has shed over these past two centuries than the gifts it has given to humanity. [8] Forget the science and government that Europe has bestowed to the world. Others have made the case, I will refrain. But I am not a white racialist, I am not white, how could I be? I was born in Bangladesh. I’ve been jumped by a redneck for dancing with his ex-girlfriend (and oh she was cute-with her curly blonde hair....) and have to deal with the taunts that racists will throw my way on occasion (there are certain streets in many small towns that are frequented by men driving fast in crappy old trucks-I know the epithet "Sand Nigger" will be screamed about once every month-no skin off my back). Such is the burden of living in a rural and white state. But I never forget where I come from. For all the history and richness of the culture of my forefathers, I look around me now and see a country where everyone has at least the chance at greatness. Rather than griping at human faults, I choose to see this country for the glory that it is. Personally, I have no hyphen in my identity. I am a group of one. I have seen the "authentic" existence that can occur in non-Western countries first hand (and smelled it-trust me). My beliefs are the culmination in a long personal evolution. When I was a freshman in college a professor of mine in a human evolution class asked us this question:
If it could be shown through genetic testing that Australian Aborigines were more “erectine” than other branches of the human race, should this knowledge be made public?
To my shock, three fourths of the class of two hundred said no, let the knowledge lie fallow. Being in the minority, I began to reflect on this. I believed that one should follow the data, always, and that one could make an informed decision based on the data. If Australian Aborigines were genetically disfavored (and I’ve talked to Australians personally who hold this opinion, and in a rather more crude fashion than I’ve just expressed), then it would be better to know so that something could be done (genetic engineering-not old school eugenics!). My fellow blogger godless has made this a long-term project of his. While we believe liberals deny the evidence of their eyes, the evidence that rattles and percolates in the back of their brains, we face up the often cruel and hard facts that this godless (excuse the pun) universe throws at us. Skepticism, empiricism and rationalism. These are the three jewels of the West that have been bequeathed to us by chance and happenstance. We are skeptical of the axiom of equality. We see around us pervasive trends, Rushton’s Rule explicated ad nauseam. And we formulate an appropriate paradigm rationally. Evolution gave us minds for a reason! The West pioneered science, but now I wonder, will the children of the West become the ostriches sticking their heads in the sand, or perhaps even the dodo, passing away over the horizon. Will they forget their heritage, and refuse to apply the cold and brutal knife of reason to the problems that confront us today? If we are right, if races do differ on a genetic level, the implications are colossal. To refuse to listen to the possibility, now that is monstrous. [9] To find the answer, you first have be open to the question. And some answers are world-shattering. get the picture. I hope. [1] Ask Chris Mooney of Tapped. I e-mail him whenever he brings up anything that has to do with Church & State separation. Like him, I was active in the secular movement in my younger days. Perhaps I'm naturally heterodox? [2] It does not follow that I reject equality before the law, I simply give a nod to the reality of evolution. [3] I believe that understanding other cultures is fruitful, but each culture exists within a certain finite span of space and time. In other words, North America, Australia/New Zealand and western Europe (I’ll be generous here) are the core of the liberal democratic culture that has a hegemonic presence throughout the world. I believe that this cultural-political core must be vigilant against erosion of the freedoms hard-won over 500 years of bloody history. The idea that all cultures are equal is nonsensical since each culture has different values, so comparing them in ridiculous. Certain cultures suffer less when judged under any given criteria. Since I repeat the word freedom many times in the above text, I suspect you can intuit what my inclinations are when using normative methods. [4] Voltaire’s Deism and Hume’s atheism (agnosticism) are well attested. Until recently I believed Kant to be a liberal, but pietistic Lutheran, but recent reading of a biography on Kant indicated that in fact that though he genuflected to the orthodoxy of his day (he was a academic in eastern Prussia after all), he was personally skeptical of religious claims. This jives well with his demolition of the proofs of God (following up Hume). [5] See Wolpoff’s book Race and Evolution on this controversy. Wolpoff talks about the multi-regionalism vs. Out-of-Africa controversy a lot. Interestingly, both camps try to portray the other as racist and genocidal. [6] Conservatives love to point out that forced sterilization found a ready and willing home in the Left-wing Scandinavian social democracies. More so (though still something of a foothold before World War II) than in the reactionary United States. [6.5] See the links on the left under Human Biodiversity and Genetic Engineering, or go through some of our old posts. [7] Actually, I don’t know anyone personally who voted for George W. Bush. That says something about my crowd I guess, for good or bad, it’s your call. [8] The European culture is a product of synthesis and borrowed innovation. Humanity as a whole can take some pride in it. But that does not negate the fact that the scientific method and liberal democracy took hold in Europe first. I would like to add one thing though: I was asked by a friend what Sub-Saharan Africa had contributed to humanity. I started to prattle on about iron metallurgy in the Sudan-and then I stopped. I realized there is one monumental answer to this: Homo Sapiens Sapiens. [9] Reasonable people can disagree, but read our blog, and follow our links, I think you will agree that we make a case that does not draw from emotional hatred, but more from the facts at hand. We try to synthesize various fields of learning-genetics, molecular biology, engineering, history and economics, and frame it within an evolutionary paradigm. Culture can explain much. So can history. But don’t deny the truth of the blood in your own veins and the genes that encode the fiber of your being. As for the implications of our theory, that races do differ substantially in intellect and personality, keep reading the blog. Or just sit down and think about it, you don’t need to be a genius to figure it out! P.S. To Mark Weiner on male criminality-male vs. female differences are kosher to talk about. It is a big part of modern Evolutionary Psychology. Get any of Matt Ridley's books if you're curious-and I'm sure you are. Why should we spend time addressing stuff that won't get the Nazi charge hurled at us after all? In addition, men are profiled. Steve Sailer has also addressed this topic in terms of positing a future where feminists and Left-liberals try their handing at genetically engineering less aggressive males. I say let a thousand-flowers bloom.... Oh, and here is proof I'm not white-me when I was 3. Sorry about the black and white-but we were a poor Bengali family after all....

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Controversy Blazes So, if you're in the mood for reading a debate in which I take on all comers with a little help from David, check out this post by Atrios. After a bit of initial name-calling (I'm "repugnant" and a "loathsome toad"), the discussion got pretty civil - I was pleasantly surprised. The crescendo of the discussion happened when the following claim was made, included below with my reply:

Quite simply put, there is no objective observable data that would lead one to this conclusion [that intelligence is heritable and that blacks < whites < Asians in IQ ] without the previous bias that it is true. Ok. Suppose I did the following: 1) I figured out which genes were related to intelligence by DNA pooling and QTL mapping. 2) I determined that the structure of the brain's cognitive regions was as highly heritable as fingerprints, thus establishing a genetic basis for previously observed high heritability. 3) I determined which haplotypes were preferentially present in which populations. It seems to me that: 1) Number 1 tells me which genes contribute to intelligence. 2) Number 2 tells me that brain structure in regions associated with cognition is essentially entirely determined by genetics (heritability coefficients in the .95 range for areas associated with cognition - read the paper linked above if you don't believe me.) 3) Number 3 tells me which alleles are preferentially present in which populations. Together, 1, 2, & 3 will allow us to show that intelligence has partly genetic roots, is highly heritable, and differs across populations. Do you disagree? Molecular biology, unlike standardized testing, is less amenable to charges of bias.

I believe the most controversial articles in my previous post (the quote for which Atrios excoriates me and Den Beste disowns me) concern exactly those three points. As Den Beste says (emphasis mine):

I might mention that I find the attitudes in that post profoundly repugnant, and I reject utterly any suggestion that I agree with them but am afraid to public acknowledge it. There are genetic differences among people, and because of differing genetics some people are smarter than others, but it is impossible at this time to say that there are racially-correlated genetic differences which influence intelligence such that some races average smarter than others. It isn't possible to collect data on that subject which is not also influenced by cultural effects, so to assume that the differences in success rates by race is based on genetic influences (and thus are inevitable) as opposed to cultural ones (which can be corrected) is, at best, speculative. (I am deliberately avoiding any stronger characterization.)

I encourage readers to ask Steven how exactly the above data is influenced by cultural effects.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/28/2002 09:45:00 PM | |

Media Bias There has been much concern lately with the issue of media bias. Various commentators on the left and right alike have claimed that the media is biased towards the other side. The left's contention that the right controls the US media is based mainly upon the media's connections to big business and its support of free trade. And I agree that on economic issues the media consensus is pro-free trade, which can be seen as pro-right. But in the end, the right is correct in its charge of bias. Any discussion related to the "fundamental axiom of equality" - the proposition that all humans are genetically equal - falls strongly on the left's side of things. There isn't a newspaper around that questions that axiom publicly, when it reports on issues like: -crime (Does racial profiling work?) -education (Is black academic performance due to white racism?) -corporate policy (Is the EEOC unfair?) -foreign policy (Will aid to africa work?) I could come up with more, but you already know that a substantial portion of domestic policy is absolutely off limits to public discussion because it involves discussion of genetics. In this arena the left's lock on debate is absolute , and if you think about how much policy relates to these issues, you'll agree that the leftist view dominates the media.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/28/2002 11:48:00 AM | |

In the land of the ostriches Sometimes people love to stick their head in the sand. Check out Eschaton:
If poverty predicted crime, then we would expect the share of the violent crime rate to be the same as the share of the poor population (approximately). Well, actually, no. Not really. In fact - not at all. Not even close.
Here are some other possible quotes that I think Eschaton might be amenable to producing given some goading:
Neighborhood Eugenicist*: Quite often teenage girls that have had multiple pregnancies by different men and leave secondary school have a lower IQ and lack of foresight.... Ostrich: Well, actually, no. Not really. In fact - not at all. Not even close. Neighborhood Eugenicist: People of West African ancestry tend to excel in sports that require speed.... Ostrich: Well, actually, no. Not really. In fact - not at all. Not even close. Neighborhood Eugenicist: Women tend to prefer tall men.... Ostrich: Well, actually, no. Not really. In fact - not at all. Not even close.
Disagreement is fine, but obviously some people live in such a hermetically sealed intellectual universe that they fail to see the need for engaging someone's position points. [*] "Neighborhood Eugenicist", if you didn't get it, is a joke - it's a reference to the kind of terms Atrios et al. usually fling at their enemies (Nazi, fascist, and racist are also very popular). There is a huge philosophical gap between coercive eugenics (which we do not support) and voluntary genetic engineering (which we do support).

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Even a stopped clock is right two times a day Amir Butler likes to point fingers at Americans for attacking Muslims out of hatred and bloodlust. Surprise, surprise - Amir actually found a real, live, insane Muslim hater and did us all a public service by embarrassing him. I could go into details, but I'll defer to Rottweiller:

Unfortunately (and predictably, given the numbers) one blogger took it upon himself to defend the indefensible. The blogger I'm talking about is Alley Writer, who apparently hates every Moslem so bad that he's quite prepared to describe Robert J. Goldstein as "a thwarted hero who could no longer allow Jews to be murdered unavenged." Mr. "Alley Writer": I do share your point of view that the only way to win this war is to take it to the enemy. But that, ironically enough, is exactly where we differ. You see the "enemy" as innocent Moslems anywhere you can find them, I see them as Islamo-fascist nutcases who have declared themselves enemies of ours. To be sure, there has to be overlaps, but to deliberately plan blowing up men, women and children who have done absolutely nothing wrong, is just as despicable as what the people we're at war against are doing. ... As to Mr. Butler's "outing" you, I can only say that, whereas it goes against my principles in the worst possible way, in your case I have to wonder if it's not the best way to deal with you. Clearly you're so blinded by hatred that you can no longer see the line between losing innocent lives as a tragic consequence of war and deliberately aiming for them. If you'd posted a retraction the day after, I wouldn't have had a problem, we all get irate from time to time. But seeing as how you seem to stand by your point of view (anybody who doubts me can peruse Alley Writer's site), which is to say that everybody who happens to be Moslem is a "legitimate" target, whether they've actually done anything wrong or not, I have to ask myself if it's safe to have you wandering the streets.

Indeed. But please, fair reader, don't take this as an endorsement of Mr. Butler. Remember that Mr. Butler is the fellow who uncritically presented the Saudi intellectuals as "peace activists", ignoring the fact that their refusal to criticise the profoundly undemocratic Saudi regime renders their claims ludicrous. Butler has insinuated that the oppression of women was a communist lie in an apology for the Taliban, commented favorably on Sayyid Qutb, who even the ultra left Guardian acknowledges as the father of radical Islamic fundamentalism, and attacked MEMRI for the sin of translating the filth published in the Arab media. In short, he's an apologist for the Taliban who constantly points fingers at imaginary enemies of Islam, and this time he found a real one.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/27/2002 10:05:00 PM | |

Modern Day Epicyclists Once you accept some of the truths that I (repetitively) hammer home in my posts, you start to realize that much (most?) domestic policy and news takes as its starting point the "axiom of equality". A case in point is this article, in which Harvard "researchers" (I use the term generously) complain that merit scholarships are disproportionately going to the wealthy and white rather than to the poor and black. The fact that such a disparity is observed would be unsurprising to anyone familiar with three facts: IQ predicts income, IQ is heritable, and blacks have lower mean IQs than whites. But those who can't accept such facts (or, more likely, can't state them for fear of censure) must fall back on the most convoluted of environmental explanations. Witness the commentary of Steven Den Beste on the matter. He begins by identifying the problem with the researchers' reasoning:

Harvard's researchers are cheating. They're using the patina of a scientific study to deliver political commentary. What Harvard's researchers discovered was that the administrators responsible for these programs were administering them honestly, and awarding the scholarships without regard to race or financial means, based on academic performance and test scores. That's what the Legislators said they wanted when the programs were set up, and that's apparently what the administrators have actually been doing. Harvard says this is broken, but it sounds to me as if it's working as designed. And that's the point: it's not that these programs are broken, but rather that Harvard's researchers disagree with the goals of the programs.

But once embarked, Steven can't stop himself from offering a solution. The truth is that no intervention short of genetic engineering will solve this problem, but that's not acceptable to the politically correct. Steven is not anonymous, and so can't acknowledge this for fear of being drawn and quartered by the PC crowd. Thus he says:

If you want more black kids to be awarded merit scholarships, go out into the cities and start encouraging those black kids to study harder while they're in high school so that they learn more, get better grades, and higher test scores. Tell them that studying is for their own benefit, and that it isn't "being white". But talk to them as individuals, don't talk to them as a group. Grouping someone is the worst thing you can do to them, no matter what color they are. Part of why a lot of black kids don't study now is because they think they're part of a group and that those in that group aren't supposed to study. So destroy that grouping, and all other groupings, and tell the kids that each of them is a group of one. Don't teach them to be proud of being black, teach them to be proud of being themselves.

Of course, by talking to black kids and mentioning "being white" you are acknowledging that groups exist, that blacks are members of a group, and that their group membership is material to their situation. But leave that aside for now. The acceptance of the false "axiom of equality" leaves him open to an emotional reprisal from Iain Jackson:

Yes, there are cultural issues at work. Yes, people bear their own responsibility for what becomes of their lives. There are also issues of being poor, and of going to wretched schools, which do make a difference, and in which these children have no control. You can be as selfdirected, as ambitious as you like, and at that point in your life, if the people and information and other resources aren't there for you to build a proper educational base, you will struggle. It is extraordinarily offensive to essentially state, "It's all black kids' fault that they're not better students." It is extraordinarily offensive to say, "Don't treat them as a group," when you're doing exactly that.

Fault is perhaps not the right word, as it implies that there was choice in the matter. As free will reduces to unpredictability, for any single student we may grant that choice exists. But when we can predict the fate of populations with certainty, it is counterproductive to assign blame. In any case, a subsequent politically correct rebuttal from Steven will have to implicitly acknowledge that some sort of social spending (or social "encouragement", though the difference is academic) will serve to ameliorate the black/white difference. And thus Steven joins the ranks of the modern day epicyclists, a group which includes most neocons. In doing so he inadvertently sabotages his best hope for dealing with Transnational Progressivism. Let me clarify this all important analogy. Trying to understand race relations without the knowledge that criminality and IQ differ by race is like trying to understand planetary orbits without accepting the heliocentric model. You have essentially three options:

1. Put your head in the sand and deny that race differences exist, or insist that all disparities are the fault of a poor environment brought about by white racism. This is the position of the NY Times and many liberals, and is analogous to the Catholic Church's staunch insistence on geocentrism in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

2. Accept that race differences exist but insist that they are the fault of a poor environment brought about by the bad decisions of black people. (Conversely, insist that Asians succeed solely because of their purportedly non-genetic work ethic). This is the position of neocons like Thomas Sowell and McWhorter and now Steven Den Beste. It's analogous to those who used the theory of epicycles to predict the motion of the planets without accepting the heliocentric model. This group will correctly predict that blacks will commit more crimes and do less well in school than whites, but will use an entirely roundabout way of getting there that does not generalize because it misses the fundamental facts. Below is an example of the tortuous epicyle theory in action; note its resemblance to the various contortions nurturists use to explain black academic performance without acknowledging the influence of genetics.

3. Accept that race differences exist and that they are partly genetically caused. Note that the nature/nurture dichotomy is misleading, as genes certainly affect the environment that you choose to inhabit. This is the position of evolutionary conservatives like myself and Steve Sailer. We're the Galileos who encounter tremendous resistance in getting our ideas across. Most people have been inculcated to not even give us a fair hearing, preferring to hear the boots of the Gestapo over anything we say. And while we're not burned at the stake, we are effectively silenced in academia. Right and Left deplore us because we accept the conclusions of Darwinism. Despite all of this, we know that we speak the truth and will be eventually vindicated once we understand the genetic basis of intelligence well enough to modify it. Perhaps at that time, we'll merit a footnote in the history books.

The analogy is apropos in more ways than one...just like the epicyclists of old, the nurturist theory uses convoluted methods to explain incontrovertible data. Their effort is necessary to preserve the intellectual foundations of a theory based on emotion rather than logic.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/27/2002 05:04:00 PM | |

Standing up to the fighting man.... The New Republic has a good response to the military doves and their contempt for civilian hawks. Tapped responds.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Never argue with an idiot. He'll drag you down to his level and beat you with experience. Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Never argue with an idiot. He'll drag you down to his level and beat you with experience. Loath as I am to neglect this excellent advice, I feel that I need to respond to Philip Shropshire's latest post on WarbloggerWatch. After approvingly quoting radical Socialist Imbler Victor Debs on class warfare, Shropshire selectively excerpts two comments from my earlier post on the term "chickenhawk" without providing even an acknowledgement of the many refutations contained in that post. These remarks are from two veterans (Jo Fish and Doubting Thomas), and you can read their comments in the context of the discussion here. In the interests of expediency I will summarize the reasons why Shropshire's "argument" (if we are to be charitable) is deeply unpersuasive:

1) A volunteer military is fundamentally different from a force of conscripts. There is no coercion in sending these men to fight, as they are doing it of their own free will. 2) If everyone who supported war was "not hypocritical" by Shropshire's definition, our military would number more than 100 million souls. 3) Those using the words chicken hawk don't really give a damn about the lives of our military men and women. The truth is that the left worries more about the enemy's rights than about our soldiers. [from Lupinek] 4) The chickenhawk namecalling is equivalent to the claim that anyone who is not in the armed services who is pro-war is a coward and a hypocrite. A reversal reveals the absurdity - you're not allowed to speak out against third world poverty unless you've joined the peace corps, because obviously you don't really believe in that cause either. [from Doug Turnbull] 5) Doubting Thomas' attitude - that only people who joined the military are worthy of respect - is stupid. He implies that if you aren't in a job where you're getting shot at, you're a coward and thus unworthy of respect. Are the people who get shot at the only ones deserving of respect? Why then do officers rank above grunts? Examine your premises. 6) This argument is a typical Leftie/PC canard. The "experience" of going to war, being poor, being black, being whatever trumps all intellectual debate. So if a civilian can have no opinion on the military, why don't we just have a general running the country, a la Musharraf in Pakistan? F***in' brilliant, you lefties must be so proud of your "logic." [from David] 7) Doubting Thomas seems to be saying that he feels contempt for those who don't serve in the military -- and then goes on to prove it by stating fairly unequivocally that unless you have served in the military, you may not have an opinion on whether we should attack Iraq. (He doesn't quite say that, preferring instead to only attack the pro-attack side. But that difference is academic.) Well, Mr. Thomas is certainly entitled to respect or disprespect as he sees fit, but otherwise, his argument goes nowhere. Not having served in the military in no way robs me of the ability to assess world events, and decide that a certain group of people pose a danger, and should be disarmed, forcibly if need be. Having held an M-16 in your hands in no way enhances your ability to do this. Were this a debate about military tactics, Mr. Thomas might have a point. I certainly wouldn't presume to get into discussions with career officers over the best way to deploy a tank column or evaluate an intelligence report. But we are not discussing the best way to attack Iraq here; we are discussing whether to attack Iraq at all. In other words, this isn't about military tactics -- it's about government policy, which the military is supposed to carry out. [from E. Nough] 8)Now, a very small percentage of our military actually sees enemy fire (far less than 50%). The rest of it is involved in logistics or command. Cowardice only enters the equation as a reason to not enter the service if there is actually a chance of death, so by Shropshire's criteria those in noncombatant positions - the vast majority of the military - must be cowards or REMFs.

Those are the impersonal arguments. As the accusation of cowardice has been leveled at me personally, let us now consider my situation. As a military researcher with an advanced degree, there's no way that I would be allowed to fight on the front lines. No general would put me in the line of fire because my research contributions are too valuable. But suppose that I did have a choice of whether to enlist as a private or to stay as a researcher. The optimal decision is still to stay as a researcher if the optimality criterion is made explicit. As Patton said, "No bastard ever won a war dying for his country. You win a war by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” In other words, if we go to war with Iraq my goal will to be maximize the enemy casualties . By any reasonable person's reckoning, the source of American military supremacy is not manpower, but technology. The killing efficiency of our military comes from the technology that I help to develop, not from human waves. In other words, if you were to assign credit for each Iraqi kill, only a small fraction would go to the man who physically pulled the trigger, while a far larger fraction of the credit would go to the engineers who developed the technology. This is because in hand-to-hand combat the American advantage is not that great - it is American technology that wins wars. In other words, if my goal is to win the war and/or maximize enemy casualties, my optimal strategy is to pursue military research. I didn't want to have to say this...but man for man, I'm far more valuable to the war effort than a soldier like Doubting Thomas or Jo Fish. The simple truth is that technology rather than manpower wins wars, and if we speak of kill credits it is the scientists who are the most highly trained and lethal of all our nation's forces.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/26/2002 07:12:00 PM | |

Politically Incorrect Commentary on the Economic Fate of Nations Postrel's article in the NY Times on the question of whether income inequality is actually rising is well worth a look. The upshot is that the failure to account for population size when assessing the rise of "global inequality" leads to the erroneous conclusion that the rich are getting richer at the poor's expense. The analysis cited in the article reveals this depressing "rise in inequality" to be largely a statistical artifact caused by the inclusion of 35 African countries with dismal economic indicators. To quote the article:

Counting by countries misses the biggest economic advance in history, completely distorting the record of the globalization period. Over the last three decades, and especially since the 1980's, the world's two largest countries, China and India, have raced ahead economically. So have other Asian countries with relatively large populations. The result is that 2.5 billion people have seen their standards of living rise toward those of the billion people in the already developed countries — decreasing global poverty and increasing global equality. From the point of view of individuals, economic liberalization has been a huge success. "You have to look at people," says Professor Sala-i-Martin. "Because if you look at countries, we do have lots and lots of little countries that are doing very poorly, namely Africa — 35 African countries." But all Africa has only about half as many people as China. ... In 1970, global income distribution peaked [i.e., the mode was $1000] at about $1,000 in today's dollars, a common measure of poverty ($2 a day in 1985 dollars). In 1998, by contrast, the largest number of people earned about $8,000 — a standard of living equivalent to Portugal's. "That's what I call a new world middle class," says Professor Sala-i-Martin. It is mostly made up of the top 40 percent of Chinese and Indians, and the effect of their economic rise is big. What about the argument that income gaps are widening within these rapidly advancing countries? With a few exceptions, it is true, but still misleading. The rich did get richer faster than the poor did. But for the most part the poor did not get poorer. They got richer, too. In exchange for significantly rising living standards, a little more internal inequality is not such a bad thing.

This fact - the rise of a global middle class - is utterly damning for the anti-globalization crowd. But there is an important exception to the trend in Africa:

There is, however, one large country where the poor really are getting poorer while the rich grow richer: Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. Nigeria's economy has actually shrunk over the last three decades, and the absolute poverty rate — the percentage of the population living on less than $1 a day in 1985 dollars — skyrocketed to 46 percent in 1998 from 9 percent in 1970. While most Nigerians were falling further into destitution, the political and economic elite grew richer. The problem is not too much liberalization but too little, a politicized economy with widespread corruption. "The rich guys are doing well, therefore reforms will not come," says a pessimistic Professor Sala-i-Martin. He has begun studying Nigeria, trying to come up with ways around the political problem. That country is typical of Africa, which is growing ever poorer. Fully 95 percent of the world's "one-dollar poor" live in Africa, and in many countries they make up the vast majority of the population. That poverty, not the rising wealth of Asian countries, is the global economy's real problem. "The welfare implications of finding how to turn around the growth performance of Africa are so staggering," he writes, "that this has probably become the most important question in economics."

This is the sort of thing you just shake your head at...the truth of the matter is universally acknowledged, but rarely stated. Very well - let me state the bald truth: I doubt that any intervention short of genetic engineering will allow the modernization of Africa . Here's La Griffe Du Lion with more details on why.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/26/2002 05:44:00 PM | |

Brahmins and Mathematics I was asked in an earlier post for more details on the Brahmins of India and their similarities to the Jews. Here's an interesting essay on a particular subdivision of Brahmins (the Tamil Brahmins) that may give you some insight into what they're like. I bolded some of the best parts:

YOU graduated in Literature, right?" asked my young cousin. "No, In Economics." I hastily clarified . "Economics honors," I added for Good measure. The question coming from anyone else would have been innocuous, but from my cousin who was a third year engineering student, it was almost offending. As a card carrying member of the Tamilian Brahmin community, or Tam Brams, as the endearment goes, I knew that in his world- and that included his parents, relatives, colony friends, project group, dorm mates - someone who graduated in Literature obviously did so because he or she had a learning disability. The poor thing was a freak who couldn't get admission into an engineering college or even a pitiful, but definitely more acceptable, science course. Or worse, such a specimen was a wasted wanton whose desire to do B.A. was an irresponsible, rebellious act, almost akin to joining a Neo-Nazi like cult group and living on the edge of civilized society. In any such conversation with a bona fide Tam Bram, I find myself fervently hoping, that despite falling under the horrifying category of B.A. Economics, with its connotations of statistics and analysis of numbers and trends, would redeem me a little in their math-science obsessed eyes. For a middle class Tam Bram family (and that means the whole lot of them for all Tam Brams qualify as middle class if you take outlook and behavior as parameters), mathematics and science are not merely subjects in the school curriculum. They are a religion. And the dharma of every Tam Bram student is to master them and pave his way to the heavenly portal of an IIT. Or at least to the ordinary portal of a local engineering college, which the family will eventually reconcile to, in the absence of the 'real thing'. The first time I seriously understood this was when I was in primary School and on one sunny day was gleefully reading out my final exam results to Grandpa who was sitting on the porch and frowning in attention. "English: 90 percent, Hindi: 85 percent, Social Studies: 87percent.." I prattled on. "How much in math?" interrupted Grandpa. "Maths:97 percent," I said grinning widely. "What happened to the remaining marks?" was his unexpected reaction. After which he asked me to fetch the question paper, spent the next two hours going through each problem and figured out where I could have lost the precious three marks. "Nothing less than a centum [100%] in Math next time." he said finally. 'Centum' is a word unique to the Tam Bram world, that a child grows up listening to. It is a figure that even if sometimes elusive, is never lost sight of throughout the academic career. Centum, Math, Science, Brilliant Tutorials, Engineering, IIT, B.Tech., Computer Science, USA, Financial Aid, I-20, Student Visa, M.S., San Jose, California, Oracle, Microsoft, Intel [add Green Card, stock options - the latter is a little subdued now, thanks to the dot-com bust]. These words and names are like carefully arranged furniture in the mental landscape of a Tam Bram boy-and increasingly girl- below the age of 25. Care is taken not to clutter it with anything related to useless stuff like literature, history or art. Show me a Tam Bram boy who wants to be a fashion designer, V.J., historian or air force pilot and I'll show you something wrong in his blood line. For all such are heathen, a blemish on the fair face of the community. Till about 15 years ago, the only heathens were girls who did not sing. Formidable maamis [aunties] from the neighborhood would drop in for a casual afternoon gossip session with grand mom and on espying any hapless young girls in the vicinity, would pounce on them with the dreaded entreaty, "Oru paatu paadein." (Sing a song). A simple three word sentence, you would think, but in maami land it is a deceptively camouflaged barometer of the girl's cultural grooming and readiness for Tam Bram society (read marriage market) and her mother's efforts in making her a fine Tamilian lady. A Tam Bram girl's singing talents always have to be on standby, as they could be called upon by anyone no matter what the time of day, nature of the occasion or profile of the audience, by simply uttering the three powerful words, "Oru Paatu Paadein." And woe betide the girl who in shameful ignorance, takes the words at face value. When the words were uttered by a visiting neighbor, I readily accepted and joyously broke into a popular Hindi film ditty. I had finished the second paragraph when I stopped to check audience response. My mother had a strained, embarrassed smile on her face, grand mom was scowling hard, an aunt hurriedly excused herself and went inside and the venerable neighbor looked so disturbed, I thought she was on the verge of a heart attack. "Well.. that was nice, but don't you sing any varnams or keerthanais?" [both are classical elements of Carnatic Music - a form of age old classical music of South India] she finally asked, after an awkward silence. My mother hurriedly explained how in the culturally bereft North we were unable to locate a Carnatic music teacher nearby... but hopefully by this summer she would manage to do something about it. That's when I realized that the only music that was expected to pour out of your mellifluous throat were classical Carnatic songs. If you didn't know any, you simply shut up and ducked out of sight of visiting maamis. And if like me, you are a non-engineer-non-Carnatic-trained loser of a Tam Bram, you should be drowning yourself in a drum full of idli [rice pancakes - a delicacy of South Indian Cuisine] batter for having wasted this lifetime. And all the best for the next one..

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/26/2002 04:56:00 AM | |

Sunday, August 25, 2002

God, country and family (part II) What is a nation? Today many think of a nation as a generic term for a state. But few spoke of the Soviet nation. What about the Yugoslav nation? The nation of the United Kingdom? Something is off with using the term on these states. On the other hand, the German nation, the Japanese nation or the English nation. These roll off the tongue with ease and little dissonance. The reason is clear. Yugoslavia was a collection of nations, ethnic groups molded into one unstable polity [1]. Similarly, the Soviet Union was cobbled together from the inheritance of the Russian Empire, it was a cosmopolitan state held together by its ruling elite. On the other hand, aside from small ethnic minorities (Sorbs), Germany has been the homeland of the German volk and Japan the state that expressed the political desires of the descendents of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. Or is it that simple? Berlin in the time of Frederick the Great had a strong Huguenot flavor on account of the expulsion of Protestants from France a few generations past [2]. The Ainu (Jomon)contribution to the Japanese genetic heritage is not inconsequential-and the Korean (Yayoi) antecedents of the Japanese aristocracy are historically established figures [3]. Nations and peoples were not created from the dust of the earth fully-formed like Athena from the mind of Zeus. Many strands of ancestry and history contribute to their formation and they are never finished products [4]. What is the prime determinant of nationhood? Some use race as the primary indicator, others use religion and still others shared history and values [5]. I think we must distinguish between contingent and non-contingent variables. One's race is determined by biology and is not molded by a host of others factors that make a nation what it is. To some extent religion can also be seen as something that is an independent variable (this is highly debatable, but the basics of a religious belief are generally a few axioms that have been formulated at some point in the past and agreed upon, whether through revelation or as an organic outgrowth of tribal spirituality). Values or history on the other hand are a culmination and synthesis of the non-contingent variables. For instance, what if Africans and northern Europeans were phenotypically identical, while the people of the Mediterranean were distinct from the former? This change in race would have had far reaching consequences for history, perhaps not on the immediate level of battles and births but more so on the intellectual scaffolding that advanced states use to justify their actions and folkways. But even the non-contingent factors are to some extent fuzzy. If you go to, the white racialist super-site and into some of their forums, one of the most active threads is always who exactly should be a member of the white racialist movement. There are roughly speaking narrow-church and broad-church camps. The former tend to emphasize the Anglo-Celtic (i.e. northwest European) nature of their movement. The latter include at least all Europeans, from swarthy Sicilians to Asiatic looking Russians, but will even include Aryan non-European Caucasoids [6]. There are anguished posts from those of 7/8 Anglo-Celtic southern origin that have a Cherokee great-grandmother asking if they are pure enough to be part of the movement [7]. This obsession with quotients of ancestry ironically mimics Latin America in my opinion, a comparison that I suspect many of the protagonists in the online debates would find repugnant. Let us look to history. What was the criteria for membership of a nation in antiquity? The line between nation and tribe is fuzzy, and a tribe is often a vertical expression of family and clan. Despite their fractious nature, the ancient Greeks, the Hellenes, were clearly aware of their nationality. They banded together to protect their freedom from the menace of Persia (well, some of them, others did side with the Persians). What made one Greek? It was not a specific phenotype, for the physical appearance of many of the heroes of old were rather diverse, likely reflecting their people (Sun-blackened Herakles, red-haired Achilles and golden-haired Helen). One could point to the common Greek gods, but many religious scholars believe that only Zeus is classically Indo-European. Dionysios and Artemis were likely Asiatic imports (like Christianity, more on this in a later post). Many of the other gods might or might not be Indo-European-some of the Goddesses were certainly Minoan or Pelasgian (or more likely composites, and each god often had different faces, for instance, Athena Potnia). In addition, the Greeks were happy to find cognates among peoples they encountered, for example, Zeus-Ammon. But only Greeks were allowed to participate in the Olympic games, or were they? The early Macedonian king Alexander (not the well known one) established the Hellenic authenticity of his people and persuaded the Greeks to allow them to participate in the Olympics. But it seems certain that though the Macedonians became Hellenized they were originally a collection of rag-tag tribes of uncertain origin, likely Greek, Illyrian and Thracian-under the aegis of a warlord who later become a king. One could be born Greek, or one could become Greek over the generations (from what I know the Greek city-states were more stingy with doling out citizenship than the later Romans were, though the Macedonian conquest of Greece proper ended the debate whether the former were Hellenes). Language and a set of values that tended to exalt the polis as the prime unit of organization epitomized the classical Greeks. To be Greek was the intersection of language, custom, folkways, faith and race. None of these were set in stone and inflexible. Today to be Greek means to be an Orthodox Christian, not a pagan. And how many of today's Greeks actually are descended from Hellenized Slavs [8]? (and how many Turks are descended from Islamicized Greeks?) So were the Greeks a proposition nation? No. Greeks were not required to sign a contract which stipulated with propositions they were to agree upon to be recognized as a Hellene. They did not pledge allegiance or read about the history of their nation in public schools. Arete was a natural part of being a Hellene. The propositions that typify being of a nation tend to emerge out of the non-contingent variables. They are simply explications of forces of history and culture that shaped a certain collection of people. In general, these people represent a certain race, but there is always movement between populations and so the boundaries are fuzzy. Grand concepts like the chasm between black and white did not exist because in general neighboring folk were not that different phenotypically, though they noted points of distinction if they existed [9]. Even people that live along the edges of a sharp racial cline are not absolutists about blood. The Ahom kings of Assam were of Sino-Tibetan origin, and yet they became Hindu kings who fought the Muslim (and Caucasoid) Moguls in defense of Indo-Aryan caste and creed [10]. Today we have a very different situation than anything that occurred in the days of old. In the United States, a Christian white northwest European core is attempting to assimilate into its political culture people of radically different origins. Some share points of similarity. For instance, Latin Americans tend to be of Christian religion. They are often of partial European extraction (some all, some none). Some Asians on the other hand are totally alien, of different religion and race. And yet they often assimilate well to the culture in this country as compared to mestizo laborers of Roman Catholic faith from northern Mexico. Nevertheless, the historical precedent has been that nations absorb and cross-fertilize with affinal people. So for example, the German or Celtic identity of the ancient Belgae (hence Belgium) is in doubt, because they seem to have been a mixed collection of tribes. German Franks and Visigoths settled in France, while later French Protestants settled Germany. Persians settled in India and Chinese in Thailand. The fewer intersections there are, the more problematic assimilation and absorption should be. For instance, the Chinese of Indonesia have had a far more difficult time assimilating than the Chinese of Thailand. The Thais are closer racially and religiously than the Javanese and other Indonesian ethnic groups are to the Han. The core nation also plays a part in terms of their receptivity. Today's Japanese seem rather unreceptive to newcomers, as the Korean minority attests to, yet historically the Yayoi culture was formed by immigrant Koreans and stimulated by multiple migrations (first agriculturists, and then later a Korean aristocracy that had been influenced by Chinese governance and Indian Buddhism filtered through China). What are the implications for America's sense of self? It is a no brainer that the current lack of emphasis on a common national culture is problematic. But could we return to a policy that was based on preference for Europeans as before the 1965 act? I doubt it. It seems too much a breaking with progress toward equality before the law. But, as the example of Hindu and non-religious Indian and Chinese programmers shows, alien groups can coexist with the dominant culture even if the points of intersection are minimal. Education seems to be a neutral way to judge a prospective immigrant. Who would object if we turned down an immigrant from Pakistan who received a degree from a madrassa while we accept one with one from the University of Islamabad (my father has a masters degree from there actually)? High educational attainment indicates that one should be able to procure a modicum of wealth. Many of the jobs require an amount of socialization and collaboration that allows one to make friendships outside racial and ethnic bounds. This may later lead to marriage and ties of blood. This is a far cry from those working in low-wage jobs that tend to be narrow and restrictive in the amount of interaction that might occur. In fact some service sector jobs in California have become caste-like in their preference for Spanish speakers. In the end, the hard-core racialists will be disappointed by any solution, because a slow but inexorable dilution of the northwest European ruling core will occur over time (white racialists have noted ominously the de-Nordicization of Bretty Crocker's face!). But that does not imply a diminution in the cultural influence of this group. Groups like the Magyars and the Finnish tribes were genetically absorbed by their more numerous neighbors, yet they preserved their language and traditions in the face of this (also the Turks of Anatolia). The Arabs imposed their language on their Aramaic and Greek speaking subjects. Language does not a nation make, Jamaicans certainly are not English. But what if half of the ancestors of Jamaicans were British? I suspect that they would be far more English in their outlook than they are today (they might still speak with funny accent). Peter Brimelow in Alien Nation points out that Canada's use of a multiple factor point-system tends to mean that more Asians and Europeans get into the country than Latin Americans (the latter are favored by a family-reunification biased system). This is a good place to start. The university education system as it is today tends to reinforce western values rather than non-western ones (OK, I mean outside the context of America!). True, Harry Lee became Lee Kwan Hew and transformed himself into a proponent of "Asian values." But if Harry Lee had become a politician in England I suspect he would have been far more loyal to his Anglophilic Baba roots. Despite what those who push forward the idea of India being part of the Anglosphere wish to have us believe, I am starting to think that the fact that India's English speaking elite rule over a population that is most certainly non-Western is having an impact on them through diffusion [11]. But the United States is not a non-Western nation. Not yet. Keep hope alive. Notes [1] Yugoslavia was a coalition between very similar peoples. The Croats and Serbs are for all practical purposes one race separated by historical coincidence, the permanent partition of the late Roman Empire after Theodosius the Great into western and eastern halves through his sons. Byzantium quickly lost control of the farther reaches of Illyria (Venice was originally a Byzantine dependency) and the Croats (and of course the Slovenes) came under western influence. The Serbs on the other hand were closer to the Byzantine seat of power so they looked east for inspiration (and glory). And so it came to be that the south Slav tribes of Illyria became two nations. The Muslim Bosnians are also Slavs (I have read that their dialect of Serbo-Croat is closer to the latter). The non-Slavic minorities-Albanians, Turks and Gypsies (who tend to speak Serb in the former Yugoslavia) were not part of the political nation. The fact that Yugoslavia remained intact for almost the whole of the 20th century is a testament to the unstable equilibrium than can be maintained with some will. [2] Names that start with de in South Africa are the legacy of the Huguenot colonists. I read once that the ancestors of the Afrikaners were about 1/4 Dutch, 1/4 French and 1/2 German (and yes, 5% non-white, whether Khoisan, Bantu or Asian). Though French and Dutch surnames remain, somehow the German one's disappeared. I suspect that the closeness of German and Dutch contributed to this, as the northern Germans that flocked to the Cape Colony were rather similar to the Protestants from the United Provinces in language, religion and physique. On the other hand, the French-speaking settlers were set off from their Germanic neighbors and resisted assimilation. On the issue of Germany, much of the Ostmark was settled after the assimilation of west Slavic and Baltic peoples (Wends and Prussians). [3] See Bryan Syke's Seven Daughters of Eve. [4] Not that I deny that nations can achieve an equilibrium state of relative stability. To be Han or Chinese changed greatly between 0 CE and 1000 CE as the Yangtze region and the southern coasts were Sinicized. From that point on though the pace of Sincization seems to have slowed as the boundaries of the Chinese nation had been set (i.e.; China proper). Note that genetically the Han of the north resemble the Koreans and Japanese, not the Han of the south (who resemble the Thai and Vietnamese) [See Cavalli-Sforza's work on this]. But despite the fuzzines of what a nation is, Cavalli-Sfroza notes that there is a rather high level of correlation between language and race (comparing linguistic distance with genetic distance). [5] Islamic fundamentalists want to recreate the Islamic Caliphate, a cross-racial and cross-linguistic religious nation. Israel is a Jewish nation, which can be expressed either ethnically or religiously. One of the most interesting stories in this vein I've heard was that of a Chinese girl adopted by American Jewish diplomats in Hong Kong. Later the couple became very religious and moved to Israel. They settled in a religious area of Jerusalem. The little Chinese girl ended up being the mother of nearly a dozen little haredi children! She took care of the house while her husband studied the Talmud. This story I got from a orthodox Jewish friend of mine and she used it to express the racial tolerance of her kind, so long as the person was frum. [6] Many of the broad-church racialists admire the Indian caste system and lament the racial mixture that has allowed their racial brethren to degenerate into becoming Mud People. They have allies from these non-European Caucasoids who post on occasion, Indian Brahmins expressing how much contempt they have for black Dravidians and mongrel brown Indians all around them (mysteriously none of these individuals post pictures so everyone can confirm that they are pure Aryans). There are also Iranians and Turks making a case for the whiteness of their people (and predictably the Turks often claim that the Indo-European Kurds are Mud People while the Persians tend to assert that Arabs are swarthy colored folk beneath contempt). It is amusing in the least. One man pointed to the online personals on an Iranian-American website to show how many blonde Persians there were. I think the old method of slapping someone in the face to see if it leaves reddish mark would serve better (the problem with the claims of Turks and Persians is that many claim that they look too much like Jews. Ah, the horrors!) [7] Just as Native Americans accept someone that is 1/4 of their blood as a full tribal member, this seems to be the rough point of exclusion for membership in the white racialist movement. 1/8 is probably dilute enough in the eyes of most racialists. There are members of the Klan that also members of the Cherokee tribe. [8] From the end of the reign of Justinian the Great, when the Avars began to threaten Byzantium, to the reign of Basil the Bulgar Slayer over four hundred years later, much of Greece proper was the domain of Slavic tribes, the Skalveni. True, cities like Salonika remained redoubts of Hellenic culture, but the center of Greek civilization at this time was Constantinople in Thrace and the Anatolian littoral. Then again, the center of the English speaking world is not England-no offense Peter.... [9] You look at a bust of Caesar, and he seems to be a stereotypical Italian from his facial features (my high school health teacher looked exactly like Caesar, and he really stood out in a town generally populated by people of Scottish and Scandinavian ancestry). But the alabaster marble leaves out the fact that he was fair-skinned and blonde. There were many blonde leaders in ancient Rome (Sulla and Magnus Pompey were blondish, though more toward a ruddy shade)-but it was a trait that was more generally associated with the Celts and Germans (I believe the Greeks had term-Keltoi Gold that had a double meaning). Many Roman women wore blonde wigs that were made with hair from northern European slaves. [10] The racial cline in northeast India is one of the sharpest in the world. There is a certain elevation above which Indian agricultural practices fail and so the heights are inhabited by people from Tibet and Burma. Physically the difference is noticeable. On the other hand, I do know of Bengalis who exhibit clear Asiatic features-sometimes almost fully. They are still accepted as Bengali. On the other hand, one reason Kashmir is Muslim today is that a Bhotia (Tibetan) conqueror of that region was not allowed to convert to Saivite Hinduism by the Brahmins on racial grounds. The Muslims of course accepted him and he began the transformation of the Vale of Kashmir into a redoubt of Islam. Sometimes I think the Hindus have only themselves to blame for South Asian Islam! [11] The BJP's thugishness and aversion toward innocent western imports like Valentine's Day today is more reminiscent of Islamic intolerance than Hindu latitudinarianism. As education and wealth trickle down through the classes, the empowered Hindu masse are now projecting their own chauvinism into the political process (actually, the Hindu middle classes). This is not always a good thing, and Indian cultural self-delusion resembles Islamic fantasy far more than I feel comfortable with. Myths of Aryan supremacy and Vedic literalism are waxing, rather than pluralism and restraint. I suspect the gods of their forefathers shudder....

Saturday, August 24, 2002

Updated Links I've updated the links to be more accurate, with more links to actual researchers in genetics and intelligence. These sites aren't overly technical - they're meant to be accessible to the mainstream, and I strongly suggest you check them out. < self referential bit > Long time readers will note that the links title has changed from "Human Biodiversity" to "Human Biodiversity and Genetic Engineering". This may seem like a minor shift, but it's more reflective of my predilections as a researcher and as a writer: I've always been more interested in engineering than pure science, and I've grown more and more convinced that exposition alone will not be sufficient to hammer home the importance of human genetics. It is in this respect that I differ most from esteemed peers like Steve Sailer and La Griffe Du Lion. They are well aware of the importance of genetics, but their emphasis is more descriptive than remedial. My inclinations run the other way, though these are tendencies rather than hard and fast rules. Now, I say "my" predilections, but I think that Joel and Razib concur. The three of us believe that human genetic differences are useful as explanatory tools rather than simply truths to be acknowledged. If I'm permitted a degree of self-reference, I think that this focus on genetics as part of the answer is one of the strengths of our site. Now, we are not doctrinaire "genetic determinists", as we pay constant attention to the interplay of genetic and social factors. Razib focuses on the interplay of population genetics and cultural differences. Joel concerns himself with the question of how evolutionary psychology impacts economics. And I concentrate on the societal implications of the genetic engineering of behavior. That doesn't mean that we don't have other interests, as there are plenty of posts on unrelated topics like Iraq, intellectual property, atheism, and hot policy wonks. But it does mean that this is a great site to read if you want to hear rational coverage of controversial topics - race, crime, IQ, genetics - that other bloggers are afraid to touch. < /self referential bit >

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/24/2002 06:37:00 PM | |

Friday, August 23, 2002

A response Here is a letter I wrote that's a continuation of the exchange on Jewish Nobel Prize winners that I linked to a few days ago. The main proponent of the neo-Lysenkoist position emailed me to say that I misinterpreted him when I said that he was interested in what was good, while I was interested in what is true. Readers can judge for themselves whether such an interpretation was invalid by inspecting the following comment:

And another thing. There is a powerful moral argument for erring on the side of nurture rather than nature. If we bring up our kids as if their future depended entirely on how well we treat them, at worst we will have wasted some amount of love and human kindness. If we bring them up assuming that their character and aptitudes are written in their genes, we may be robbing them of their life potential.

Many will recognize that this phenomenon is very common among those who call for "socially responsible" science. There is a very strong analogy to the persecution of Galileo by the Catholic Church, even down to modern analogs of the epicycle proponents. I figured that readers might be interested in the correspondence, so I've posted it here. My Letter I do not think much will be gained from this exchange, but I will continue it up to one reply. Concerning your statement about how it is "morally prudent to err on the side of the nurture hypothesis" - I do not back away from my statement that you are more interested in morality than truth, as I think this Freudian slip on your part is the crux of the matter. To paraphrase, you believe that the "world would be a better place" if post-natal care was the *only* reason for the differences between human beings. This sort of neo-Lysenkoism is what causes you to set unattainable standards for the hypothesis that genetic factors influence the outcome of a human life. Let me reiterate: my position is that genetic factors make a nontrivial and nonzero contribution to human outcomes. So do non-genetic environmental factors. Neither is the be-all and end-all of the story. I do not consider this position "genetic determinism". Note that I make a distinction between the component of the environment caused by genetic proclivity and the component due to a non-genetic environment, as is standard practice in evolutionary psychology.

>If *you* are right about the role that genetics play in human affairs then >the moral consequences of my acting on the opposite assumption are >relatively benign. If *I* am right about the role that experience plays in >human affairs then the moral consequences of your acting on the opposite >assumption are dire.

You are quite mistaken. The consequences of ignoring genetic differences are NOT benign. This is because resources are scarce . Let me provide just a few examples in which the denial of genetic differences costs dollars or lives: Crime: The fact is that blacks commit far more violent crimes per capita than non-Hispanic whites, who in turn commit more violent crimes per capita than Asians. See the FBI Uniform crime reports. This data cannot be attributed to a large scale "framing" of criminals, because the profiles reported by victims in the NCVS (National Criminal Victimisation Survey) match those of the offender population as reported by the FBI UCR. In other words, for this match between the NCVS and FBI UCR data to be fraudulent, those claiming to be victimised by blacks would actually have to be victims of whites. Needless to say, victims interested in justice or retribution would have little incentive for such misrepresentation. Therefore blacks are actually committing violent crimes at much higher rates than whites. Moreover, this pattern holds internationally in every country for which Interpol compiles crime statistics. This suggests factors more persistent than non-genetic environment. Suppose then that there is a genetic factor that predisposes blacks to violence. How then is it "relatively benign" to focus scarce police resources on Asian grandmothers in addition to young black males if one's goal is the reduction of crime? A simple Bayesian analysis will tell you that the optimal strategy is to focus scarce resources on the crime prone segments of society. Note that the same analysis holds for males and females, as only a "gender-theorist" would assert that males and females are equally likely to commit violent crimes. Even if you don't accept that the proclivity is innate, police are currently prohibited from even using the genetic markers that predict violence on the grounds that racial profiling is unacceptable. I believe, however, that the haplotype map in conjunction with studies like the one on the MAO promoter will soon make it impossible to contend that a subset of the genes associated with racial classifications are merely markers rather than causes. To reiterate: if one's goal is to minimize the probability of crime, then the rational solution is to focus scarce resources on the most likely offenders. Refusing to do this leads to a demonstrably suboptimal solution, whose real world costs include muggings, rapes, and murders. Education: Again, the same analysis that held for crime holds here. Suppose that society's goal is to allocate scarce resources to those most likely to benefit from education. Suppose also that differences in intelligence exist among the potential students. Ceterus paribus , the more intelligent will exhibit faster gains than the less intelligent for a fixed educational investment. Furthermore, the less intelligent will reach a point of diminishing returns faster than the more intelligent. Finally - at the upper ends - the most intelligent will contribute to the preservation of society by designing the machines on which a modern society depends. If our goal is to maximize the average educational level, or to maximize the benefit to society from education, it is clear that we should proceed with a program of differential allocation of educational resources. Note that it is perfectly feasible to incorporate a "floor" into our considerations, e.g. a minimal level of understanding required of all citizens. What are the consequences of ignoring differences and allocating resources as if all were equal? We do not do this yet, as we still have grades, "tracking" in high school, standardized tests, and prestigious universities to perform at least some filtering. But the prevailing trend among groups like Fairtest is to eliminate these assessors of merit on the grounds that they perpetuate inequality. I submit that if there is inherent inequality (e.g. in the math abilities of Asians and whites), then eliminating grades and tests is merely killing the messenger. If we do kill the messenger, we will allow the less intelligent to do jobs that require high intelligence (as was done during the Chinese Cultural Revolution). If this happens on a large scale under the aegis of diversity, we will allow those innocent of mathematics to acquire engineering degrees. As this process proceeds, we will observe a steadily increasing count of crashed planes, nonfunctional automobiles, and hospital casualties. On a less dramatic note, we can also count on dramatically reduced economic efficiency. Nature is the ultimate arbiter of merit, and a lack of mathematical ability will make itself known in the quality of the final product. La Griffe Du Lion has further analysis of the consequences of an unequal distribution of intelligence - I suggest you visit his site. Health Policy: I suggest you read the articles by Sally Satel in the New York Times Magazine and on her website, and Neil Risch's recent paper in Genome Biology. These references show how the willful ignorance of genetic differences in medical practice imposes costs in human lives. Corporate Policy: The policy of affirmative action as promulgated by the EEOC is based upon the assumption that all groups have equal distributions of abilities, interests, etc. The EEOC's mission is to bring lawsuits against any company that does not meet their de facto quotas, thereby forcing companies to appoint employees of a particular race or gender simply to stave off a time consuming and expensive lawsuit. To quote :

The Plan focuses on key program elements: proactive prevention, proficient resolution, strategic enforcement and litigation, enhanced mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and EEOC as a model workplace. ... STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE 1.1. Improve the effectiveness of the private sector enforcement program, including the use of charge prioritization, mediation, and litigation. The Commission's private sector enforcement program is vital to the statutes we enforce. Individuals file charges alleging employment discrimination. We assist them in the charge filing process, review and investigate their charges, offer mediation to both charging parties and respondents charged, and conduct other settlement efforts throughout the charge process. Finally, in appropriate cases, we file litigation based on the merits of a case, the legal precedents involved, and the effective, strategic use of the agency's resources.

Never mind that there are vanishingly small numbers of (say) black female solid state physicists - the EEOC expects everyone to play a game of musical chairs, grabbing the few tokens that are available. When the music stops, the lawsuits and protests start. I have observed exactly the same phenomenon in faculty searches. The costs of this practice are astronomical, but the only estimate to date of the monetary price of affirmative action was in a 1991 report in Forbes, which pegged the price at a whopping $225 billion. Since then it has become verboten to question affirmaive action openly - we must only "mend it, not end it". The topic, like many others, has become too sensitive to be the subject of dispassionate analysis. See for a regularly updated accounting of the costs of affirmative action. Foreign Policy: As just one example, it's clear that if genetic differences exist, they should influence our policy vis a vis Asian countries vs. sub-Saharan African countries. The former are capable of development (as in Singapore, South Korea, Japan, China, India), while the latter seem incapable of it. One can argue whether the deprivation of sub-Saharan African nations is due solely to colonialism, but I think that the performance of other post-colonial nations (e.g. Korea, China, India, etc.) indicates that colonialism is not the only factor. Even one technologically modern black nation would provide evidence that genetic factors are not partially responsible, but there is no such entity. Furthermore, expatriate blacks are essentially nonexistent in the mathematical sciences. This pattern holds internationally for every country in which statistics have been compiled. Note that South Africa does not count as a modern black nation, as its technology was developed by the (now fleeing) white community. I do not endorse apartheid, and want to make clear that I support the right of native South Africans to self rule. Nevertheless, it seems likely that South Africa will descend into anarchy within 10 years time as the people responsible for building the infrastructure abandon the country. Note also that I don't think genetic factors are always and everywhere responsible for the situation of nations. Iran is a case in point. The performance of Iranian expats in technical fields suggests that there is enough intellectual capital for a modern state to take hold. In this case the cultural factor of Islam would need to be displaced for a first world state to flourish. The difference between Iran and sub-Saharan Africa is that in the absence of the repressive Iranian culture, Iranians have flourished in the West. The same cannot be said for sub-Saharan Africans. I will cede that such observations are suggestive and not conclusive. They provide useful rules of thumb, but do not explain things at the level of molecular genetics. In order to move these observations from speculation to science, we will want a principled method to determine whether a country's development or lack thereof is primarily due to the genetic or cultural characteristics of the inhabitants. Such a method will involve surveys of haplotype diversity, correlations of genotype to phenotype (e.g. IQ), large scale verifications of gene function in animal models, and plenty of basic molecular biology. With such data, one could (for example) predict whether a "Marshall Plan" in a Middle East country had a chance of success. For more on this, see the large scale surveys of national IQ and the strong correlation to GDP presented on La Griffe Du Lion's website. I submit that such an approach will become more and more feasible as the costs of genome sequencing come down (e.g. via nanopore sequencing), as high throughput methods for functional genomics are developed (e.g. Harvard's Flex Repository), and as microfluidic methods revolutionize benchtop molecular biology. In other words, as the automation of biology proceeds apace, the sort of experiments I'm describing above will be commonplace. Conclusion: Let me make very clear that I do not revel in any of these facts. I think it unfortunate that there are people who are deprived of a chance from the get go due to particularly unfavorable genotypes. It is for this reason that I've devoted my career to enabling human genetic engineering, to provide people with a choice. For the record, I am not in favor of coercion, as I favor a (regulated) free market approach to designer babies. I believe that when possible, one should judge individuals on their own merit. When this proves impossible or impractical, one needs to resort to statistical arguments to determine optimal policy.

>BTW, if ever you come across a predictive study that explicitly correlates >genes and psychological traits, in which all the quantities to be measured, >and the measurement protocols, were completely defined *before a random >sample population was selected*, I would very much appreciate hearing about >it.

The monoamine oxidase promoter study I referenced in the LGF post was just such a study. To recap: -The MAO promoter functional polymorphism has long been regarded as a possible contributor to aggression and extraversion, with evidence from diverse sources including statistical trials, tests on mammalian animal models, and basic neuroscience. Check PubMed for the string "monoamine oxidase promoter". -The hypothesis that the MAO polymorphism was a predictor of violent behavior was broached in the grant application for the workers who wrote the paper in the August issue of Science. Therefore the hypothesis was extant before the population was selected. -The sample population was randomly selected, genotyped, and followed for several years. It was found that the population of abused children with less active MAO promoters was significantly more violent than abused children with more active MAO promoters. This seems to meet every one of your requirements. I will not be surprised, however, if you pronounce it flawed. Perhaps you will claim that the trial is invalid because the scientists began the trial with "preconceived" notions about the MAO promoter's function. (Never mind that such "preconceptions" are the foundation of hypothesis-based research.) The fact of the matter is that people like you will never be convinced of the importance of genes by anything short of human genetic engineering. So be it. Right now, several research groups are extending the recent results on genetic manipulation of mouse intelligence to humans. The proteins involved have close homologues in humans, and it is only a matter of time before genetic manipulations increase human intelligence. What will you do when your sacred cow is publicly slaughtered?

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/23/2002 11:12:00 PM | |

god hates us all Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

god hates us all Kimberly Swygert mentions the latest Slayer album, "God Hates Us All." I happened to be vacationing in Manhattan last September, and I happened to visit the top of the WTC on the evening of September 10. That's right around the time the Slayer album came out. And one thing I'll never forget about the next few days is walking around New York City seeing eerily prescient "God Hates Us All -- September 11" promotional posters all over the place.
god hates us all

God, country and family (part I) Richard Poe pointed me to this article by James Cantrell. He seems a historically literate and thoughtful person (you might disagree) [1]. His views are somewhat off the beaten path. Though not a white racialist-he makes no qualms about being proud to be white and reveling in his patch of the quilt of human diversity. He asserts:
While race—more accurately ethnicity (for the racially Caucasian Turks or Semites are not interchangeable with Europeans) and most accurately culture that could not have arisen without Christian Europeans and their civilization and cannot be maintained long in any meaningful sense without them as the preponderant members of society in cultural, educational, moral, and political influence and probably in raw numbers....
Is he serious? Were my ancestors not the Gauls? Can I take pride in the achievements of American civilization though my ancestors were across two oceans for much of the republic's existence [2]? I am asking: are we a proposition nation, or a nation of folk of like faith and blood? I believe the answer to be somewhere in the middle. Today the road to citizenship is 5 years or less once you have permanent residency. Most new citizens are well integrated economically. If the proposition is simply come and be wealthy-than we are an admirable success [3]. But more than capitalism does a liberal democracy make-or so sayeth the seer that I have consulted in this matter! I think most people would agree that many new citizens are not particularly well assimilated into the national culture-and it is clear some do not wish to be. Of the new citizens-it seems likely that those of European ancestry will assimilate faster than those of non-European ancestry. Blood does matter. Not only will European immigrants have a host of racial and cultural similarities to the dominant ethnos of this nation-they will not be noted and singled out, and so are much less likely to resent the xenophobia of the natives [4]. But blood is not the only factor. Who is more likely to fit in-a wealthy dark-skinned engineer from southern India or a Dutch welder? The answer is contingent upon the class that you speak of. Who would be more likely to fit in, a Christian nurse from Vietnam or a gay man from the Netherlands? There is more than one factor-one lens to look through. Race is a good proxy for many of these factors, for there is a strong correlation between race and religion (South Asians will be Hindu or Muslim, Europeans will be Christian or post-Christian, etc.) and frankly class (how many people in San Francisco would not note it if their boss' wife was a female software engineer from Mexico and their maid was from India?). Perhaps we should aim to be the propositions nation, and acknowledge that some groups will be able to fill the propositions with more ease than others. But just as cultures develop organically-one should be careful to make generalizations based on bright and hard axioms cut from reality. 1-Cantrell sees the provincial nature of the early Romans as superior to the cosmopolitanism of the later Romans. There is something to this-but he neglects to mention that the Roman conception of citizenship was not based solely on blood, but left the door open for enfranchisement of individuals and nations who provided service to the republic. In this way-Rome created an incentive for allies to fight for her and expanded the circle of citizens over time and spread Romanitas. Some great Romans, such as Cicero, were from enfranchised people. 2-This begs to me the question: why should someone who's ancestor was under loyalist rule in New York take as much pride as someone who's ancestor was a patriot in Boston? These sort of "back in the day my grand-father" assertions get rather tedious and the implications rather knotted. How many Italian nationalists from Milan are actually the descendents of Gauls? 3-The poor in America are part of the consumer class. By world-and surely historical-standards Americans are a wealthy people, even the most humble of us. 4-I do not discount the past prejudice that the Germans, Irish and Italians faced-or the current backlog of jokes that the Polish have to deal with. But the arrival of visible minorities has made the ethnic whites far less prominent (they are singled out more by accent than appearance) and jarring to the sensibilities of the WASP. I doubt that any Irish or Italians are the victims of concerted xenophobia today as compared to say Mexicans or Vietnamese (how many children today know of the insults "Mick" or "Wop").

Does anyone realize... Once we invade Iraq, all we'll have to do is put shots of Hussein's nuclear weapons program on infinite loop on CNN. The world thinks he's a madman, and pictures of calutrons or the like seized by US troops will do wonders for the US' image as the "cop with a good hunch" nation rather than the "preemptive strike" nation. European diplomats will have to grudgingly admit that we were right about the threat posed by Hussein, and the US comes out as the good guy in the eyes of the (non-Islamic) world.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/23/2002 01:19:00 AM | |

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Of Chickenhawks and Cowards There have been people flinging about the term "chickenhawk" as if it were a telling blow against hypocrisy. The thinking goes that those who call for war are being inconsistent if they don't actually take up a rifle and serve. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We have an all volunteer military. There is no draft. That means that every single person in the American armed forces chose to take a job in which the job description includes the possibility of killing people or being killed. To simplify things: soldiers get paid for making this choice in peacetime, and they earn their paychecks in wartime. Do police officers get to take breaks when crimes happen? Do firemen get to slack off when fire breaks out? Of course not. When the situation calls for it, these men do the jobs that they're paid to do, despite the fact that it puts them in harm's way. Society reimburses them for it, and they chose to do the job. Soldiers are no different - if the country decides to go to war, they will fight because it's their job . Another point: the people fond of the "chickenhawk" epithet are generally those innocent of the benefits of specialization. They would like nothing better than a society in which the wealthy are forced to do manual labor in the name of "equality". The fact is that the military can't function without people who aren't carrying rifles. As just one example, military researchers like myself provide those lovely thermobaric bombs. Is it "hypocritical" for me to design these weapons rather than fire them in battle? It's ridiculous to contemplate a "non-hypocritical" society that supports war, as by the "chickenhawk" definition everyone who supported war would have to be carrying a rifle. As Pejman calculates, that's about 160 million people in the US right now. So, lefties: think it through before you call someone a chickenhawk. Because if they all decide that they are being hypocritical, you just might end up with 160 million new NRA members. An open letter to Tapped: From a reader comes this open letter to The American Prospect's weblog: ====== I find this little statement of "obvious fact" rather ill considered: "The only people hot to fight this war are a bunch of nerdy chickenhawks brandishing grandiose plans to remake the Middle East." It has the overwhelming aspect of being, from the get-go, utterly untrue. I could introduce TAPPED to a number of New Yorkers of all ages, sexes, and classes who's only problem with the war is that it is not killing enough of the right people quickly enough. And that's just New York. You start wandering around in what passes for the heartland and the incidence of American flags starts to go up as well as the bumper stickers and other visible forms of opinion proliferate. Perhaps TAPPED means the count of people in favor of the war is low within the circles in which they lunch and dine. From my own experience, this is not an unusual reality filter in the Boston/Cambridge environment. They really need to get out more. After all, they are actually taking Dowd seriously. Ah well, as TAPPED has failed to learn from the Book of Eastwood: "A man's got to know his limitations." I also wonder if TAPPED is aware of the gay slur implicit in the use of "chickenhawks." Given his limitations in the realms of popular culture he probably doesn't know that a "chickenhawk" is an older homosexual who makes a point of hitting on young boys. Perhaps some chickenhawks are "nerdy" and perhaps others are not. And while you could probably find some career chicken hawks who are solidly anti-war, it doesn't seem to me that they make up a large enough demographic to matter. Then again, perhaps TAPPED counts these sorts of people the same way that he counts traffic -- just count, rinse, repeat until you get a number big enough to like. Or perhaps TAPPED, being an uncounted number of individuals, could just talk to and count itself until it reaches critical mass.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/22/2002 09:41:00 PM | |

beating a dead horse Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

beating a dead horse I'm sitting on the floor, in a mostly empty apartment, but I feel it my civic duty to rebut yet another pro-Hollywood apologetic, this time from TCS in a piece by Econ professor James Miller:
In her article opposing Hollywood hacking, Sonia Arrison suggests that Hollywood need not fight peer-to-peer thievery because, as she correctly notes, "consumers will always be willing to pay market prices to be entertained." A market price is not the fair or reasonable price; rather it's the amount of money consumers must pay to acquire goods. But in a world of easy peer-to-peer piracy, the market price of movies, books and music is zero.
Now, it's true that -- unchecked by copyright laws -- advances in technology will push the market price of "intellectual property" close to zero (but not quite all the way). Miller concludes that we need to allow Hollywood to hack into our computers and keep the price artificially high. However, this is not the only possible conclusion. A lot of economists would argue that if you can't sell something profitably, then you should probably be selling something else. While the competitive price of Pearl Jam "Ten" is pretty close to zero, the competitive price of Pearl Jam's yet unreleased album is not, since the only way you can get it is from Pearl Jam. A different solution, then, which doesn't involve giving Hollywood hacking powers, would be to charge for unreleased "intellectual property." Jason Soon asked me why I keep pushing this untested, pie-in-the-sky system:
You might think you have a better system but similarly other people might think they have a better system for other areas of law but I don't hear them calling for the abolition of those areas of law just yet.
Ten years ago, I wouldn't have cared. But, as Miller points out, technology is pushing the competitive price of IP to zero. And, if you follow the goings-on of Congress, Hollywood is pushing more and more draconian measures to keep IP above the competitive price. If the choice were between the status quo and my newfangled system, then, yeah, I'd just be some crazy guy who thinks "hey, I could do that better." But the choice, as I see it, is between a system close to what I describe, and the police state (Hollywood hacks your computer, general-purpose computers outlawed, etc...) necessary to keep publicly known IP above marginal cost. And I have a strong aversion to police states.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

There's conservative-and then there's conservative Just got back from spending a weekend with my parents. My mother is kicking my cousin out of the house because she's been socializing with men (at 27-she's an unmarried recent immigrant and doesn't know too many people, I can't blame her for not staying in the house all day). It was sad, but it wasn't my business. It reminded me of my parent's experiences with Jehovah Witnesses back when I was a kid-they would always avoid our house after it became quite clear that my parents were well to the Right of them on social issues-in fact the Witnesses were positively libertine compared to my parent's mix of moderate Islam and south Asian culture (1). My point being-there's conservative in the context of the West, and a genuine culture of conservatism. This intersects with one thing I've noticed: liberals accuse conservatives of hypocrisy when we attack non-western cultures for their anti-feminist tendencies (2). After all-we ourselves don't support feminism in domestic politics. They fail to remember-there is being conservative in the western liberal democratic tradition-as opposed to being conservative generally as a predisposition (3). It is a distinction of kind, not degree. Western conservatives accept the pluralistic and consensual politics of the West. They accept that women should be equal under the law. But whether it is God or Nature, men and women are essentially different creatures in the western conservative view. Though there is overlap between the genders (thereby making equality before the law not always an artificial construction)-on average men and women occupy somewhat differentiated spheres. The personal is sharply separated from the public. But liberals forget that just because we oppose feminism, it does not follow that we believe women should be second class citizens. Liberal feminism is today a subset of the greater Leftist project. The tradition of Wollstonecraft and Stanton argued for political equality, and equality of opportunity-it was liberal in the classical sense. Today's collectivist feminists are preoccupied with questions of outcome-their goal is to mold society. Rather that creating a framework where individuals can flourish they demand group rights and hew to the dogma that men and women are only different on the level of gonads. Let me state clearly that I oppose government affirmative action for women. I believe that there will always be fewer women firefighters as long as humanity is only equipped with what God or Nature has equipped us with. I believe that some form of patriarchy is probably natural (the American form is rather benevolent, the Saudi form is not). I believe that women are more emotional-men are more rational. And so forth. This would place me firmly in the category of "anti-feminists" in the eyes of modern feminists. So why do I rally around the banner of women's rights when faced with the ascendence of ancient non-western norms? I am arguing for basic human rights, not women's rights! While modern feminist sees itself as a interest group that exists to extort goodies out of government and society as a whole, I believe that the original tradition of feminism (per Wollstonecraft) was based on the individual freedom that was implied by the Enlightenment project. I could argue in abstract terms of the threat to freedom from Islamic (or Chinese or Indian) cultural norms, but it is far more persuasive to point to the immediate danger to freedom's fruits. As noted recently-the threat to women's sexual freedoms is one of the first emerging out of Islamic immigration (and to be sure-it was the last secured out of the Enlightenment project) (4). The law should be blind to male or female. I believe this because I believe in equality before the law for human beings. Other cultures take a less absolutist view of the female nature's worth weighed against that of the male. In the context of my empirically driven beliefs about human nature, I believe this is understandable, but is does not mean ought. It might sound tautological, but western liberalism has arisen only once. It is a delicate thing-this worship of the individual human being and its sacrosanct nature (and yes-I believe even the most communitarian of conservative groups-say Mormons-are highly individualistic in a non-Western context). What liberals have a tendency to do is create a manichaean separation between their own virtue-their progress-and the dark ages that recede behind them. So they can not conceive of anyone dissenting from the feminist project without rejecting the Enlightenment. We are by definition the unenlightened reactionaries that bar the path to freedom. Yes, they twist the definitions out of all recognition, but they dominate the commanding heights of the Media and the Academy. We must remind them that there are more than two choices: their Enlightenment, and the reactionary past. When women lose their rights, their dignity, then the next one will fall, and then the next, and so forth. PS: The same tendency can be found when liberals demonize conservatives who question the quota-culture that is establishing itself around the totem of race. If you oppose affirmative action liberals assume that you wish to impose segregation-as if there are no other choices (ergo associating Ward Connerly with the KKK). Update: I neglected one recent liberty that a decline in western culture would be deleterious for. Homosexuality (as in the right to be homosexual without fearing for your life! See this article from The New Republic on the quaint way homosexuals are treated in the West Bank). 1-I define my parents as moderate Muslims because my mother does not cover her hair, my father does not pray five times a day, and they go to mosque (masjid) only for major festivals. My father has even defended the idea of a secular democracy as opposed to a theocracy. Nevertheless, their values would be decidedly retrograde even in Provo, Utah. 2-The irony is that conservatives are the ones defending the old liberal tradition of the West while modern liberals choose unilateral disarmament and wishful thinking. 3-There are many arguments about what conservative means. I am conservative because I oppose big government (as a libertarian) and espouse the values of western culture against the multiculturalist assault. Paleoconservatives might emphasize religion and the peculiarities of American culture, neoconservatives might focus on a expansionist foreign policy, and so forth. But we most certainly know who the enemy is. And I know that I am dismissing what some might find to be conservatism's defining characteristic-that it is more a way of life, or mode of thinking, than a principled political philosophy. So be it-we need to stop making a fetish of the old ways. The the old ways are coming back. We need to adhere to the middle path-the felicitous equilibrium between the Year Zero of Leftist utopians and the autocracies of old. 4-Many conservatives will assert that the sexual revolution was a disaster. Perhaps. I know many conservatives oppose abortion, but how many would ban the birth-control pill? Though social conservatives might exhort society toward a heightened morality and sexual probity, they are generally circumspect in legislating this. Even among social conservatives, the idea of choice has become entrenched (for them, abortion is a matter of life and death, so "choice" becomes a ridiculous point to stand upon), and even if they believe the Bible tells them that the wife must submit to the husband in matters of family, they generally balk at making this a matter of law. Personally I am not this sort of conservative. I am a cultural conservative insofar as I assert the supremacy of the Western culture and that its norms need to be made clear in the traditional geographic bounds of the West.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

they'll need a lot of jails to hold all 70m of us Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

they'll need a lot of jails to hold all 70m of us The USDOJ, after many months of having resources "diverted" to fight terrorists, is starting to focus on the real threat to America -- file-sharers. And they're using the usual bad analogies:
"Most parents would be horrified if they walked into a child's room and found 100 stolen CDs...However, these same parents think nothing of having their children spend time online downloading hundreds of songs without paying a dime."
But having a MP3 collection is more the analogue of copying albums from friends, which parents have never seemed to mind. Back in the rockin' 80s, our parents used to buy us blank cassette tapes explicitly so my friends and I could make copies of each others' albums. What none of us realized is that by copying music we were leading the country into anarchy:
Christopher Cookson, executive vice president of Warner Bros. and another panelist, said there was "a need for governments to step in and maintain order in society."

hiatus for retooling Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

hiatus for retooling I'll be mostly out of commission for the rest of the month, as I triage ("give away" / "FedEx" / "cram in car") my possessions and move to sunny SoCal. I'll have very sporadic internet access until September. I'm sure Razib and Godless will keep up the posting. In case you need an IP fix while I'm gone, I recommend the following sites: * CopyFight * FurdLog * Doc Searls * Current Copyright Readings * Politech (I'll add this post to the permalinks so these sites are easy to find.)

Monday, August 19, 2002

Where is the outrage? The white press has been careful about the Zimbabwe story-lest they be accused of racism. Cynthia Tucker doesn't need to worry about that, and she rips into Mugabe and his kleptocracy. Here is the most interesting part:
If a racist white dictator were creating conditions that starved millions of black Africans, the Congressional Black Caucus would have demanded severe sanctions, and a long line of African-American celebrities would be lining up to picket the nation's embassy, taking turns getting arrested and handcuffed for the TV cameras. But Mugabe's thuggery has barely roused America's black elite.
One of the fruits of Tranzi thought-that shares an awful lot with right-wing racialism of ages past-is that only people of color can represent people of color authentically. Therefore, incompetent black elite have squandered Africa's natural resources and hoarded its riches to themselves. And yet Tranzis naively assume that because Mugabe and his ilk share racial and cultural ties (though a large minority of Zimbabwe's population-the Matabele-are culturally persecuted, but white liberals can't be expected to differentiate between black folk, they all look alike, no?) with the population they rule that they will treat them better than a white oppressor like Ian Smith did. Addendum: Let me add one thing to this specifically: I believe apartheid was good for South Africa. By this, I mean that if South Africa had achieved independence in 1960-it would have been a disaster. I believe Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo is a good analogy of what would have happened-for Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo too is a resource rich nation. I read once that when Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo achieved independence-there were only a dozen indigenous holders of university degrees (this is a nation the size of western Europe!). The 35 years of oppression and apartheid after 1960 in South Africa allowed the formation of an educated black elite. It gave the black masses two generations of breathing space between their tribal past and their post-tribal future. Though the black elite of South Africa leaves something to be desired-as all political classes naturally do-it is far more competent and stable than the one-man rule in places like Zimbabwe or anarchy in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The transition to a post-colonial polity in South Africa seems to have followed a model closer to India-where an indigenous governing class was in place-than the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.

Back to nature.... The war against GMO continues! Ron Bailey notes that the EU bullied Zimbabwe (registration free) into rejecting US food aid because the corn was genetically modified, and the EU might have retaliated by banning the starving country's exports. Also check out Bailey's new article in Reason Forever Young on the quest (yes-quest is the right word) for immortality.

Nuance beyond the sound bites The conflict in Northern Ireland is so well-covered that I suspect this is one region where Americans feel that have a good grip on the root cause: religion. Not necessarily so says Finan O'Toole in The New Republic. Anyone with a good understanding of the subtleties of the English Reformation could have guessed this of course. The standard model posits Catholic Gaels against Presbyterian Scots supporting the Anglican English elite. There a few problems with this rendering....
  • The Anglo-Irish, the English speakers that dwelt in the eastern region around Dublin and the towns around the periphery and dated back to the Norman invasion of Ireland were the ones to lead the Counter-Reformation.
  • The Wild Irish (Gaelic speakers) of the hinterlands tended to be quite neutral in the religious dispute until quite late (which follows since the Irish practiced their own version of Christianity until the Roman model was imposed on them).
  • Many of the Scots settlers were Catholic (today the highland regions of Scotland are one of the major strongholds of indigenous British Catholicism-explaining their allegiance to Bonny Prince Charles).
  • The Presbyterian (Dissenter) Protestant minority was until the late 19th century more sympathetic toward the Catholics than the Anglican elite because they suffered similar discrimination. In fact, they were the early impetuous behind Irish nationalism.
  • The Catholic hierarchy was in general not supportive of Irish nationalism.
  • Catholic-Protestant intermarriage was relatively common in Ulster (even between Oliver Cromwell's soldiers and native Irish women) in the initial periods of settlement.
  • Many Protestants were supportive of the Stewart claim to the throne of Great Britain and Ireland
These facts point to the observation that we view the Northern Ireland conflict (as do the modern participants) through contemporary eyes of religious fundamentalism. But the original religious equanimity of the region indicates that Steve Sailer's contention that it is in fact a racial (genetic) conflict over land might have something going for it.

A remarkably stupid column The editor of the WSJ embarrasses himself in this article.

So the full agenda is to prove that Dr. Hatfill concocted his anthrax with the help of leading bioweapons scientists and in intelligence facilities. In a Salon interview on the FAS Web site, Ms. Rosenberg charged that the FBI was slow to arrest the suspect because, "This guy knows too much, and knows things the U.S. isn't very anxious to publicize." That is, that these secret facilities have been used to violate the Biological Weapons Convention, as another arms-control advocate in the Salon article explicitly charges. Conceivably, of course, in her perfervid quest for U.S. complicity, Ms. Rosenberg could have stumbled on some truth. Dr. Hatfill is a flamboyant character, who was indeed in Rhodesia during an anthrax epidemic there. Which lie-detector tests he passed or failed is yet to be sorted out, but it seems he was being culled from the bioweapons program. Unlike the Unabomber, however, he does not seem an obvious nut case. And so far the closest thing to direct evidence against him is the report by Newsweek and Mr. Kristof that bloodhounds exposed, somehow, to the anthrax envelopes bayed, or something, in Dr. Hatfill's apartment.

This is nothing more than sour grapes. There is a great deal of circumstantial evidence that points to Hatfill, and we will know for sure when DNA tests come back. Bartley is grasping at straws when he suggests that Rosenberg's investigation was ideologically motivated. An investigation can and should be conducted into whether Hatfill did it or not. As for whether the US government violated the Biological Weapons Convention...well, I don't know if we did or not because I'm not familiar with the premises of the BWC. I wouldn't be surprised if we did, but I can understand Bartley's reticence at having the US smeared as a "terrorist nation" if such facts came to light. Still, the fact remains that Rosenberg tracked down this guy while the FBI twiddled their thumbs. Bartley should be commending her and calling for a shakeup in the FBI. Instead he's suggesting that the "FBI not let themselves be led around by the FAS". I think he has his priorities backwards.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/19/2002 09:24:00 AM | |

Sunday, August 18, 2002

The son speaks-again A very revealing interview with Franklin Graham. I don't disagree with everything he says-his candor is bracing. Mr. Graham believes in an active living God-that much is clear. Unfortunately, it seems that it has created in his mind a black & white rendering of the world. Here are some choice snippets:
I believe the Qur’an teaches violence. It doesn’t teach peace, it teaches violence. But nowhere in Scripture do you ever hear the Lord Jesus Christ instructing violence, and when they came to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane and Peter pulls his sword and says he’s going to defend Jesus—Jesus tells Peter to put it away. Jesus would never have a part in that sort of activity. This is the greatest name in all of history and has stirred up more controversy, more division. You get into a group of people and mention Muhammad, you’ll have some nice discussion. But you mention the name of Jesus Christ, now you’re gonna have a very lively discussion and maybe heated arguments and it will divide. Because it’s the name of God’s son, the Lord Jesus Christ. .... You would like to see peace, where the Jew and their cousins, the Palestinians, could live side-by-side in peace and harmony. You would love to see that. But this notion that the Palestinians have to have their own state—never in history have the Palestinians ever had their own state. Why should they have it now? I have many Palestinian friends, and I love them and my heart breaks for them, and I see what has happened to their homes and businesses and the difficulty. The Israelis have been very difficult and have made it very hard on many Palestinians. It breaks your heart. There’s enough finger-pointing to go both ways. But I have to look at Scripture as a minister of the Gospel. Whose land is it? God created this earth, and he can give this to whomever he chooses.

Those "Tranzis" John Fonte's Liberal Democracy vs. Transnational Progressivism is a must read and the blogosphere has been hammering it to death. But, I've decided that it deserves a permlink, so look to the left and at the bottom of "Razib's Links" you'll see it for a while longer. One point that I think might weaken the idea of a common "Transnational Progressive" front is the fact that unalloyed multiculturalism and progressivism are to a great extent incompatible. An irony of the modern Left is that they make two assertions that conflict:
  • That each communal ethnos must be allowed self-determination and freedom that supersedes both the nation-state and the individuals that form it.
  • Ethnic groups are basically the same aside from cosmetic differences (everyone is a peace-loving individual against exploitation, we just dance and drink in our quaint ethnic ways).
You see, Fonte brings up the fact that the Tranzis want to ban hate speech and promote women's rights. Not only would some Tranzis dissent from the former (the ACLU for instance), but many "oppressed" people of color would object to the latter. Fonte makes the point that Tranzis want to redefine human beings by their race, religion and gender, and yet this is problematic if these groups have different goals. I suspect that though we liberals (in the old broad sense) will win in the end simply because we are far less ambitious in our goals. (I got the term "Tranzis" from Libertarian Samizdata)

flare prayer Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

flare prayer This falls more under the purview of Raving Atheist, but I got to it first:
Richard Yates, a professor at the Capitol Bible Seminary in Lanham, said ministers should not preach that God saves individuals simply because they ask him to spare their lives. It gives false hope and tells people what they want to hear, he said.
Instead, Yates did not continue, ministers should preach that God grants eternal life to individuals simply because they ask him to be their savior.

the other police state Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

the other police state Not quite yet, but soon:
The world's largest record companies sued the Baby Bells and the US Postal Service on Friday, alleging their phone lines and mail service allow users to "place orders for" and "ship" unlawfully copied musical recordings. The copyright infringement suit, filed in Manhattan federal court, seeks a court order requiring the defendants to block calls and packages that travel through their systems to and from the sellers of unlawful recordings. The suit says the plaintiffs have not been able to determine who the sellers are.

Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? This article indicates that males are now able to get the proximate inducements towards procreation-and so aren't getting married. No big surprise here. Sex matters. I know that the people I know with college educations that have married in their early twenties are more likely to be religious-and frankly the women "wants to wait." (yes-I know there are other reasons to get married, but if you don't get my point you're either gay-in which case you get all the sex you want-or you're a woman) Update: The full report on The National Marriage Project website.

fun with reparations Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

fun with reparations And I thought the Seattle city council was bad:
A few thousand black demonstrators rallied on the Mall in Washington on Saturday to demand that the U.S. government pay blacks reparations for slavery and decades of discrimination. "I want to go up to the closest white person and say, 'You can't understand this, it's a black thing,' and then slap him, just for my mental health," Charles Barron, a member of the New York City Council, told the crowd. [...] Barron, a self-proclaimed "elected revolutionary," said if the government did not act swiftly he personally would storm the Treasury Department and take the money for reparations.

6th on Google So, while doing work (rather than posting) I wanted to hit a few microarray database. I typed in the string Gene Expression into google, forgetting that it was the name of this blog. We're number 6 on google for this string! That's really high, as I'd expect this to be a fairly popular search phrase among the biomedical community. I'd estimate a few thousand searches per day use the string. Anyway, I just thought that was interesting.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/18/2002 08:59:00 AM | |

Jewish Nobel Prize Winners I took a look at the LGF article that mentioned the Arab/Jew patent disparity and found a brave soul named "susie" standing up to the masses. Susie was making the right arguments, but she wasn't getting any backup, so I jumped in. Hit Ctrl-F for the first instance of "susie" (well down the page) if you're interested in what followed.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/18/2002 08:21:00 AM | |

Future black Republicans? Cut on the Bias pointed me to this post by Stuart Buck on possible realignment between the parties. Note what Mr. Buck says about blacks:
What about blacks? How can I suggest that they would ever vote Republican in anything but miniscule numbers? Well, blacks have switched sides before. They were strongly Republican for nearly a hundred years after Lincoln. It was really around the time of Kennedy, Johnson and Goldwater that blacks became overwhelmingly Democrats, in large part because Goldwater opposed (on grounds of constitutional authority) civil rights legislation while Kennedy and Johnson supported it. If blacks could switch from the party that freed them to the party of slavery and segregation, who's to say they won't ever switch back? Many blacks already agree with Republican positions on a host of issues -- abortion, the role of religion in society, school choice. If Republicans would pursue black votes with passion and persistence, I think it might pay off eventually.
Well-a large portion of the black middle class consists of public sector workers. A large portion of the private sector black middle class likely either owes their position to affirmative action or feels as if affirmative might have contributed to their position. So if Republicans make their peace with government employee unions and affirmative action-well, maybe Mr. Buck has a point. But at that point-I don't think the party of Reagan will be the party of Reagan anymore. (and though I grant that black Americans tend to be religiously conservative-an illegitimacy rate of 60-70% doesn't indicate behavioral conservatism in any fashion I understand)

You heard it here first! Over at Slashdot they're talking about open-source databases eating into Oracle's market-share (and to a lesser extent IBM). If you have an account, just set the comment rank filter to "4." The accompanying article from Bloomberg News is a bit off since it talks mostly about MySQL rather than PostgresSQL. For non-geeks out there-think about dumping your Oracle stock if you're a long-term investor who doesn't think their diversification via the application-server market will work (and it seems right now it isn't).

Saturday, August 17, 2002

The wisdom of the east.... An article on the author of a monograph that surveys the eating of beef in ancient India that has caused a furor. From The New York Times:
As Mr. Jha's book was going to press last August, excerpts were posted on the Internet and picked up by newspapers. Within days the book had been canceled by Mr. Jha's academic publisher, burned outside his home by religious activists and — after a second publisher tried to print it — banned by a Hyderabad civil court. A spokesman for the World Hindu Council called it "sheer blasphemy." A former member of Parliament petitioned the government for Mr. Jha's arrest. Anonymous callers made death threats. And for 10 months Mr. Jha was obliged to travel to and from campus under police escort. .... His offense? To say what scholars have long known to be true: early Hindus ate beef.

And the band played on.... Those of us Gen-X kids who experienced the death of the "Seattle Sound" in the mid-1990s-followed by the era of "Boy Bands" (thank you Gen-Y) might find this article from The New York Times on the rise and fall of The Backstreet Boys rather interesting.

It's a numbers game.... The American Prospect tries to give a reality check to Europe's nascent anti-immigrant movement. Though the points in the article tend to argue for more subtlety in the restrictionist camp, I see little that will convince those who believe that Europe's Christian/post-Christian identity is being threatened by an Islamic tide. In addition-the authors of the article in question seem not to entertain the possibility than an immigration freeze by itself could foster assimilation.

Go ahead and yawn Some speculations as to why yawning is contagious.

more IP stuff Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

more IP stuff Stuart Buck calls attention to a William Landes and Richard Posner paper on "indefinitely renewable copyrights." Having given it a quick glance, I have several comments. First, the paper claims that economists would all advocate that
"so far as is feasible, all valuable resources, including copyrightable works, should be owned, in order to create incentives for their efficient exploitation and to avoid overuse."
But I don't think this is true. As I posted in Stuart's blog, a copyright monopoly is economically no different from other sorts of monopoly. So, to the extent it exists, the exclusive right to sell hamburgers is "a valuable resource," just as the exclusive right to the text of Moby Dick is "a valuable resource." And yet, I don't think you'd find too many economists who'd argue that we ought to give out hamburger monopolies in the interest of "efficient exploitation." Later on they claim that
"because the scope of copyright protection is, as noted earlier, very narrow, the size of the deadweight loss created by copyright protection is likely to be relatively small."
But I think that the Napster phenomenon proves otherwise. People have downloaded billions of copyrighted songs, demonstrating that they assign them some value. And yet many of these downloaders would never have bought the corresponding albums. This, to me, seems evidence of a large deadweight loss, if copyright were strictly enforced. Their next point is that public domain works would suffer from "congestion effects" -- if anyone could create Mickey Mouse stories, then Mickey Mouse would become useless as a character and society would lose out. But I don't think this is fair. Imagine I were to argue that "if anyone could create detective stories, then detective stories would become useless as a genre, and society would lose out." You'd find it ludicrous, of course, because we judge detective stories not just by the fact that they're detective stories but also by considering the author, reviews, friends' recommendations, and other factors. In a world where anyone could create a Mickey Mouse story, we're free to do the same. If this seems wrong, think about Robin Hood. Anyone (Mel Brooks, Kevin Costner, etc...) can create his own version of a Robin Hood story, and yet the concept of Robin Hood still has value. We judge each Robin Hood project on its own merits. It's true that such judging is not costless, but markets are good at providing information, and I can't imagine the cost would be too high. Next they claim that without renewable copyrights, there is too little incentive to republish old, public-domain works. But the advent of e-books, Project Gutenberg, and print-on-demand technologies makes this concern irrelevant in most cases. Republication is dirt-cheap and can be done at will, one book at a time. Finally, the authors parrot the record industry line:
"In the absence of copyright protection -- and here we are speaking just of protection against the copying of the sound recordings themselves -- unauthorized copying of the hit records will drive their price down to their cost of manufacture and distribution and leave nothing for covering the costs incurred in developing and promoting recordings of new songs and new performers. Copyright protection enables the record company to earn enough money on the hits to cover both their costs and the production and marketing costs of the many failures."
This is true, of course, given current business models which are premised on copyright. In the absence of copyright, it's almost certain that different business models would arise. Landes and Posner are much smarter than I am, which makes me reluctant to pick holes. On the other hand, these are all issues I've given a lot of thought to.

To imitate Joel... Incentives matter.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/17/2002 01:00:00 PM | |

Philip is getting rocked Phil Shropshire, a sometime reader of this blog, gets a bit overheated over at Warbloggerwatch and catches some righteous wrath in the comments section. Here's a sample of Phil's comments:

[On the topic of enemy combatants] The government has yet to make a case that any of them are involved with terrorists. This isn't good police work to me. Call me naïve. You want to shoot them without trial, without evidence and without proof? And you have the fuckin' nerve to call us Nazis, jeez Louise [On root causes] The reason you discuss root causes, you frothy mouthed moron, is that you want them to stop attacking us in the future. And the reason you don't strike back, at least not without thinking through the consequences, is that you escalate the violence and everybody dies. I know you're a fascist and you're all prepared to blog away the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians but some of us aren't as deluded as you are… [On his position as the de Gaulle of the 2002 US] Look, you're the fucking idiots not us, always pointing a gun at your problems. Not only are we not the Nazis, but I personally think that we're in Nazi Germany and we're the dissenters.

Well! Seems like Mr. Shropshire got a bit worked up. I won't go to the trouble of rebutting him because he's automatically lost this argument by the application of Godwin's Law. However, I do want to mention that I actually agree with one of the points that Philip and Paul Orwin have referenced recently concerning Ashcroft. I think that the recent moves by Ashcroft in advocating camps that American citizens could be interned in speak volumes about Ashcroft's suitability for the post of Attorney General. The man is a fearmonger and a propagandist and should be removed from power immediately. He lied about Padilla's radioactive plans, and he implied that any who disagreed with him on the internment issue were simply not patriots (remember "ghosts of lost liberty?"). He is a reactionary involved in a power grab who needs to be stopped now. Here's an excerpt from the LA Times article:

Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's announced desire for camps for U.S. citizens he deems to be "enemy combatants" has moved him from merely being a political embarrassment to being a constitutional menace. Ashcroft's plan, disclosed last week but little publicized, would allow him to order the indefinite incarceration of U.S. citizens and summarily strip them of their constitutional rights and access to the courts by declaring them enemy combatants. ... Ashcroft hopes to use his self-made "enemy combatant" stamp for any citizen whom he deems to be part of a wider terrorist conspiracy. Perhaps because of his discredited claims of preventing radiological terrorism, aides have indicated that a "high-level committee" will recommend which citizens are to be stripped of their constitutional rights and sent to Ashcroft's new camps.

If this is true - and I have not yet seen a press release to impugn its accuracy - Ashcroft has much to say for himself. I predict that he will call his critics "anti-American" and imply that they're unreasonable in condemning the imprisonment of American citizens without due process. In doing so he should lose his last supporters, as this situation is radically different from the one we found ourselves in 9 months ago. At that time, I couldn't really understand the emotion over the treatment of captured Al Qaeda/Taliban soldiers in Gitmo, as their guilt was apparent and it was only a matter of what punishment would be administered and when. I wasn't familiar with the vagaries of military law as applied to non-state actors, but I didn't think that we were anywhere close to a slippery slope. In this case, however, the lefties are right - the expansion of untrammeled police powers does not bode well for anyone. I simply don't trust Ashcroft - or anyone for that matter - with the ability to take an American citizen into custody without charging them. Unlike the case of guys fighting us in Afghanistan, guilt in such a situation is not cut and dried without proof. If proof does not exist, then there's no reason to take someone into custody. If proof exists, standard procedures should and can be followed unless the revelation of proof is itself a matter of national security. Is this "compromising national security" dilemma a big issue? It seems to be the only defensible rationale for imprisonment without trial. I'm not convinced that there would be many trials in which there was no evidence that could be revealed without damaging national security. After all, once a suspected terrorist was taken into custody, his fellow terrorists would notice that he was gone and that at least part of their operation had been compromised. The subsequent revelations could be fairly pedestrian things (e.g. that the fellow had dynamite in his apartment) that would be enough to put him in jail if information about the guy's place in the grand scheme of things could not be safely revealed.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/17/2002 02:21:00 AM | |

Friday, August 16, 2002

Country living.... Another article from The Economist bursts the bubbles of those who would talk about the "Blue States" as if they were only a perfidious porn belt. I lived in small town America. My adolescence was spent in a town of 12,000 in a county of 24,000 in eastern Imbler. Sometimes you take the good with the bad.

The end of history.... It isn't only Semitic peoples that can't forget history. Check out this article from The Economist on the row between Germans and their eastern neighbors over the expulsions after World War II. The eastern march was purged of the Germans, their property forfeit and their lives in danger if they tarried in their flight. On the other hand, there is the small matter of who started World War II....

a new band to hate? Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

a new band to hate? Kim Weatherall argues that copyright activists have a new band to hate -- the Beastie Boys:
Jazz composer James Newton sued Beastie Boys, who allegedly sampled part of Newton's composition "Choir", in BBs' song "Pass the Mic" without seeking permission. Six and a half seconds' worth; looped more than 40 times. Newton lost. Apparently it wasn't "original", because the score showed 3 notes (not the multiphonics in the recording). Not only did he lose, but BBs filed a motion seeking payment of their legal fees. US $492,000.
Now, as a "copyright activist," I do hate Metallica -- in fact, I make it a point to change the radio station every time a Metallica song comes on. But if anyone is the Metallica-style villain here, it's Newton. The Beasties sampled 6 seconds of his song and made a new song out of it. ("Sampling BAD.") Newton is the one who sued the Beasties. And so I have no problem with their asking to get compensated for their legal fees. ("Sampling BAD.") Jason Soon agrees with Kim, by the way:
it's exactly people like Newton that copyright laws were originally meant to give incentives to.
But to argue that the Beasties' sampling was somehow messing up the incentive structure, you'd have to make the case that some people who originally wanted to buy Newton's "Choir" would instead purchase the Beasties' "Pass the Mic," settling for a 6 second sample instead of the whole work. This strikes me as ludicrous. In fact, the reverse -- that the Beasties' sample might inspire people to check out "Choir" -- seems much more likely.

dumb metric of the day Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

dumb metric of the day US Patents per capita as a proxy for progress:
In raw numbers, Israel produces 20 times as many patentable ideas as the Arab countries. Corrected for population*******, Israelis overall produce patentable new ideas 587.65 times more per person than Arabs overall. Israeli companies in Israel produce patentable ideas 1114.96 times more per person than Arab companies in Arab countries. Why is that? I don't buy into race-based nonsense about intelligence, so I am left to believe that it must be political and/or cultural. Clearly, repressive societies throughout history have been outpaced economically and scientifically by free societies. I think that is key to the difference.
While I'm inclined to agree that repressive societies have lagged economically, the Soviet Union produced lots of good science, and China continues to. Now, I'm certainly willing to believe that Arab countries lag Israel technologically. But I'm not convinced that US patents fairly capture this. For starters, there's nothing intrinsically worthwhile about a patentable idea. People have patented the act of swinging side-to-side, using a laser pointer to play with your cat, a way to comb over your bald spot, and hyperlinks, none of which they actually invented. What's more, even if there were the same number of inventions in Israel as in Arab countries, it's not implausible that Israel -- having much closer ties with our country -- would simply patent more of them in the US. It's certainly conceivable that the USPTO is less likely to grant patents to applicants from Arab countries. And it's very possible that Arab culture may just care less about patenting ideas -- this WIPO page reports that some Muslims "have highlighted the claimed illegality of the very concept of intellectual property from the point of view of the Islamic Sharia." I don't know the answers to all these questions. But then I'm not the one trying to attach some higher meaning to patent counts. Godless strongly disagrees: Joel, Joel, Joel...methinks your animosity towards copyright law has waylaid your better judgement. I grant that Israel has closer ties with the US, and that the idea of intellectual property may be unpopular among some Arabs, and that many (most?) patents issued are for stupid things. All of these things are factors that one might have to take into account if the situation was a close call. But it is not a close call. Even the most uncharitable estimate of "real patent ratio" (defined as the ratio of justifiably patented ideas to all patents) will indicate that Israel has by far the lead in real patents. I've bolded the most impressive part of your post:

In raw numbers, Israel produces 20 times as many patentable ideas as the Arab countries. Corrected for population, Israelis overall produce patentable new ideas 587.65 times more per person than Arabs overall. Israeli companies in Israel produce patentable ideas 1114.96 times more per person than Arab companies in Arab countries.

Those ratios are unbelievable. Say what you will about the unfairness of patents and/or the lack of a higher meaning in patent counts. I will still bet $100 to $1 that a plot of "number of US patents" vs. IQ for a cross section of the population will produce a very strong positive correlation. In other words - the massive disparity in patent counts is a (noisy) predictor of the underlying population's IQ. One may claim that patent counts are a function of environment (e.g. government) rather than population IQ, but this theory would predict a narrowing of the patent-count-per-capita differential in a comparison of (say) US Jews and US Arabs. I don't know if such statistics are available, but I doubt they would support the "wholly environment" theory. Digression: Note, however, that this is not a wholesale indictment of Arab IQ. It's possible (likely?) that their mean is close to that of European whites once in first world societies as population genetic studies indicate that they're quite close to Europeans. Others have reason to disagree on this count. I for one would be interested in an account of the technical achievements of expatriate Arabs. (Aside - Iranians have indeed made their mark in science, but they are not Arabs and so do not count here.) Of course, in the end this sort of thing will be truly resolved once we have the hapmap and a better understanding of which genes control intelligence. At that point we will be able to tell retrospectively whether it was Islam or an IQ deficit that was slowing the Arab world's development. Note that there are very few populations who can compete with the Jews in science. The Arab-Jew patent disparity is just one of many consequences of this fact, and I wouldn't be surprised if (say) US Jews had a similar advantage in patent counts over US non-Jewish whites. In other words, there is a meaning to the disparity. Joel again But a large part of the reason why it's not a close call is that the Arabs simply aren't patenting things in the US. No Yemenites got US Patents last year. Does that mean Yemenites are dumb? Or does it mean they're not inventive? Or does it mean they're not interested in US patents? Maybe some combination of the three. But the piece I linked to never bothers to consider the subtleties, and that's really my gripe.

"the daughter-in-law who doesn’t speak" Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

"the daughter-in-law who doesn’t speak" Virginia Postrel links to this fascinating article describing how $4000 peanut-grinding machines are improving the lives of women in Mali:
Girls who were kept home to help with the domestic work from dawn to dusk are now going to school. Mothers and grandmothers who would have spent a lifetime pounding and grinding now have the free time to take literacy courses and start up small businesses, or to expand family farming plots and nurture a cash crop such as rice.
Sure seems like a better way to help the third world than loaning millions of dollars to despots.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

From The Economist This is the subscription-only section-so I just cut & pasted. It's pretty funny.... (for what it's worth, I like tall women....) The long and the short of it Aug 15th 2002 From The Economist print edition Short women have more children than tall ones THAT tall men have more sexual partners and more children than their shorter brethren is well known. The reason is that height in men is attractive to women. But it is a comment on who the authors of such studies usually are that the opposite question—how a woman's height affects the number of children she has—has not been asked until now. Daniel Nettle, of the Open University in Britain, has done so. And the answer, soon to be published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, is that women do better reproductively if they are shorter than average. On the face of it, that is surprising. Given that tall men have more children, and that height is, at least in part, inherited, it might be expected that men would prefer tall women because they would produce tall (and so sexually successful) sons. But that is not the case. A woman's height is not a consideration in the eyes of most men. However, an analysis of the lives of 5,000 women born in Britain in March 1958 suggests that short women have larger families than tall ones, an effect that is independent of such factors as the tendency of people from poor families to be shorter than those from rich ones. Dr Nettle suggests it is because short women become fertile earlier (the same hormonal processes that terminate growth are also responsible for sexual maturation). This increased number of children would counterbalance the sexiness of the sons of tall women, resulting in equal numbers of grandchildren and explaining why height per se is irrelevant to a woman's attractiveness to men. Tough on short men, though.

In other words... Is it just me, or are they obliquely saying "Thanks for kicking our ass?"

The American response--"Is the Use of Force Ever Morally Justified?"--is brief, courteous, and to the point. It nails the Germans on their incoherent sometime-pacifism: While condemning the very notion of just war, they yet praise the United States for "an outstanding contribution" in World War II.

I can understand the German guilt complex and all, but I still think this is vaguely amusing.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/15/2002 11:08:00 AM | |

Judge me not for the content of my character-but the color of my skin.... The New Republic points out that there is another sign that the Bush administration has been seduced by the central principle of the racialist Left: Race trumps everything. Why else would Bush stack the spokesmen at his Waco conference with minorities and have them get up and assert views at great variance with the norm of their racial community? The Bushies must at some level assume that Americans as a whole have accepted this view-that the messenger and not the message are what counts. It is somewhat reminiscent of UC presidents lamenting the possibility that poor Asian and white students could take the spots that should go to middle-class Latinos and blacks if there was any justice in the world....

The reflection of evil The Los Angeles Times has a thorough article (the free registration is worth it for this article) on Leni Riefenstahl. I don't know what to think about this. I suspect that this woman was more involved in the National Socialist genocide than she lets on (as a bystander). On the other hand I suspect this is true of most Germans (I don't subscribe to the extreme thesis of Hitler's Willing Executioners, that I think is a warped inversion of anti-Semitism). All humans wish to think they are good. I remember watching a film on the Holocaust and one scene that showed a German soldier refusing to shoot Jews that have been lined up. The commanding officer forces him to stand in line with the Jews, and he himself is shot. This is the sort of courage Leni Riefenstahl no doubt would never have shown. And yet, does that detract from her greatness as a film-maker? What if Leni had been a Communist film-maker lionizing Stalin who declared that they didn't know the details of his terror?

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

This is awesome I work on the bio side of things, but here's someone doing cool work on the circuit side:

"The next version," Dobelle tells me, "may have enough resolution to use while driving in traffic." In fact, since this is only a simple camera we're talking about, one could imagine the addition of any number of superhuman optical features: night vision, X-ray vision, microscopic focus, long-range zoom. Forget the camera even; there's no reason you couldn't jack directly into the Net. In the future, the disabled may prove more abled; we may all want their prostheses.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/14/2002 08:04:00 PM | |

The Language Instinct Language gene? So hints Nature. This very tentative, and I don't think this solves very much, but it is a step in the right direction. Here is the introduction:
Chimpanzees lack key parts of a language gene that is critical for human speech, say researchers. The finding may begin to explain why only humans use spoken language.
Language is obviously a rather complex multifaceted trait-but perhaps a piece of the jigsaw has been filled in on the genomic level? Only time will tell.... Update: Another story on the same research.

Clones away This Wired story is about a reproductive cloning activist. I think those who favor human reproductive cloning are being disingenuous when they assert that it will be safe. But those who oppose reproductive cloning on the grounds we can't know what negative effects it will have on the clone make me a bit nervous-will we have parents not bring to term children that we know will be severely disabled? We are, for better or worse, a society where people have the freedom to bring into the world children that might lead painful lives. Ramesh Ponnuru over Tech Central Station makes a non-theological case against cloning that is closely tied to the pro-life position. One can make a non-theological case against abortion-rights and all sorts of reproductive technology that puts the fetus at risk. On the other hand, Ramesh's position makes me wonder-if the embryo has the same rights as a human being, than its destruction is wanton killing, and as some have pointed out, there is an abortion holocaust going on. And yet only a tiny minority of pro-life activists will advocate physical means to stop abortion. It seems that is where Ramesh's axioms would logically lead.

The Mind of God Charles Murtaugh has some ruminations on cosmology and theology. Charles notes:
I'm the last thing from a cosmologist, so I guess I'm more susceptible to "God of the gaps" arguments when they come from this quarter than from biology. If you want some more apologetics on a cosmological basis, check out "Anthropic Coincidences", by physicist Stephen Barr. Readers may also be interested in this webpage describing the philosophy and science of "eternal recurrence," an ancient idea given new life first by Nietszche and now, apparently, by science.
The intersection between religion and science often leads to cosmology. The line between cosmogony and cosmology is a fine one. Sitting under the great bowl of the black night sky I suspect even the most hardy of creationists sometimes have an urge to cower like gibbering monkeys. The above quote from Charles indicates the questions that percolate up from the tumult in the field of cosmology don't often lead to Christ or Confucius-being so vague as to offer the glimmer of vindication for any belief. In fact, the idea of eternal recurrence is at odds with traditional Judeo-Christian thought-and harkens back to pagan Greek ideas of cyclical rather than progressive history. Scientists have their own axes to grind-surprise! The Steady State Theory championed by Fred Hoyle-even in the face of the cosmic background radiation and the vindication of the expanding universe Big Bang Theory-was appealing to physicists because its conception of an eternal cosmos did away with gods. But in the end the method of science overwhelmed the bias entrenched in the scientific community and Big Bang Theory (with the opening for Big Bang Theology) came to rule the roost. Of course, the story did not end there. Inflation (thank you Alan Guth) and its variants stormed the field in the 1980s and the previous decade of the 90s gave the observational astronomers their time in the sun as anomalous findings reintroduced heresies like the cosmological constant into the parlance. In the end, it seems that this is a time of change in cosmology. When I was a high school student in the early 90s the books I read seemed to focus more on the Grand Unified Theory instead of cosmology. Now I suspect the books aimed at the lay reader are more concerned with cosmology because the theorists have so much strange data to chew on (and when are you going to figure out dark matter for gods sakes!). The intelligent design folks attack the core of modern biology. Those who see God or gods in the very fabric of the universe are a different sort altogether, nibbling at the edges and farthest reaches of speculative physics. They ask why are we here at all? For a long time physicists have answered with the anthropic principle or the multiple universe theory. But I always feel this area of physics starts to melt into philosophy. Does it really have any meaning to ask about the beginning of the universe when ideas like beginning and end are drawn from the cosmos itself? These questions touch those regions of our brains that ask why instead of how. Physicists are tempted to be mystics-pandering to the public and boosting their ego by thinking they know why. And yet am I the only one that feels we humans are simply catfish at the bottom of a muddy lake marveling at the shapes that dance along the surface? Whatever God Charles Murtaugh believes in could have created this universe. And yet perhaps we are the dream of the eternal Brahma. Perhaps we come from the cosmic egg. I really don't know. Who doesn't walk down the street and ask sometimes-why? Why are we here at all. What is this miracle of existence? I think religion answers this sometimes. I don't believe this is religion's primary role-but I think it might be the seed of faith. The puzzlement that we exist haunts every human, from McDonald's clerk to MIT physicist. I want to know-but I'm not going to grasp at whatever comes along to satisfy my need. This is a big-an extraordinary-question. It will require an answer that befits its depth and gravity, and alas I find it hard to ascribe this universe to a Semitic sky god or a conjuring of Indian mystics. Perhaps our evolution as over-curious hominids precludes us from grasping our own natures. Perhaps the question of why will have to be answered when have engineered ourselves to the next step in self-awareness (instead of catfish, think carp).

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Islam may change Over at his website Daniel Pipes says that Islam can change. Here are some fascinating nuggets that he presents about Turkey:
This can be done. One recent example: In May, the Turkish religious authorities ruled - completely contrary to Islamic custom - to permit women to pray next to men and to attend mosque services while menstruating. The High Religious Affairs Board decided this on the (distinctly modern) basis that men and women are "equal and complementary beings." Next month, this same board takes up the extremely delicate topic of permitting Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, when it will perhaps again rule against centuries of practice. If Turkish theologians can execute such changes, why not theologians in other countries, too? And if practices concerning women can be changed, why not those concerning jihad or the role of Islamic law as a whole? Islam can adjust to modernity no less than have other faiths.
This really shocks me. I haven't been to a mosque in 10 years in the United States-I can't imagine a day when American Muslims would allow men and women to pray next to each other. Neither can I imagine American Muslims being happy with non-Muslim men marrying Muslim women (Muslims believe a religion is usually dictated through the father-so men like Arafat can marry Christians, but you rarely see the inverse). Maybe American Islam has changed since I last checked in, but I suspect that Turkish Islam is more progressive than the Islam practiced in this country. It is also heartening. I only wish we had a few centuries in which to soak Islam with liberalism.

digital music's future Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

digital music's future BusinessWeek is running a pretty good special feature on Digital Music's Future. "The Labels Start Turning up the Volume" describes the struggles of the record industry as it tries to develop internet distribution models:
The industry's crisis is also one of identity -- as described in the 16th century by Niccolo Machiavelli in "The Prince." Machiavelli wrote: "Innovation makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old regime. And only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new. Their support is indifferent, partly from fear and partly because they are generally incredulous, never really trusting new things unless they have tested them by experience."
"Music Clubs' Newfound Clout" tells how BMG and Columbia house are starting to leverage the mountains of customer data they have:
To that end, in October BMG will launch a new program that expose Club members to new artists. Based on members' past purchases, the Club will bundle a free CD with the regular monthly selection. By successfully targeting customers' tastes, BMG hopes build the club's reputation as a trustworthy source of music recommendations, not to mention selling more music. BMG Music can introduce customers to new artists they might like.
But the last two articles are the most interesting. "A Rhapsody in Green for Classic Fare?" tells how classical orchestras, deemed unprofitable by the record industry, have found ways to make money on their own via the internet:
"What gradually happened was that the labels shifted all the risk to the artist," says Philadelphia Orchestra President Joseph Kluger. "Our response is 'We're not going to take it anymore.'" So now, "we're looking to [cut out the] labels -- to find ways to electronically distribute our music." [...] None of the orchestras receive up-front money for recordings or streaming, but they do get two-thirds of the royalties while Andante keeps one-third. "It's the world upside down. The orchestras feel empowered as they never have before," says Alain Coblence, Andante's CEO.
Saving the best for last, "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" describes how independent musicians, unable to get signed by the record industry, have begun to profitably self-promote and distribute online:
Ian's story is typical: Most artists owe their labels up to $1 million for producing and promoting their music, estimates McLeod. They're supposed to pay off that debt with record sales. But 18 out of 19 records fail, and most deals leave artists in debt. By contrast, artists who sell their work independently usually garner $8 on a CD retailing for $16, instead of $3 or less when they record for a label, estimates Danny Goldberg, chairman and CEO of New York-based independent label Artemis Records, which has produced hits like Who Let The Dogs Out.
The articles are all worth reading -- they're full of interesting ideas and are a change of pace from the usual "RIAA vs Napster" carping over IP and piracy.

Subversive art blog-no really! Just got a tip about this new art/culture related blog. Called 2 Blowhards. They link to Steve Sailer and the Friederich Hayek Center so they can't be that bad. Until my eyes start glazing over too much (I am a self-professed cultural philistine) they're on my left-links...check 'em out. Oh, and I went to my brown brother M. Night's new film yesterday. The best thing about the film was the trailer for Sweet Home Alabama-a chik flick to be sure, but Reese looked so clean and sterile-I considered not brushing my teeth later that evening.... (I didn't think the sign in Signs was that good of a twist-I'm quite obviously of the type #2 that Mel Gibson describes, and I don't mind that the whole film was about how type #1 is the way to be, but it was so slow and the pay off wasn't even as good as Unbreakable in my opinion)

Monday, August 12, 2002

move over, hollywood Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

move over, hollywood Move over, Hollywood, you're not the only ones trying to outlaw threats to your business model. Wired tells how Indian ISPs, losing internet telephony business to instant messaging services, wants them declared illegal:
When connecting to the Internet, a subscriber pays an ISP between 10 and 30 cents per hour, plus 10 cents per minute for Internet telephony. If the subscriber voice chats on an instant messenger, the ISP loses that revenue. Faced with these huge losses, ISPs are trying to stifle the competition by making the case that voice chatting on instant messenger isn't legal.

Clones for Jesus? This article is about a couple who claim that their having a cloned child is "the will of God." I've always wondered how it is this God's will seems to accord with the desperate ravings of people with no hope. It seems that the Calvinists had it wrong-God does not predestine our fates-we determine God's will.

Parting the waters again.... Charles Murtaugh has an interesting post on divine intervention in evolution again. Quantum Computing and Biology This is a response to Steve, too long to paste into the comments section (and I was too lazy to split it over two posts.). "Therefore, despite your outright rejection of McFadden's hypothesis (plus your curious assertion that a professor in molecular biology "doesn't know what he's talking about" - hell even Behe knows what he's talking about, he's just seriously biased), I will maintain an open mind. " I'm sorry if I came across as insensitive, Steve. I think you're a smart guy, and that this (being out of your field) might have seemed reasonable. But the fact is that McFadden doesn't know what he's talking about. I was wrong in the above when I stated that only a physicist or creationist could have come up with McFadden's theory. The third possibility is a fellow like Mcfadden - a biologist who doesn't understand the physics behind what he's proposing. I don't think that reflexive respect for McFadden because he's a molecular biologist is justified - his ideas must be judged on their merits. And in this case, there are none. I read his paper, and my objection stands. Let me give more detail: A student of quantum mechanics (or of quantum computing) is aware that quantum superposition states such as the one described are fragile . It is quite difficult to prevent quantum states from becoming entangled with their environment through a measurement and thereby decohering. One must understand that proteins are macromolecules , huge things that are comprised of many thousands of atoms and hundreds of amino acid subunits. Their synthesis does not happen in the blink of an eye - much of the cell's machinery is devoted to making them. Even to add a single amino acid requires the intervention of the whole ribosomal apparatus, a tRNA, ATP to fuel the process, and many other cellular components besides. The idea that an amino acid somewhere in the middle of the chain could somehow be added without interacting with its environment until the protein's interaction with lactose - which is the essence of what McFadden proposes - is frankly ludicrous. The key assumption that McFadden makes - that mutant and non-mutant states are indistinguishable to the cell until interacting with lactose - is incorrect, because mutant and non-mutant states are distinguished by their (slightly) different synthesis and folding processes . In other words, there is no way that the wave function could remain coherent enough to present a superposition of active and inactive protein in interacting with lactose. Even more damningly, if McFadden's hypothesis had any merit, we wouldn't see the phenomenon isolated to this special case - the "adaptive mutation" effect cannot be duplicated with a different strain, a different plasmid, or a different selection (e.g. His). It's an artifact of this particular system, as described in great detail by Roth. I will agree that the potential of adaptive mutation itself is no challenge to a materialist worldview. The main barrier so far has been the development of a sensor/actuator feedback system sophisticated enough to take in environmental stresses and convert them into a modification of the appropriate genes. This has been achieved to some degree in eukaryotes with sexual selection, and will be achieved to a greater degree when we develop genetic engineering. However, the mechanisms proposed for prokaryotes (such as random mutagenesis of the genome, debunked by a back of the envelope calculation) simply do not hold water. McFadden's paper may use the language of physics and biology, but his neglect of fundamental principles makes it akin to a treatise on a perpetual motion machine. Just because it "sounds like science" doesn't mean it's scientifically sound.

Does anyone know more about this? This is kind of old news, but if true... this is stunning. I'm not sure whether the Chinese ammo's presence in Afghanistan supports Debka's theory - it could have been stolen from China, given to Al Qaeda by Chinese Muslims, or given by the Chinese government. Has anyone has seen the CNN photos of the ammo cache?

Chinese-Made Ammo in al Qaeda Caves Confirms DEBKAfile's October 6 Expose of Chinese Aid to Bin Laden 17 December, 2001 DEBKAfile was the first publication to reveal that China had sent thousands of armed men into Afghanistan in support of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Our first story came out on October 6, 2001, one day before the US went to war in Afghanistan. Monday, December 17, Pentagon officials aboard the plane taking US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Brussels, revealed that large quantities of Chinese-manufactured ammo were discovered in the Tora Bora cave hideouts of al Qaeda. They were speaking to CNN?s senior defense correspondent James McIntyre, who ran the story with close-up shots of the cache. It was shown to include mortar shells, anti-tank rockets and ammunition for various types of automatic rifles and machine guns of Chinese manufacture, abandoned by fleeing al Qaeda men. DEBKAfile continued to run with the story through different stages of the Afghanistan War. Follow-ups, verified by other media, appeared on October 20 and November 15. In the first, we reported 15 Chinese fighters found dead in Kandahar. They were part of an escort convoy for one of bin Laden?s senior lieutenants, Basir al Masri, commander of the Arab contingents in Jalalabad, which came under US bombing as it left Kandahar. In the second, David Chater of Sky television attested to the presence of Chinese fighting alongside the Taliban and al Qaeda in the battles of Konduz and Khanabad in northern Afghanistan.  Now comes the CNN report, which confirms that Beijing sent to bin Laden, not only men but also quantities of weapons. John Stanton, in a feature article in the December issue of National Defense Magazine, reports that ?DEBKA caused a stir several weeks ago when it published an unconfirmed report that Chinese troops were fighting alongside the Taliban??Chinese-Made Ammo in al Qaeda Caves Confirms DEBKAfile?s October 6 Expose of Chinese Aid to Bin Laden 17 December, 2001 DEBKAfile was the first publication to reveal that China had sent thousands of armed men into Afghanistan in support of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Our first story came out on October 6, 2001, one day before the US went to war in Afghanistan. Monday, December 17, Pentagon officials aboard the plane taking US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Brussels, revealed that large quantities of Chinese-manufactured ammo were discovered in the Tora Bora cave hideouts of al Qaeda. They were speaking to CNN?s senior defense correspondent James McIntyre, who ran the story with close-up shots of the cache. It was shown to include mortar shells, anti-tank rockets and ammunition for various types of automatic rifles and machine guns of Chinese manufacture, abandoned by fleeing al Qaeda men. DEBKAfile continued to run with the story through different stages of the Afghanistan War. Follow-ups, verified by other media, appeared on October 20 and November 15. In the first, we reported 15 Chinese fighters found dead in Kandahar. They were part of an escort convoy for one of bin Laden?s senior lieutenants, Basir al Masri, commander of the Arab contingents in Jalalabad, which came under US bombing as it left Kandahar. In the second, David Chater of Sky television attested to the presence of Chinese fighting alongside the Taliban and al Qaeda in the battles of Konduz and Khanabad in northern Afghanistan.  Now comes the CNN report, which confirms that Beijing sent to bin Laden, not only men but also quantities of weapons. John Stanton, in a feature article in the December issue of National Defense Magazine, reports that DEBKA caused a stir several weeks ago when it published an unconfirmed report that Chinese troops were fighting alongside the Taliban.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/12/2002 06:03:00 AM | |

Conscript vs. professional Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Conscript vs. professional Earlier, I posted something rather "dovish." Well-this being the blogosphere godless jumped on me. He makes some good points, I won't get into it with him on the Iraq and War on Terrorism issues because frankly I don't find them that interesting in the details. But this caught my attention:
A volunteer is a more effective soldier than a conscript....
Really? On first blush this seems obvious-a volunteer is always more motivated than a conscript. A volunteer is self-selected. But it's more complicated than that in my opinion. I'm going to take this as a general assertion, though I admit godless might have only said it in a particular context (our once and future Iraq war). First, what about the history? Are professional armies always superior? I used the example of Carthage vs. Rome earlier. During the time of the Punic Wars-Rome deployed a citizen army supplemented by levies from her allies. This system was flexible enough to withstand the onslaughts of Carthage's forces-where mercenaries were a large contingent. The Roman army was a "conscript" force until about 100 BCE-until the Consulship of Gaius Marius-who began recruiting from the proletariat of the city. These men did not have the resources to outfit themselves, and so became wards of the state and their general, in other words professional soldiers. After this point the role of the citizen-soldier declined, until you reach the late Empire after 300 CE when the armies of Rome were not even Roman, but rather foederatii-barbarian allies-and German mercenaries (the proportion of Italians decreased in the army from 90% to less than 10% in 200 years between the reign of Augustus and that of Severus in 200 CE). The early Roman model had an illustrious predecessor-the citizen armies of the Greek polis. These produced the phalanxes that defeated the Persian armies that invaded their motherland. And though the Persian armies had a professional core-they too were formed by conscripts. But here are two further twists: The Greeks were defending their homeland, and they were citizens while the Persians were subjects. I believe that citizen armies are superior to professional armies in defense of the homeland. Citizens have high stakes-their families and their property. Citizens are willing to put their lives on the line because they fight for both principle and self-interest. In addition-there is a difference between conscript levies that are pressed into service by decree from a distant monarch, subjects, and conscript levies from middle-class that have a sense of patriotism-nationalism by any other name. Iraq's army is made up of subjects. Israel's army is made up of citizens. Both are conscript armies with permanent professional cores. Of course the United States army is made up of professionals who are citizens (well-most, I belive there are green card holders and some foreign nationals in the Marines). In addition-as I said, soldiers are self-selected. The American armed forces are disproportionately black, southern and conservative. It does not represent this country (the officer corp is as Republican as NAACP membership is Democratic). From personal experience, there are two types of soldiers I've known of. The first type are those with few prospects due to a variety of reasons-some under their control (intelligence) and others not (lack of money for college because of poor parents). Others are those in college who are in ROTC or those who join the military explicitly to earn money for college. I think if there was random conscription, or even mandatory conscription, the average IQ of the soldier in the armed forces might increase. Would the morale be that much lower? Though I don't doubt the patriotism of any American soldier-many of them joined the armed forces not because they dreamed of becoming a soldier, but because they saw it as a way out of poverty or a way toward a college education. This indicates to me that the conscript's motivation to fight might not be that much lower than the current volunteer. Now, specifically in the case of the War on Terrorism-90% of Americans support it with enthusiasm. I don't think conscription would effect morale that much. The War on Terrorism is in some ways more like a war of homeland defense, as the perception is that the aggressor came to American soil and attacked American property and life. Now, in the end, do I support conscription? I'm too much of a libertarian too be able to sign on. But I simply want to bring up the point that it is not always good to have an all-volunteer professional army. In the long term, when an army begins to diverge culturally from the nation that it defends, it starts to resemble a mercenary force. The late Roman army was predominantly made up of Germans-defending an Empire of Latin and Greek speakers. The current Iranian regime is bringing in Arabs from Lebanon. The army of Fiji, which is 50% East Indian, is all native Fijian (a similar situation exists in Guyana, an all-black army serves a nation that is half Indian). The transition to a professional army seems inevitable in any society-but especially if it is not a homogenous polity, it often indicates its subsequent decline and fall. Godless responds:

It does not represent this country (the officer corp is as Republican as NAACP membership is Democratic).

First of all, I think that those who sign up to defend our country and (potentially) kill those who threaten us will be far less likely to be Democrats. As just one factor, the military is mostly male, and males are more likely to vote Republican. Secondly, while I'm certainly not an uncritical fan of the Republicans , I would much rather have someone with right-wing leanings in a military position than one with left-wing leanings. In fact, even though I voted for Gore, on 9/11 I was glad that Bush rather than Gore was president. Bush certainly did a better job than Gore would have on Afghanistan, though since then his tenure has been singularly unimpressive. Anyway, the reason you see these differences is that there is much to the characterization of the Democrats as the "mommy" party and the Republicans as the "daddy" party. The sorts of things the left stands for (mercy / compassion / sharing / empathy / sympathy for the perceived underdog) are at odds with what the right stands for (merit / independence / law & order / tough love / efficiency). There is a time and place for the left's perspective, particularly when deciding to go to war, but once embarked I think that I prefer the right's. To wit:

The transition to a professional army seems inevitable in any society-but especially if it is not a homogenous polity, it often indicates its subsequent decline and fall.

I'm not much of a fan of predictors that augur the fall of a civilization - they are often selectively chosen and their predictive value is more Nostradamic than Newtonian. When the professional military of the United States becomes a threat to neoliberal democracy and the free market, then I'll agree that we have a problem, but I don't think we're anywhere near that point (military-industrial complex notwithstanding).

I think if there was random conscription, or even mandatory conscription, the average IQ of the soldier in the armed forces might increase. Would the morale be that much lower?

Morale isn't the only issue - efficiency is. If you could convince me that a conscript army would be a more effective fighting force than a professional military, then conscription might be something to consider. But at the present time, I'm not aware of studies that compare the effectiveness of voluntary armies with that of conscript armies, and in any case I doubt that the difference would be high enough to offset the cost in morale. Would we be better served by having soldiers with higher IQ? Perhaps, but there is an opportunity cost involved in putting such people on the front lines. I'd much rather have them developing weaponry safely at home. The fact that the average IQ of a soldier is low is something of a red herring, because advanced military research is done by high IQ civilians, not by soldiers. The point being: the force does not suffer a lack of materiel for want of high IQ volunteers. (link included so you know it was not a typo.) Basically, I think that the whole "reinstitute the draft" thing smacks of egalitarianism for its own sake. It seems to me that efficiency is a far more important criterion. If our ability to prosecute war effectively was boosted by conscription (perhaps in a time of massive casualties) then it would behoove us to entertain the notion of a draft. Again, my point is that efficiency, rather than ideology (whether pro-draft egalitarian or anti-draft libertarian) should determine whether or not we have a draft. And I'm not convinced that a force of conscripts would be better at killing than a force of trained professionals.

Drinking while brown Kolkata Libertarian points me this story which indicates that Indians and alcohol do not mix. From the story:
Neil Fisher, author of the study, told TNN, "I wouldn’t like to make racist generalisations, but our seven-year study did start out because we suspected that there were more Asians with alcoholic liver disease than there should be." Fisher’s study is set in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, where Indians constitute 11 per cent of the population. It found a 100 per cent increase in liver disease, up from six per cent in 1993. The rate of increase, said Fisher, was the same for white men, white women and Indian men, but the Indians were four times as likely to die.
The author of the study-thank gods-overcame his fear of "racist generalizations" and noted the obvious, that group x dies from ailment y at far higher rates than the general population. Note-this is a matter of life and death, and yet the researcher that published these findings was still quite nervous about being racist! The study also adds further ethnic detail:
Eighty per cent of the Asian deaths documented were of Sikhs, five to 10 per cent Hindus and five per cent or less Muslims, Fisher added.
It would be nice if they noted what the statistical breakdown of the 11% Indian population was-as the above figures make no sense without that context.

Sunday, August 11, 2002

the difference between science and politics Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

the difference between science and politics The NYT is also running a piece on a Congressionally-mandated study that, like earlier studies, found no evidence linking certain substances to breast cancer:
Dr. Winn points to the study, which examined blood and urine from more than 3,000 Long Island women for evidence of exposure to DDT, PCB's, chlordanes or chemicals from cigarette smoke. The scientists also looked at carpet dust, tap water and yard soil for evidence that the chemicals were in the women's environment. But those who got breast cancer were no more likely to have been exposed to the chemicals than those who didn't. The data, she said, "were very, very conclusive." The chemicals that were examined were thought to be plausible culprits — largely because they could cause cancer in mice. Still, Dr. Winn said, "In the study, it is clear that they are not associated with breast cancer."
But, as the article points out, "the drive to blame something other than chance is a strong one," and so the leader of "1 in 9: The Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition" is unhappy with having no one to blame:
"I refuse to accept the fact that they didn't find anything," she said. "They didn't find anything conclusive because in the scientific world it has to be exact." But, she added, "they couldn't say 100 percent that there wasn't a link." And so, Ms. Barish said, the story is not over. "We need to do a lot more studies," she said.
The article doesn't mention at what point Barish would be satisfied with the studies, though it's not unreasonable to guess that it will be when the studies produce the answer she wants hear and when they finger the culprit she already blames.

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conspiracy theory The NYT has neat article on the mathematics and biology of coincidence, with the "strange cluster" of microbiologist deaths the underlying thread:
As a species, we appear to be biologically programmed to see patterns and conspiracies, and this tendency increases when we sense that we're in danger. ''We are hard-wired to overreact to coincidences,'' says Persi Diaconis. ''It goes back to primitive man. You look in the bush, it looks like stripes, you'd better get out of there before you determine the odds that you're looking at a tiger. The cost of being flattened by the tiger is high. Right now, people are noticing any kind of odd behavior and being nervous about it.''
Godless comments: I think that "jumping to conclusions" happens because fully Bayesian inference is computationally expensive :

Legal scholars have recently advanced a behavioral approach to the law and economics school of thought, replacing the traditionally assumed rational actor with an empirically based “boundedly rational” decision maker. This decision maker is affected by emotion and motivation and has only limited cognitive resources. To function effectively in a complex world, however, boundedly rational individuals must rely on cognitive heuristics - simplifying mental shortcuts - that inevitably lead people to make some systematic decision errors. Consequently, their behavior deviates from that predicted by rational actor models.

Saturday, August 10, 2002

By the way I saw this on Wesley Dabney's nice little site. What the hell is Bush thinking? As Wesley says:

The economy is in a shambles, we are about to start at war, and Bush is golfing for a month. If I have learned anything being in the Army, image management is more important that acutual job performance. You can't take a month off from work during a crisis and expect the American people to understand.

I mean, come on - laziness is one thing, but at least you should make some effort to hide it. I don't remember where I saw the statistic, but I remember reading that Bush has taken more vacation time than any president - ever. And Bush partisans - please don't give me the excuse that "he doesn't need to be in the Oval Office to get work done", because it doesn't hold water. When you're golfing with your dad, you're taking a vacation - you're not working.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/10/2002 06:16:00 PM | |

Another Hannibal story Thanks to paleowackotarian Lew Rockwell for pointing me to this story about Hannibal and the new films based on him. Race is again an issue.
It all makes for a great story, but if the Americans really want to go for authenticity, they should cast a Semite from Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria or even Palestine in the lead. Ah! Not such good box-office.
Not to be a prig about this-but perhaps they should teach the bloke the languages of the time-after all, Hannibal did not speak English!

Your Warblogger problem-and mine.... I've never considered myself a Warblogger, though somehow Gene Expression is listed on Warblogger Watch (I suspect they believe we wage a war against the disabled-actually we try and have a more puffed-up self-image, we style ourselves Darwin's Wolves, devouring the ignorant to sate our intellectual hungers). I value Instapundit greatly, but find myself ignoring most of his links to pro-war stuff just because I've seen it over and over and over.... Though I come from a far land, the United States concerns me more than distant despotates. Occasionally-godless does post an Iraq related blurb. But I think both of us would much rather wage war against the enemies within-the gullible, the infirm, the moronic and the swarthy-skinned! (OK-that was a joke, I'm rather more than swarthy myself-and some would say the former as well) I guess my old libertarian-leanings show through in my lack of enthusiasm for war and foreign entanglements. My opinion toward the Israel issue for instance is that we should treat it with a not-so-benign neglect. Jews and Muslims in the "Holy Land" seem only to see the hard cruel face of their God-let them bask in His glare and reap the fruits of their own ill will. Again, here godless dissents, the Jews are too brainy for him to surrender to the clutches of Arabs who seem let their reptilian brain do the thinking. A high score on a MENSA-certified test always turns godless' hard-heart soft.... But for me, I have to say that the most crucial thing is that it is not me and mine who will do the fighting. I do not know anyone who's an active duty soldier-though I am acquainted with a reservist here and there. Most of those who I care about are scattered through graduate schools or bohemian enclaves along the Left coast and clustered around the edges of Eastern Ivory Towers. The men and women who will bleed and die simply are name-tags without faces to me. I agree with the Warbloggers that we need to hammer the Islamists down and beat them on the forge of liberalism into a shape more accommodating to peace and prosperity. And yet-the hammer that we will use will spark with the blood of men and women. It is a hammer of flesh and bone, not dead black iron. The United States army is a volunteer force, yes, but they are not mercenaries to dispatch. They are not samurais obeying the dictates of their daimyos like clock-work automatons. I'm not going to romanticize soldiers and soldiering of course. The few former active duty soldiers I did meet who had cashed in and were making good on the promise of college were crass and hard men. That being said-it is their very fallibility, their humanity that should make us think twice. Of course a common retort is what is an army for but attack to the enemy? Well, to defend the homeland actually. Projecting one's might on a whim to batter those who might threaten us typifies the behavior of a totalitarian state where the head of the snake is the autocrat who views human beings as living chess pieces, animated wood to smash upon the board of play without thought for the families that such actions might effect. Of course I bow to the seeming inevitability of hostilities. I genuflect to facts at hand which indicate that the many headed hydra of Islamism must be decapitated in its homelands. But I will be honest, for all the libertarian I was, I might rather prefer that we Americans draft a citizen army, one out of many by lot, so that we might all bear the risks upon our shoulders. I would rather that we were Romans called up by our Republic, right or wrong, than sending away hired mercenaries of Carthage, reflecting the avaricious mercantile polity that burns the bones of their firstborn to their cruel pagan gods as some of our enemies accuse us to be. Update from Godless: I have to say that I disagree with Razib on several points. First of all, my position on Israel is a bit more nuanced than he makes out. See here for more details. As for the topics he brings up above, let's take them in turn:

The United States army is a volunteer force, yes, but they are not mercenaries to dispatch. They are not samurais obeying the dictates of their daimyos like clock-work automatons.

We pay soldiers to defend the country and kill people who are a threat to our country. If the nation decides that a fight is necessary, their job is to fight. I don't think it's justifiable to encourage soldiers to shirk their responsibility.

Projecting one's might on a whim to batter those who might threaten us typifies the behavior of a totalitarian state where the head of the snake is the autocrat who views human beings as living chess pieces, animated wood to smash upon the board of play without thought for the families that such actions might effect.

Huh? Are you claiming that a first strike would make the US indistinguishable from a "totalitarian state"? I strongly disagree with you here, Razib. The fact is that a pre-emptive strike can very well promote the cause of liberty. The obvious example is (of course) Hitler pre-1939...had a united Europe struck then, we wouldn't have had a much bigger problem later on. As for whether generals view soldiers as "living pawns"...well, I actually think this is true. But it's not as reprehensible as it first sounds. Any executive needs to divorce personal feelings from the task at hand, especially when discharging unpleasant business. Sometimes you have to make hard choices. A CEO's decision to fire thousands of workers to increase profits will (perhaps) benefit those workers who remain. A general's decision to order troops to risk their lives will (perhaps) save the lives of other troops or civilians. Personally, I'd much rather have a general/CEO who could prosecute a war effectively than one who was afraid of sustaining a single casualty. Would such an individual be "uncaring"? Perhaps, but I submit that callousness is far preferable to maundering emotion.

I would rather that we were Romans called up by our Republic, right or wrong, than sending away hired mercenaries of Carthage, reflecting the avaricious mercantile polity that burns the bones of their firstborn to their cruel pagan gods

A volunteer is a more effective soldier than a conscript. A draft would only be necessary if we lacked manpower, and at this point our military doesn't. Yearning for a draft to promote "equality of responsibility" is in my mind wrongheaded. The main point is that we will not prosecute the war more effectively if we have a draft . Indeed, a draft would hurt our war readiness by reducing both morale and the competence of the average soldier. In wartime, I know I would much prefer a competent (if callous) general to a Colin Powell-esque "facilitator". And I would much prefer a rugged, trained, volunteer soldier to a hapless conscript. It seems to me that such a preference is nothing more than a preference for victory over defeat.

Test yourself This article in The Los Angeles Times (free, but annoying registration) goes over the new trend toward self-testing. The FDA is wringing its hands over its impotence and doctors are worried about their roles as gate-keepers. Yeah, people will make stupid decisions, but in the end the more information one has the better. As someone who thinks that nurses can do 80-90% of a typical family practice doctor's job (and friends of mine in medical school-who are going into specialties of course!-agree with me on this point) I think it's a good sign for cheap and easy access if M.D.s are freaking out. One thing that our post-industrial wealth has done is made information professions both more important and less indispensable. Though doctors might not suggest tests-in the end they will be consulted on the ramifications as more and more people find out they have predispositions to illnesses.

Slut! Whore! No, I'm not talking about you! You know who you are. But Charles Murtaugh has an interesting analysis of a K. L. Lopez report on a young evangelical couple that practices "Natural Family Planning" in NRO. Charles points out some interesting things about the assumptions and possible implications of the choices and beliefs that NFP devotees hold.
This sort of begs the question of whether it can be a good thing for people to go around the block a few times before they enter into a marriage. It's hardly uncommon, according to my sources, for a person to stay too long in a relationship because the sex is good, and then to wake up one day and realize that it's been a mistake. I also think that, in the long run, sex becomes less important than emotional connection, and that the latter component of a relationship is much harder to improve -- two people either click as friends, or they don't.
OK, so I started to think about flipping things around like this. My parents, being moderate Muslims think that most western women, and to some extent men, lead slutty whorish lives engaged in premarital sex with people who they date! The horrors, the horrors! And yet, they never find it strange that two people could have a marriage arranged by their parents, meet once or twice, and then go through a marriage ceremony and be expected to copulate with a total stranger! Today in the United States most Muslims don't arrange marriages for their kids where they meet the person only once or twice. There's a little more consultation than that. But there is usually no real dating and the contact is very limited. The fact remains that usually these people engage in sex, often their first time, with someone they really don't know too well-on many levels. In fact, many Indian families now make extensive use of newspapers-basically marriage personals. Again, this carries no patina of license or opprobrium and shame. And yet some of the cultures that breed these attitudes condone the execution of women that are raped because there need to be three male witnesses for a rape, while only one witness is needed for a prosecution of extra/pre-marital sex (who can be the rapist)! So girls, next time some Muslim wacko in a goat-beard gives you a weird look, tell him at least you got to know the guy before you spread your legs-his wife most likely knew his name and profession. Who's the whore in that case? Well-I guess if God says it's OK.... Also, read this old article on "temporary marriage" in Iran. Sprinkle some Holy Water and fornication becomes "flesh of one flesh."

Friday, August 09, 2002

This is Africa's most advanced country-remember that! This article tells the tale of a "minister" in South Africa that claims to be able to cure AIDS. Here is how the story starts:
He is the Rev. Solomon Mahlangu, a former driving instructor who wears French suits, leather shoes and an air of prosperity that is as intoxicating as fine cologne. He claims that his healing hands have pulled the rains from cloudless skies, exorcised wayward spirits and, most important, cured dozens of people suffering from AIDS.
And here is the depressing denouement:
"Some people say I'm making money because I'm driving a Mercedes," said Mr. Mahlangu, who insists that he collects money only during Sunday services. "You get people pointing fingers and saying my powers come from the devil, but I keep on going on. What matters to me is that the people are still flocking in. I'm making a difference."
Oh yeah, he's making a difference. This isn't the first time that South Africa has been overwhelmed by collective mania in the face of desolation. The Mfecane, or "The Crushing" by Shaka Zulu (similar it some ways to Mugabe's current behavior) caused so much tribal dislocation that it was followed by the Xhosa turning to a destructive millenarian cult that instructed them to kill their own cattle! I understand that people are turning to anything to seek refuge from the scourge that is going through their communities-killing their men. But, there is a rather easy alternative to risky behavior-monogamy, monogamy, monogamy! And failing that, polygamy! Certain cultures have social pathologies that are suitable vectors for biological pathologies. We can't turn away from the cruel hard facts. Now South Africans are turning to religion to "cure" themselves. I wish them luck. But why should we help people who won't help themselves? What would your rational response be to a situation where you know that 1 out of 4 individuals carry HIV?

Intelligent Design debate winds down.... Cut on the Bias responds. I'm not going to say much more-but I have a solution to "Intelligent Design" and "Creationism" and whatever quasi/pseudo/semi/non-scientific "theories" are being propounded out there (since there aren't too many fundamentalist Hindus or New Agers in the voting public, we won't be swamped with too many alternatives). President Bush is an evangelical Christian-he's probably sympathetic to ID. Try and have to him pressure people in the right places to give some grants to ID scientists (to be honest-I doubt there would be more than a dozen takers in biology itself-though I could be wrong) and have them do some research within their new paradigm. We keep saying it's not testable, well let's see. After a decade or two-maybe they'll get tired of it. I mean, most of the solutions involve introducing ID as an "alternative" in secondary schools-but what the hell is a marginal but possibly ground-breaking (and if ID pans out-it would be ground-breaking) theory doing getting its start in high schools?!?! In the end, ideology won't matter. Uniformitarianism defeated Catastrophism no matter the entrenched modes of thought. And the United States is after all one country among many-I'm sure China will be doing plenty of research in the area of evolution throughout this century. P.S.: I believe a significant minority of biologists would admit to a belief in a supernatural being that is an intelligent designer. But only a precious few would try to spin this into a scientific theory. From the cosmic scale of galaxy formation toward the miniature level of the quark-theists ultimately see the hand of the Creator for by definition God is the Ground of Being. But it seems only an atheist would strive to "know the mind of God." But the ID crowd beg to differ I suppose....

nash Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

nash I never saw A Beautiful Mind, taking it on good authority that the movie got the economics wrong. Hence it's unsurprising that a Discover article referencing the movie also gets the economics wrong:
Nash showed that in any competitive situation—war, chess, even picking up a date at a bar—if the participants are rational, and they know that their opponents are rational, there can be only one optimal strategy.
In fact, this is not at all what Nash showed. A Nash equilibrium is a set of strategies in which -- keeping his opponents' strategies fixed -- no player can do better by changing his strategy. However, it's wrong to call this "optimal" -- for example, both players in the Prisoner's Dilemma would be better off if they chose a non-Nash strategy. And the "only one" is blatantly wrong -- there are countless examples of games with multiple Nash equilibria. Anyway, apart from that, the article is actually pretty good. And as a bonus, it's about a couple of Caltech economists.

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follow the morals As the auteur behind the brilliant Showgirls, Joe Eszterhas got a lot of respect from me. (For the last 6 years I've had a stuffed owl named Nomi on the dashboard of my car.) And then he proceeded to blow it all with this ludicrous anti-smoking screed in the NYT. Eszterhas looks back on his years of glamorizing smoking in movies:
Remembering all this, I find it hard to forgive myself. I have been an accomplice to the murders of untold numbers of human beings.
Did you catch that? Selling cigarettes is now "murder." And with all the sexy smoking in Basic Instinct, Eszterhas has blood on his hands and a conscience that won't shut up. Rather than suffer alone, he wants to share the wealth:
I don't think smoking is every person's right anymore. I think smoking should be as illegal as heroin.
And we all know how successful prohibition efforts and the war on drugs have been.
A cigarette in the hands of a Hollywood star onscreen is a gun aimed at a 12- or 14-year-old.
What an apt analogy -- pointing a gun at a teenager causes a harmful (but pleasurable) habit to appear more attractive and increases the odds that the kid will partake. Wait -- that's not how guns kill at all! Cigarettes are cool. I've known it ever since I saw a poster for Rebel Without a Cause. When I was a kid we had candy cigarettes with which we'd pretend to smoke. And yet I've never taken up smoking as a habit. Nor have most of my friends. Perhaps that's because we're not all the movie-imitating automata that Eszterhas thinks we are. I'm sorry that Eszterhas has suffered as a result of his smoking. But I'll be much sorrier if we end up living in the kind of police state that Eszterhas wants, with edgy would-be smokers, violent tobacco gangs, jails full of "war on tobacco" victims, and ruined families. It's easy to blithely propound tobacco prohibition -- it's another thing to actually consider the costs of creating and living in such a world.

Perhaps this is mean... Murtaugh has posted some of his thoughts on the conflicts of being a theist and a scientist, though he avoids addressing it directly until the last paragraph:

Just to conclude on an autobiographical note, I'll note that my own rapprochement with theism had no relationship to my thoughts on evolution, and much to do with thinking about the nature of human love and its possible relationship with the divine. That is, insofar as I've become a convert, it is via the traditional route of Christian witness, not information theory or flagella. As to the potential use of ID in bringing unbelievers to God, I quote Fr. Oakes, who cites Thomas Aquinas: "bad arguments for God's existence do more harm than good, since they give unbelievers an occasion to laugh." [Emphasis mine]

I won't say what I did after reading about justifying the existence of god with the nature of love. It kind of reminds me of this love-based derivation of time travel:

Time travel has long been within the realm of science fiction. It is also true that what Man can imagine must usually can be done, although not without effort. Experiment and theory lead to the same conclusion: time travel is not only possible, but easily practical. The definition of time itself relates to the physical value Love, measured in mass-seconds. Time is viewed not as a dimension in a continuum, but as a wave of Love arising from the light plane. Time travel is achieved by "surfing" like on an ocean beach to the edge of where love has been disturbed. The frame of reference of an inertial system is reduced to change in each of three physical dimensions as happening throughout the continuum. AXIOMS: 1. The universe as we know it is based on physical quantity "love". 2. Love is indivisible. Proposition a: Love limits communication Proposition b: Love is infinitely accessible Proposition c: Love is finitely variable Proposition d: A point in the universe is an arc in love-explained space/time or mathematically ...

Razib comments: Humor and theological disagreements aside-theists that can make a cogent defense of evolution are our best bet against the ID crowd. The fact is that only 10-15% are "non-religious" and well over half of those believe in God or a supernatural element in the universe. Less than 5% of America's population (and I'm being generous) would ever been open to unadulterated scientific materialism and its siblings. Physicists like Steven Weinberg will always be asked about "God," those theists that can elucidate the separation between science and religion are the best shot at ameliorating this tendency of Americans to look toward science to satisfy their spiritual yearnings. Also-though I personally think that the implications of a thorough scientific world-view pointing to atheism are strong-even overwhelming-when it comes to science the assumption of methodological naturalism is all that is absolutely necessary. On an aside-the best arguments against non-literalist Christianity come from literalists! Why? Because ultimately they share the same assumptions. The problem literalists do not note is that often non-literalist Christians, once convinced of the weakness of their theological superstructure, collapse toward skepticism rather than rebuilding toward fundamentalism. Also, The New Republic has their take-down of theologian/scientist John Polkinghorne online. It seems that someone is always try to cure the vision of the blind watch-maker.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/09/2002 07:41:00 AM | |

Functional Genomics, Nanopore Sequencing, and Mathematicians First, a quick aside on Razib's post below: "! The differences between the languages are deeper than this, but you can read the book to find out how-it makes me wonder a bit whether Asians really do have greater mathematical abilities than Europeans (I don't know whether the names for numbers are very long in African languages of course, and Dehaene would never touch such a subject)." Bah, this is PC nonsense. American born Asians who speak English do just as well at math. Dehaene is obviously quite PC (as Razib noted) and is simply searching for an excuse to "explain away" Asian ability. As for the "ceiling effect" in math - I'm not sure whether it is a function of visualization ability alone or other components as well (e.g. generalized processing ability). Certainly visualization is a contributing factor, but I think that the reason visualization is usually reported is that it's the most PC way of saying "IQ". I think that as we identify the genetic roots of high IQ, we'll find factors that control the math ceiling. We can go from there to functional genomics and figure out what they do. [Gratuitous aside: People like Murtaugh/Orwin et al. who doubt that this is possible (without any real supporting arguments, mind you) can watch from the sidelines while we deal with the "impossible" question of genetic influences on intelligence - racking up Science/Nature papers and making money hand over fist while changing the world... muhuhuhahaha!] One thing I would find quite interesting is an analysis of the genomes of mathematicians. Once we get "instant genome sequencing" methods like nanopore sequencing to work, we can get a tremendous amount of information on the genetics of subpopulations. Such fine sampling is probably not justifiable till the price per genome point hits the $10^3-10^4 range, but we'll get there soon enough. Perhaps the best population to analyze with such methods would be mathematicians, as mathematical ability is the single most relevant factor to our success as a technological society. An additional point of methodological importance is that there is a clear division between the three major classes of mathematicians that hints at genetic roots more directly than in other fields. That is, a mathematician's choice of subfield (analysis/algebra/geometry = logic/formalism/visualization) is more likely to have genetic roots than (say) an engineer's choice between electrical engineering and chemical engineering. I would be very interested to see genetic differences between analysts, algebraists, and geometers. Personally, I've always been far better at visualization (geometry) and formalism (algebra) than I have been at logic (analysis), though these are relative things, of course. Finding the genetic roots of such differences and mapping them to thei relevant protein products and brain structures would be fascinating...and have direct applications in human engineering.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/09/2002 06:41:00 AM | |

Realist conservative crack-up? Well not really, but check out this Robert Locke rebuttal to a John Derbyshire article that was conservative pessimism incarnate (Derbyshire's most recent column online has to do with the fall "march of the godless" and he analyzes very fairly I think). What confuses me is that I always thought Derbyshire and Locke were both pretty similar-insofar as they weren't easily pigeon-holed as neo-con, paleo-con or whatever conservative label you want to tack on someone. Both are historically aware and literate conservatives who are classic manifestations of grumpy old white men (I say that as a compliment) who don't shy from politically incorrect topics that old white men tend to shy away from for fear for being tarred and featured. I plan to respond to both at some point soon-but need to take a break from blogging for a few days. I am going to an interesting wedding this weekend of two old friends. The groom is a Unitarian-Universalist who has a Japanese-American father and a German immigrant mother. The bride to be is a Reform Jewess who's parents work at an Orthodox private school. The fact that the groom's maternal grandparents had Nazi connections is somewhat awkward. In fact, his maternal grandmother was fond of saying, "When the Fuhrer was in power, there was always a chicken in the pot." The invitation from my friend noted: "Be ready to meet some Japs and JAPs". The food should be interesting....

Math is hard-counting is instinctive Just read The Number Sense by Stanislas Dehaene. A mathematician turned neuroscientist, Dehaene does a good job trying to be the Steven Pinker of mathematics in this book. His second book, just published this May, The Cognitive Neuroscience of Consciousness, seems broader in scope. I haven't read it, but I'll probably get to it at some point since I enjoyed this The Number Sense so much. In any case, The Number Sense is a fast engaging read and I highly recommend it to those with an interest in evolution, math and psychology (in no particular order). You get a sense you're on the cutting edge (the book was published in 1997 so a lot might have changed in a speciality like neuroscience)-the author sketches out controversies in his field just to make sure that you don't only get his perspective-though Dehaene gives the impression that he is in the mainstream. The Number Sense is reminiscent of The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker or Genome by Matt Ridley in both style and substance. Dehaene uses compelling details to launch into an exploration of the deeper issues at hand. Only in the last few chapters when the author skirts the biological and philosophical issues underlying neuroscience and veers away from the psychology of math does the book drag a bit. I believe this is because Dehaene's format of short compact chapters (about 30 pages each) simply does not serve a field as multidisciplinary as neuroscience very well. But at 250 pages of content, this book is worth an afternoon set aside-especially the first 200. Dehaene's book reinforced my perception of human mathematical capacities. Evolution has equipped us with a general suite of computational abilities, but we have gone so far beyond it to the point where our symbolic logic is simply too abstract for most (all?) human beings to conceptualize in any concrete fashion. Counting is not difficult, infants and children can instinctively understand the difference between one and three, or that three is more than one. Dehaene makes quite clear that a simple numerical processing system resides in our brains and is manifest from birth. On the other hand, babies have a more difficult time with precision and exactness, something one would not expect if they were processing numbers digitally. Like the abilities of animals human number sense is clearly fuzzy (analog). But this simple number sense serves as the foundation upon which we build the edifice of our complex mathematical systems. As the book proceeds it was obvious to me that Dehaene is strongly influenced by the evolutionary psychology of the school of Cosmides and Tooby. For instance, he asserts that the first three numbers, 1, 2 and 3 have universal significance to humans, universals being a key calling-card of politically correct evolutionary psychologists. These initial digits tend to have special distinctive characteristics (they look similar in most scripts, as in Roman numerals I, II and III or Arabic numerals 1, 2 and 3 that are actually cursive forms of horizontal lines) and even the most "primitive" of cultures have specific terms for them. Coincidentally (or not) these three numbers are the ones that young humans are most able to process in terms of differentiating without any error (the reaction time for recognition is very short). This is part of our common human heritage. And yet early on the author seems concerned about excessive emphasis on genetic determinism-wary of it leading toward the dangerous pseudo-science of the past (he uses phrenology as a cautionary tale and comes back to this example several times). Dehaene makes clear in his introduction that he does not believe that geniuses are "born," rather they have a passion for math which drives them to cultivate their abilities. More on this later. But Dehaene can not deny genetic factors absolutely and like most evolutionary psychologists of the Cosmides-Tooby school he will admit male/female differences. He is rather equivocal, and still wonders aloud whether differences might be due to cultural conditioning and implies that there is a conspiracy to keep them out of highly numerative fields like engineering. But Dehaene gives enough space to the overwhelming cross-cultural predominance of males at the highest levels of math that he feels he must posit some tentative explanation-mostly having to do with testosterone and its effect on fetal development. Once he has conceded some ground, it seems that Dehaene tries to constantly bat down any further implication of genetic determinism. Dehaene is the type that would never admit that there might group (racial) differences in mathematical abilities. He has a hard enough time admitting that some people might just naturally be better at math. Dehaene frames the debate so that environmental factors seem to be the default explanation. He presents some twin data that indicates that 50% of mathematical ability is genetic, but undermines it by wondering if common schooling might not be responsible for this (he obviously is not presenting data from twins separated at birth). The author repeatedly implies and even asserts that it is the passion for math that is the prime factor in creating genius, detailing the methods that human calculators use to achieve their amazing feats-all of which are learned rather than hard-wired. When it seems that genetic predispositions are too strong to ignore the author will bring to the fore a whole host of other reasons and declare that there are too many chicken and egg issues to resolve anything. I agree, there are multiple factors. Genes are most certainly one of them. And so is the environment. And the key is that they are intertwined and it is likely that certain genes will lead to a child seeking out a certain environment, and positive reenforcement will allow the blossoming of natural talent. This in particular applies to the "passion" factor. How do you account for passion? Dehaene does not say much about where the passion for math comes from. He seems to assume that we will assume it comes from the society or parents. And yet my personal experience with mathematically precocious children is that even if the parents are mathematicians themselves, they do not push the child into their field so much as create a role model and a conducive environment for them to pursue their natural inclinations. What I am suggesting is that there is almost certainly some sort of Lynn-Flynn Effect going on in math. This does not deny that there is a genetic predisposition to math though, it simply adds nuance to any attempt at crass determinism. Fertile soil still needs the seed. In addition I have also known many that loved math that all of a sudden encountered a ceiling to their brilliance. A student that enters college with good math SAT scores might stumble through multi-variable calculus while her friends (math majors obviously) all do fine. Similarly, another student might encounter a block in his first year graduate school seminars and switch to physics or chemistry. This sort of thing occurs in other fields, I've seen plenty of chemistry students drop out at physical chemistry, and some in organic. But this "ceiling" effect seems stronger in math than any other discipline. Why is math so difficult even for those who wish to excel in it? Dehaene makes a good case that there is no one "math module," but rather mathematical ability is the result of complex interactions between different sectors of our brain-some that specialize in mathematical processing and others that are generalized for verbal tasks. I suspect that different areas of math require cooperation in varied forms between the different regions and "ceilings" occur when a felicitous combination can not be found. For example Dehaene indicates that basic computation, addition, subtraction and multiplication (not just simple number recognition alluded to earlier) are processed separately from algebraic problems (he uses the example of a chemist who had had a brain injury and couldn't add or subtract but still could do algebra with letter variables). Dehaene mentions autistic geniuses, but doesn't note that there is some correlation of mathematical proficiency and Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism that is genetically inherited. The areas of the brain that allow visual-spatial and mathematical virtuosity in these individuals do not seem to suffer from the lack of social ability or possible verbal shortcomings of suffer's from this form of autism. A genius requires many factors to develop no doubt. Family, culture, chance and yes, genes. None of these are exclusive, nor they do not inhabit separate discrete spheres. It seems reasonable to assert that if one's parents are mathematicians, one is more likely to become one for both environmental and genetic reasons. I also think it reasonable that if one is adopted by novelists and one's biological parents were mathematicians-one is more likely to become a mathematician than if one's biological parents were field workers. To be a great mathematician, there are both genetic and environmental prerequisites . On one point I totally agree with Dehaene-children should not be molded by the preconceptions of adults on how they should learn math. Just as I believe children will learn language without being taught grammar by adults, they should learn math through basic examples rather than formal axioms. Dehaene recounts with horror the French government's experiments with the instruction of elementary school students of math through axioms and proofs. The problem is that children are not a blank slate-they have an intuitive understanding of "1" or "3" (they go for twice the number of M&M's every time!). Teaching them math from the ground up is like teaching children language from the ground up-you simply confuse them with abstractions when the basics are pre-programmed into their brain (I can recognize grammatical mistakes, but couldn't tell you much about adverbs or prepositions). Granted, higher levels of math do require an understanding of proofs and axioms, but most students will never get beyond algebra and trigonometry. Lastly, I found it interesting that Dehaene indicates that Asian children (in particular Chinese) have an easier time with basic math because the names for their numbers are smaller! It seems that the human brain has a specific number of sounds it can easily store in the brain before it drips out of the memory bucket. English and other European languages have rather long names for basic numbers compared to Chinese. So while American children can store seven numbers in random sequence in their brains, Chinese children can store ten! The differences between the languages are deeper than this, but you can read the book to find out how-it makes me wonder a bit whether Asians really do have greater mathematical abilities than Europeans (I don't know whether the names for numbers are very long in African languages of course, and Dehaene would never touch such a subject). Let me leave you with an amusing test from the book: Answer the following questions as fast as you can: -2+2 -4+4 -8+8 -16+16 Now quick! Pick a number between 12 and 5 Click here to find out what you should have picked

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Islam-a civilization in crisis, transition or both? Zach Latif comments on the opinions of and excoriates some bloggers on the subject of Islam. I don't have much to add-aside from the note that I'm not as optimistic as he is. As he notes, and I've mentioned in other venues-what the West achieved in 500 years (roughly the fall of Constantinople to the post-World War II consensus), Islam is being asked to do in a few generations. A good analogy I think is that it is like cramming for your final.

god's will strikes again Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

god's will strikes again In Egypt, an outpouring of support for "god-willed" suffering:
It's because of advances in Egypt's health system that [conjoined twins] Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrahim are still alive 14 months after being born to a laborer's family in rural southern Egypt, and have a chance - however risky - at normal lives. Even so, last month, after a nationally broadcast program on the twins, state television was deluged with 30,000 letters and calls, most saying the twins' condition was God's will and they should not be separated, according to program host Tarek Allam. While not a scientific survey of opinion, the response showed how the case has gripped the nation.
Luckily for the twins, religious authorities have given the go-ahead:
After consulting the staff, Abdel Al, head of Abu el-Reesh Hospital's neonatal surgical intensive care unit, consulted Grand Mufti Sheik Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb, Egypt's top government-appointed cleric. El-Tayeb gave written approval for separation provided doctors believed at least one twin would survive and as long as the surgery wasn't "experimental."
And here I thought needing HMO approval was rough!

Conservatism as a way of life-sort of Richard Poe gives some props to Steve Sailer in his most recent article. half-Jewish Catholic praising another. Further down the page, Poe's article Greece: The Cradle of Conservatism is a good read. He praises the Greek Orthodox Church for maintaining its ancient traditions in the face of the modern age. As something of a philo-Byzantine I agree that the eastern branch of Christianity has preserved the faith in a more undiluted and pre-post-Christian fashion than the many denominations of the western church. And yet-one thing American conservatives often forget is that European reactionaries go even further into the past than the Christian era, back to the days of paganism. While American paganism has New Age feminist connotations, European paganism is often nationalistic and expresses the idea of xenos with more aplomb than universalistic Christianity every could.

Natural Selection-of a different sort Today Steve Sailer notes:
Now, if you are a highly reasonable and urbane Arab man of the world, like, say Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, I suspect your base opinion would be that Islam is all Arabia has and without it, chaos would ensue. Sub-Saharan Africa was largely held together by fear that if you broke the social rules, somebody would place a curse on you. Then, modern ideas came along and moral behavior collapsed into the AIDS epidemic.
An important point. Though I criticize Islam, the Hindu caste system or Sino-totalitarianism, I do so only because I feel they are inimical to Western liberalism. On the other hand, Aztec civilization or the brutality of the Pax Mongolica don't concern me because their visions were not successful. Western science has generally displaced its competitors from the other civilizations, but Western culture as a whole has not won the day. The key to the possible victory of the West will be this: Is Western science partially dependent for its vitality on Western culture? If the answer is yes, than pure raw efficiency will win out over brutality or fanaticism. If the answer is no, than perhaps we should pray to whatever gods we believe in and enjoy the brief interlude of liberal hegemony in the long history of humanity. I am skeptical in that case that the West's ideals would last long against the blind absolutism of Islam or the unbending utilitarianism of China over the long run.

Islamic Creationism Here is an article from a Muslim Creationist. Pretty familiar stuff.

What's the real reason? The South African government is trying to block use of a drug that helps prevent mother to child transmission of HIV. Their reasons seem pretty lame. South Africa has had a serious problem with combating AIDS in comparison to some other African countries-Uganda for instance. The problem is the political class. I can't believe that Thabo Mbeki really believes any of the quack-science he occasionally spouts-so what's the real reason?

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

White folk bleed tears of blood too.... On a related note to the previous post-check out this site about the Sami of Sweden. Though the Duchy of Lithuania was the last pagan polity in Europe (Catholic by 1400 and unified via personal rule with Poland)-the Sami retained their traditional religion and practices for a longer period, and the Sami paganism was a target of the last embers of Protestant intolerance. If you read the accounts of the Sami-you see that they were treated very much like Native Americans. Though the Sami are swarthier than Swedes-they are most certainly a white people. Score one for non-racial Marxist analysis of ethnic conflict maybe?

Pygmy Latinos, dwarves and elves On my recent trip to San Francisco my friend from Finland had the hardest time figuring out the racial diversity. Living in the great white state of Imbler-I didn't feel comfortable tutoring her on the ins & outs of Japanese vs. Chinese (though my other friend was quite embarrassed when Ms. Finland kept asking within earshot of Asian tourists whether they were Japanese or Chinese as if they weren't there). One group in particular that confused her were the diminutive folk from Latin America who were ubiquitous at the middle-brow restaurants we liked to frequent (funny we read in Zagat about "old world charm" at an Italian cafe to find out all the service were Quechua from Peru!). Especially those of clear autochthonous heritage. My other friend (who shall remain politically incorrect and nameless-you know who you are!) termed them "pygmy Latinos." Ms. Finland's inability to process their physical appearance was so extreme that she was a bit confused as to the gender of some of them (one happened to have a mustache-I don't know if she thought that lack of facial hair in females was a European trait or what). Now we here in the United States are often attacked as being ignorant of geography and diversity, and yet it was quite clear that Ms. Nordic Secular Social Democrat was as innocent of other races as a wealthy Boer girl in 1920s South Africa whose only interaction with non-whites were in a master-servant context. I am not implying that Ms. Finland was racist-simply incredibly naive. Even my friend who's from America-and she has spent time in places as far afield as China, Finland and Italy-told she could couldn't but help imagine the pygmy Latinos dancing in the tall grass prairies of the Andes in native garb with a flute in hand. Where am I going with this bizarre narration? Elves and dwarves are on everyone's minds today because of the release of The Fellowship of the Rings-and Crater Lake National Park in Imbler looked like the edge of Barad-dur this last weekend because of the fires. It strikes me as apropos that the non-human beings come out of Scandinavian mythology. Scandinavians are racially homogenous enough that perhaps the odd Sami (Lapp) might have been confused for a dwarf or a tall Asiatic looking Kievan trader as an Elf. Though Americans are ignorant, gun-toting, beer-swilling and unabashedly fat, our everyday experience of racial diversity I think makes us forget how real the perception of the Other is to people from more racially monochromatic regions. In the United States I am simply "other" rather than "Other." Thank gods.

Bible Quote of the Day From 1 Samuel
.... [2] Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. [3] Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. ....
The great writer Catholic Evelyn Waugh was often a wretched person-and yet reminded those who had to suffer him that he would be a far worse man without his Christianity. I wonder sometimes when I read the above passages what sort of person I would be if I believed in the God of Battles-for far too often modern Christians forget the bloody roots of the Hebrew faith. Those that wish to wash the blood of the Hebrew Bible away with the redemptive message of the New Testament, remeber these lines from Matthew:
.... [33] But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. [34] Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. [35] For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. [36] And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. [37] He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. ....

the power of incentives Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

the power of incentives The headline seemed unsurprising: "New York City Facing Exodus of Firefighters." I can't begin to imagine the stress that they've been under since September 11. But, like most stories, there's more to this one than meets the eye:
Like police officers, firefighters with more than 20 years on the job are entitled to a pension equal to half of what they earned in their last 12 months of employment. This year, many firefighters who typically earn about $65,000 a year have seen their salaries rise to $80,000 because of the additional overtime earned between September and May, officials said.
In other words, those who retire now will get an extra $7,500 of pension every year. Please note, I'm not trying to disparage the firefighters taking advantage of the policy -- I think they're smart to do so, and I'd probably do the same. But that's not to say that the policy itself is particularly well thought out. Whether for corporate officers or for NYC firefighters, incentives matter.

Problem child Ron Bailey of Reason writes up a piece on something that's been in the zeitgeist (at least the sociobiologically aware one) recently-a gene may protect some against behavior problems due to abuse. It seems to be carried on the X chromosome, so one could think of it as a sex-linked ailment, but since the low-activity version of the gene is present in 1/3 of white New Zealand males, I'm not sure it is always so deleterious (a tendency toward high-risk behavior is attributed to those with the low-activity gene). It would be interesting to see what the prevalence of this low-activity gene is in groups aside from white New Zealand males....

Your uncle might have been an Arab-sort of.... The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences comes out with this fascinating piece today (if you don't like long-winded academic pdf files-The Indepdent has a good summary of the findings). The conclusion-demic diffusion is not dead, the Neolithic revolution might have resulted in wholesale replacement (or overwhelming) of Paleolithic populations throughout Europe 10,000 years ago. At least in some parts of Europe. It seems that "Europe" really is just an abstract concept-as this article hints that Greeks are predominantly descended from Neolithic farmers from the Middle East while Basques and other western Europeans (and northern) are mostly descended from Paleolithic hunter/gatherers. What it does break down is the idea of a common Mediterranean race-as the inhabitants of Iberia come from different stock than those of the Balkans. The Hellespont did not seem to be that great of a barrier-but I wonder, what about the straits of Gibraltar?

My uncle wasn't no monkey-he was a hominid.... Cut on the Bias has a post questioning evolution based on the recent hominid find in Africa. godless e-mailed her, and she responded soon enough. My post below was in response to her first blog, but let me add one thing: there are dissenters from evolution in the academy. But they are a very, very small minority (According to a 1998 survey 5.5% of National Academy of Science biologists believe in God-of these, I suspect most are theistic evolutionists rather than intelligent design proponents from personal experiences with religious biologists-though belief in God is on the order of 30-40% of biologists as a whole). They could be right, for a long time Young Earth Creationism was the dominant scientific paradigm. But intelligent design theorists overstate the case when they assert that they have a rival paradigm and numerous establishment supporters within the scientific community. On to the post....
But wait! I thought we knew all that! It’s been taught for years as immutable truth.
Yes, if what you know about human evolution derives from the glossy sensationalist nuggets in Time and Newsweek (oh, and if you read these publications, you would think that Cosmology proves God’s existence, though most physicists seem to disagree). See the Out-of-Africa vs. Multi-Regionalist controversy to get a sample of the immutability of the “truths” of human evolution. Do paleoanthropologists agree that humans evolve? Yes. How? Well-that’s a different question, and as you know science is based on provisional knowledge, always to be overturned and revised. Scientists generally perceive this to be a strength and assume that even theories that are well established may only be approximations that fit the data at hand. For instance, Newtonian Mechanics fit the data at the time, and still works as a good model for any everyday calculations, but has been refined by Relativity around the edges. Does that make Mechanics dispensable?
Every decade or two, a fossil discovery upsets conventional wisdom. One more possible "missing link" emerges. An even older member of the hominid group, those human ancestors and their close relatives (but not apes), comes to light. Some fossils also show up with attributes so puzzling that scientists cannot decide where they belong, if at all, in the human lineage.
Hmmm… Could it also mean that several species appeared, say, all at one time through, perhaps, an intelligent design? That these modified over the years, without interbreeding or developing into something completely different from how it started? Nah. After all, conventional wisdom is usually rig… oops. Well, at least scientists agree… oops.
Assume an intelligent designer. Now let’s apply this paradigm to physics and chemistry. If we don’t understand the behavior of a Quasar, it could be a miracle in the past by the intelligent designer. If we can’t figure out the bonding properties of a certain molecule, it could be the work of God! Why not geology while we’re at it! Perhaps earthquakes in Japan are the result of an intelligent designer that happens to be causing continental drift-is He sending the Japanese a message? My point is simple: assuming that an intelligent designer exists explains very little. Yes, and intelligent designer could exist-but insoluble problems in science tend to become soluble over long periods of time. Scientists have to assume that God isn’t fudging with everything in sight, or they’d never get anything done. Science would just stop if it was presumed that God could work miracles every now and then and make reproducibility a dependent on His whim. Yes, perhaps God designed everything to just fit the evolutionary paradigm, but God could also be manipulating our telescopes to make it look like the Doppler Shift occurs. God could have put the fossils just where they are to test your faith! God could send you to Hell no matter what you believe or what you do. If you define God as omnipotent you can make anything happen by “what if” this or that. Of course, I grant that an intelligent designer does not have to be God, but if it is not a supernatural being, we still have to resort to naturalistic explanations. Phillip Johnson has proposed that the possibility of a supernatural element should be introduced into science-that methodological naturalism is a sham and an extension of the religion of secular humanism. I’d like to see any scientist doing worthwhile research starting with the position “God might have done it.” Can you imagine him being questioned at the conference, “You posit that result X follows from process Z, but are you sure that God didn’t do it?” “You assert that result X implies that hypothesis Z is false, but are sure that God couldn’t do it?” It is only in certain areas that some believers have time-honored ideals where methodological naturalism is attacked-ie; human evolution, big bang theory, radiocarbon dating. As for scientists disagreeing, few disagree about the fact of evolution. How it happens, that’s a different issue, and having multiple theories battle for primacy adjudicated by the data is how scientists reach a consensus. It took a century for Darwin to defeat Lamarck. I suspect Punctuated Equilibria will whither away with Gould’s passing (when did you last see Eldridge write up an op-ed?). The theories of hominid evolution are far sketchier than the theory of evolution-the fact of evolution. Anyone would grant this. Yes, a whole host of incoherencies in hominid evolution would present problems-but the general framework is based on the fossils on hand and the methods available. These have been improving over the past 50 years, so it follows that though the theory changes, we presume that it should be more accurate, as there are more data sets. The bones in question found in Africa are not of a large-brained tool wielding art-producing hominid. That would really cause a controversy.
We have now a very rich collection, of three skulls and three jawbones, which gives us a chance to study very properly this question" of how to classify early hominids, Dr. Lordkipanidze said…
Such bounty! Why, we’ll have the entire evolutionary process nailed down by Labor Day, I’m just sure of it. I’ve been taught, as a social scientist, that you look at behavior, or evidence of various sorts, and ponder about it until you come up with an explanation. Then you devise a test to see if your explanation fits. If it seems to, you develop a whole theory, testing the various pieces. When obvious digressions from the theory begin to pile up, you start looking to see how the theory needs to be modified so all the pieces fit in harmony. If they don’t fit, you don’t name them something that makes them fit. At the very least, you set them aside as a "we don’t know” and work to determine whether they are outliers or a part of the center of the thing. You see, in science – and “hard” science even more so than the “soft” sciences – you are reaching for a truth. The world is - we’re trying to understand what that is is. The truth about the world isn’t going to be different because something I learn about it doesn’t fit my theory. That’s the case whether I’m an evolutionist, a creationist, or a design theorist without any attachment to Biblical creation as an explanation. You strip down the facts, release them from their interpretive pigeonholes, then reconstruct an explanation around them.
Have you heard of falsification? I’m sure you have. A few bones might matter after all-all the other evidence be damned. The “interpretive pigeonhole” you speak of is methodological naturalism. If you study behavior in social science, do you assume that demon-possession might skew your data? Do think that a person’s decision in reaction to a given option might be influenced by God’s hand effecting the response on the level of neurons? Even Michael Behe accepts descent with modification.
…If it presents a challenge to my faith, well, then, I have to think about that because, like it or not, faith is a theory just like evolution is a theory. If my faith is founded on a real truth, then the new information won’t substantially change the bones of my faith even while it possibly substantially reshapes the flesh; if my faith isn’t based on a real truth, then that’s something I want to know and the sooner the better. Again, the same should be true of evolution – if you’re going to posit it as truth, at least have the honesty to say “I don’t know” or “We could have been very wrong for a very long time, we need to rethink this without preconceptions.” But it seems to me there is no amount of information that would shake these people loose from their evolutionary canon, even when they have to twist themselves into objects of mockery to protect it.
You draw a lot of conclusions from the opinions of a few paleontologists getting excited over morphology. I’m not sure you know this-but many biochemists and geneticists have a barely concealed contempt for morphological techniques in ascertaining facts about the past. I don’t know enough about morphology to critique it-but your attacks are almost certainly only applicable only to morphology and its percieved subjectivity (the link above, and other things I've read and heard indicate to that functional morphology is becoming far more scientific and less subjective). You could come out and trumpet Behe to attack molecular biology, and I could throw plenty back at you on that front. In addition-paleontologists might be wrong about hominid evolution. They've been wrong in the past-in large part corrected by molecular biologists. But particular errors within a sub-theory don't refute the paradigm-you are correct when you assert that ascertaining hominid relationships via morphology leaves less than to be desired, but molecular biology has cleared up many issues because it is far more rigorous. Is evolution a perfect theory? No-no theory is perfect because human beings are fallible. Is it the best fit to the data? Yes, unequivocally in the eyes of the vast majority of scientists. Biologists have problems with all sorts of phylogenies. Only in humans and their line is every mistake and revision reported with such detail-as if the theory of evolution hung in the balance. One thing will remain fixed-we will discuss evolution, because you have no positive alternative model unless you are a Young Earth Creationist. Yes-you could assert “God did it,” and I could respond, “Such a small answer to a large question. Let us keep looking.” Perhaps we will never find the answer, but the search yields results. The computer that I type on is the byproduct of centuries of Western science. Though scientists like Galileo, Newton or Descartes might have believed in God, even attempted to prove His existence, their endeavors ultimately were about the mind of man and his wonderment and puzzling over the universe-and disatisfaction with theological answers. Do the mathematical models have any accordance with foundational reality? We can never truly know foundationally, we can only presume or descend into solipsism. I presume that the hand that types on the keyboard is my hand, not the hand of God working through me as a puppeteer. These are questions of philosophy, religion and the supernatural. What has this to do with science? To paraphrase Tertullian, "What does Jersalem to do with Cal Tech/MIT/Stanford/Harvard/etc.?" Oh, and I suggest everyone to go to Talk Origins and the Access Research Network for the two perspectives. As an "evolutionist" I would highly reccomend the 29 Evidences for Macroevolution. To get a flavor for ARN check out Origins and Design Journal. One issue has an article titled, "Design and Evil." Follow-up: Can one be an orthodox Christian and a conventional scientist (one who does not reject methodological naturalism)? Yes, check out the site for the American Scientific Affiliation. A certain Francis Collins is a keynote speaker. Though they try to be neutral-it is known that the ASA has had long-standing problems with certain fundamentalist Christian sects because of its latitunidarianism (it comes out of the evangelical movement). Update II: Susanna Cornett responds again. Pretty civil too-so I guess she tries to live up to her moniker. Also, on a related note-Talk Origins has an updated section-Fossil Hominids: the evidence for human evolution. It has updates based on the new findings. Those of you coming from Bias, let me cut you off at the pass....: Observed instances of speciation here and here. But yes, maybe I'm just a lying evolutionist.... More "theories" about life and its origins: Panspermia, originally floated by Nobel Prize winning Francis Crick (smart people too believe in weird things....).

Molecular Phylogenetics Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Molecular Phylogenetics I won't be posting for a while, so check out my last post (for a few weeks at least) on another website, of all places. I sent an email to Susanna Cornett (AKA Cut on the Bias) in response to a post she had up concerning evolution vs. intelligent design. In it, I outlined the science of molecular phylogenetics in non-mathematical language and explained why it provides compelling evidence for evolution. You might be interested - check it out here.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/07/2002 08:15:00 AM | |

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

sleight of hand Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

sleight of hand Nobel Laureate Paul Nurse says the predictive power of genetics will make defunct the business models of life and health insurers. And so, he concludes, we'll need national health care:
Thirty to 50 years from now, you have to have social medicine and society-based insurance systems.
If the non sequitur isn't wholly obvious, think about the following "argument":
The internet makes defunct the business models of the recording industry. Ten to 20 years from now, you'll have to have a national music program.
What the "argument" neglects, of course, is the possibility of alternative business models. Insurance is a way to spread the risk of unpredictable (but rare) occurrences. It's true that taking a genetic test can remove the "unpredictable" piece and blow up the insurance model. But that's not a fatal flaw. Alex Tabbarok, for instance, has proposed insuring oneself against bad outcomes of genetic tests:
He proposes allowing consumers to buy insurance before taking a test to determine if an individual has a genetic predisposition for diseases such as Alzheimer's, high blood pressure and breast cancer. If the test comes back positive, the policy would cover the cost of any related increase in health insurance rates. He predicted that people who bought a policy would not avoid getting gene tests for fear their insurance rates would rise. In theory, these warnings might compel people to seek treatment earlier or take better care of themselves, thereby improving public health.
Of course, it's likely that Nurse supports national health care regardless, and that his "argument" and credentials give his politics the weight of science. But his policy prescriptions aren't as inevitable (or sensible) as he'd like you to believe.

industrial policy morass Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

industrial policy morass In 1996, Congress established a timetable for the conversion to Digital Television:
The congressional plan "loaned" each existing broadcast station in America a second 6 MHz parcel of spectrum to begin the transition to DTV. Broadcasters would continue to transmit analog signals on their old 6 MHz analog slice of spectrum until 2006, or until 85% of Americans had made the DTV transition, and then return it to the FCC for auction.
In fact, Congressional budget projections rely on revenues from the auction of the returned spectrum:
"Congress has permitted spectrum auctions, intended as an efficient and objective means to licensing spectrum, to become a mere tool for raising revenue," said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) during a communications subcommittee meeting in June. The digital television transition, he said, was made because of budgetary needs, not technological needs.
In other words, Congress created an industrial policy that was good for Congress, not for consumers. But it gets better:
However, a funny thing happened on the way to the bank: Digital television went to hell. With legislators locked into a finite switch-over date, industries gained bargaining power.
Why did DTV go to hell?
New DTV transmissions require that consumers purchase a digital ready TV set or a set-top box to pick up digital feeds. So if you want to receive those gorgeous new digital pictures, you'll need to plop down some serious cash. New DTV sets still cost a couple of thousand dollars, and set-top converters can cost hundreds. Consequently, not everyone is rushing out to purchase new digital ready sets or converter boxes. This means the conversion from analog to digital TV is going to take several years, perhaps even decades, to complete. Because of this, television programmers are not providing much of their fare in high-definition digital formats. They argue that set makers aren't bringing down costs fast enough or providing enough built-in digital converters to make it simple for consumers to make the transition. At the same time, the manufacturers blame the programmers for lack of content. And both parties blame the cable industry for not allowing digital programming to pass through their systems. This amounts to a vicious circle of finger pointing, with each side accusing the other of not doing its part to make the transition a success.
And where is the bargaining power going? Congress wants the FCC to mandate on Thursday that all new TV sets include digital tuners by 2006. This, they reason, will incent broadcasters to provide DTV programs. Consumer electronics makers balk -- digital tuners cost $250 apiece and only benefit the 15% of consumers (like me) without cable or satellite. Instead they want the FCC to require cable operators to carry all local digital signals on their systems. Meanwhile, the content providers want the FCC to mandate a broadcast flag that will prevent recording and duplication of digital programs. But Cato makes the case that the whole ill-thought-out policy resulted from the myth that TV stations "serve the public interest" and deserved a free giveaway of spectrum. And so I'll give them the last word:
Even the most well-intentioned industrial policy is doomed to fail if the will of consumers is ignored. Congress should have auctioned off this spectrum back in the mid-90s and let the chips fall where they may. DTV would probably have emerged, but through other means (satellite or cable), and other wireless providers would have snatched up the spectrum at auction and put it to better use. As it stands now, we're left with the mother of all industrial policies, and very few pretty TV pictures to show for it.

copy fights Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

copy fights If you're interested in the IP issues I like to write about, then this book from Cato looks to be a must-read. It's got a foreword by the always-sensible Declan McCullagh, and a range of opinions from the fervently pro-IP James DeLong to the IP skeptic John Perry Barlow. Tech Central Station even published an adaptation of the chapter by Tom Bell, which seems remarkably like something I might have written. These both come as pleasant surprises -- it's always seemed that supporters of "free markets," from libertarian thinktanks to Tech Central Station, too often err towards unflinching support of big business. So I take it as a good sign that Cato and TCS are taking IP skepticism seriously.

Monday, August 05, 2002

those who can't teach gym Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

those who can't teach gym My old boss had a saying: "Those who can -- do. Those who can't -- teach. Those who can't teach -- teach gym. And those who can't teach gym -- work in HR." Between struggles over inane anti-Joel compensation policies and mandatory "diversity training" (which was so ludicrous that I told off the instructor in the middle of the class), I quickly came to agree. But perhaps it's not all their fault. The Chicago Tribune describes the EEOC's responsibility:
When employers were first asked to track applicants by race and gender, people generally applied for jobs in person--and employers would simply note who walked through the door. Adopted in the early 1970s, the Uniform Guidelines on Employment Selection Procedures asks employers to use the data they collect about applicants to determine annually whether their employee selection procedures are fair. Federal contractors must keep each applicant on file for up to two years, and private employers must provide the information if asked as part of a federal probe or to defend against litigation.
But faced with an onslaught of emailed resumes from unwanted applicants, businesses are getting a little uneasy:
Employers don't object to the reasoning behind the tracking guidelines, but they say asking people to reveal their race and gender is embarrassing, especially if they aren't considering them for a job. "It was those requirements that drove employers absolutely nuts," said Jeff Norris, who heads up the Equal Employment Advisory Council, which represents about 350 major U.S. companies. "We don't want to set ourselves up for a lawsuit by asking people their race, gender and ethnicity. If they don't get hired, what will they assume?"
The best part of the article, however, comes at the end, discussing attempts to make the guidelines more practical:
Norris said an issue holding up the task force is a recommendation by employer advocacy groups that the pool of applicants be limited to those who are qualified. [EEOC Commissioner Cari] Dominguez said doing that poses the risk of excluding some members of protected groups.
This gives me an idea, which perhaps I should pitch to Jesse Jackson: bombard companies with e-resumes of unqualified minority applicants, establish a pattern of "discrimination", and sue, sue, sue!

An obvious prediction This may be obvious, but I'll say it anyway: I predict that war with Iraq will begin a week or two before midterm elections. Sure, it's politically motivated, but that doesn't mean the results won't be to my liking. (Results meaning: oust Saddam, not secure a Republican majority. I can't get very excited about midterm elections, and I would have to choose between Dem/Rep on a case by case basis, so I'm not in favor of a landslide either way during midterms...)

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/05/2002 07:48:00 PM | |

Incentives Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

It's the incentives stupid.... Another story about problems with giving people incentives to "achieve." This one about the best and most overpriced database system out there-Oracle. On a slightly different note-does anyone wonder what the long term future of high-end relational databases will be? I've always thought that IBM's DB2 would erode Oracle from the high-end while SQL Server would get the mid-level business. But what about open-source products like PostgreSQL? Right now, it can't match the scalability or feature set of the commercial products. But I believe we are seeing the end of the line for commercial Unix systems like Sun's Solaris as the Linux distributions backed by major companies are pointing toward a day when they can handle the heavy-duty corporate computing (and yes-the day is not here yet-but just wait....). If Oracle, and to a lesser extent IBM, charge hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) for "support" of their database product, what's to stop companies from just spending that money in the future on taking the core code of PostgreSQL (assuming it's robust enough) and setting up their own customized software? Of course, I don't assert that open-source relational databases are anywhere near prime-time for the corporate market, but who would have thought Linux was going to be the Unix-killer (or savior) back in 1995? On the other hand, just like I think Windows is going to be entrenched for a long time on the desktop (home and business) because it's user-friendly, I suspect SQL Server and even Access will have futures because no corporation is going to invest in a consumer friendly interface (don't gasp about user friendly-a lot of friends smile to your face while stabbing you in the back and you think they're your buds). I think geeks will enjoy developing a database as robust as Oracle sometime in the future to give the middle finger to the corporations, but I doubt open-source will ever fall in love with idiot-proofing the UI and catering to the low-end desktop market (again-try and have your mom install something simple like Mandrake). (I don't mention MySQL because I don't want a barrage of e-mails accusing me of pushing a "toy database," come back when you are within spitting distance of PostgreSQL's feature-set and 4.0 is certified stable) OK, enough geekage for now. Won't blog for a few days, on a trip (again).

Are vegetarians dumber? Or are they vegetarians because they're dumber? The Kolkata Libertarian points me to this UPI article by one Jim Bennett on India and its relation to the Anglosphere. This part caught my attention:
If what we know about the correspondence between those factors is true, India, provided its course of reforms continues, should sooner or later outstrip China in economic, political, and military significance. Such a development would have profound consequences for the world's political and strategic balance. To consider India and China, however, we must ask why India not already surpassed China, or more broadly, why has India not done better than it has over the past half-century since its independence.
OK, this is the old Hindu-rate-of-growth problem. The standard explanation-echoed in the above piece-is that the "Permit Raj" prevented India from developing its true potential. The economic success of South Asians in the United States, and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom (particularly non-Muslim South Asians) and Africa-pointed to an ability to succeed given a conducive framework. I think a more historically aware approach would look at the contrasts between India and China. While China spent the majority of its life as a civilization under a putatively centralized government, India usually existed as a complex of polities, ranging from tribal chiefdoms to literate kingdoms. The occasional mega-state, the Mauryas or Guptas for instance, resembled paramountcies rather than a true empire in the mold of Han China or Imperial Rome, their brevity preventing the formation of a horizontal ruling class that could permanently lay the substrate for later trans-subcontinental polities. The result of the Chinese bureaucratic state was a 2,000 year old tradition of civil service and social mobility. As a means to this end-the Chinese had a preoccupation with learning that percolated down to the lowest classes of the Han folk. On the other hand, one of the ironies of India history is that its chronology is dependent on foreigners! In particular, Chinese Buddhist pilgrims. This is due to two reasons. The more prosaic is the habit of writing on wood tablets-a rather perishable form of record. But a second reason is that Indian culture's preoccupation with the mystical and metaphysical tended to neglect the march of history. Producing Buddhism for export and Hinduism for domestic consumption, as well as pioneering areas of human knowledge such as grammar and mathematics, Indian civilization deserves a place with the Chinese and the Western. All three major civilizations had commonalities-in particular their ability to absorb "barbarians," whether it be Arabs, Franks or Tibetans, and ensure the character of their civilization remain dominant. But as I said, China had a civil service bureaucracy, while the West developed varieties of military feudalism (Europe had a form we are familiar with, while the Islamic world was awash in a proliferation of slave armies and barbarian converts in the service of Muslim potentates). India of course produced caste. As someone of Muslim heritage (though my paternal grandmother's family were Bengali Brahmin converts to Islam), I would be lying if I did not feel an ancient revulsion to this institution. The reality of class differences-and the brutal facts of poverty and destitution are clear to all. But it has always struck me as degrading to enshrine these "natural" divisions into a metaphysical system-the varna. That being said-India's culture has been remarkably resilient. While Islam seems brittle to the touch of Western influence, India seems to acclimating somewhat better-producing engineer's and Ms. Universes in turn. On the other hand, India is far behind China as an economic power-and even southeast Asian excluding the Communist states of Indo-China. Going back to India's political structure, and the social system that undergirds it, I believe we might glean one of the root causes of its relative weakness in comparison to China: its stratified but impermeable social system. While Turks, Moguls, Afghans, Marathas and British washed over India, the basic village structures continued with relatively little disruption. These elites that "ruled" the subcontinent siphoned off the tax revenue to maintain their empires and make them profitable. But the social structures that crystallized during the Gupta Age continued to form the everyday basis of Indian civilization. And for an agrarian economy guided by tradition this was sufficient. But the technological age requires different responses. The Indians that immigrate to the developed West are predominantly twice-born, the three higher castes in Hinduism, and Sikhs. Those that settled the plantation colonies in Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana and Trinidad were more likely to be peasants. Though none of these nations have Indian populations as destitute as those in India-and in fact in Fiji, Guyana and Trinidad the Indians are generally considered the dominant factors in the private sector economies-neither are they "Tiger" economies. My general point? It seems plausible that social capital in the Indian subcontinent has been monopolized by certain castes-and due to their endogamous nature it does not permeate the society as a whole. In the Republic of India 10% of the people are "tribal" and another 15% Dalit-that's 25% of your population that is deprived of social capital and prevented by cultural norms from acquiring it because of hereditary status. Another 10% are Muslim-almost all from the lower social orders and held back by a religion that frankly distrusts modernization as the vehicle of its rival-Westernization. I had seen numbers that estimate that the twice-born form about 40% of India's population (the Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas). The Sudras-and especially the southern Sudras that take the spots of Kshatriyas and Vaisyas in regions that don't have these castes-occupy a middle place, not twice-born, but not unclean like the Dalits. Though women can marry up-hypergamy-men generally can not go up in the caste system. This sort of artificial or culturally based system of endogamy fractures the Indian genetic and cultural pool. Sweepers are sweepers, farmers are farmers, and so forth. Of course people break out of these preordained roles sometimes-but surely it is more difficult when your religion and your familial traditions dictate that continue to follow a certain profession. But one last thing. And this goes back to the title of my post. Indians have a rather low IQ, 81 to be exact. Chinese have higher one, around 100. Steve Sailer has proposed that there are chicken-and-egg problems in this case. To some extent, he is probably correct. But I think it likely that certain castes have higher IQs that 81, while others may have lower ones. Throughout history Indian high culture has existed atop the masses-and it maybe that the software revolution will spread horizontally, but not penetrate vertically. I wonder if perhaps Indian vegetarianism prevents them from developing their full intellectual potential? Then again, high-caste and southern Indians are the most likely to be vegetarian, and these are the bright ones! We will know in about 20 years. India has a stable democracy and some adherence to law and order. Though illiteracy is appalling-it also has many college graduates. The ingredients are there, if the recipe doesn't produce a good dish, we will have to rethink whether it is just the environment that is the problem. Equivocations: I am willing to be corrected on the rough percentages of the four varna. I took the highest number I've seen for twice-born I remember-I've seen statistics that show Brahmins are only 2% of India's population, so I am honestly skeptical that 38% of India's population could be termed "middle-castes." Also-I don't mean to imply that the caste system has been deleterious in the past. The sheer number of Indians-from antiquity onward (the Greeks believed that India-the Indus river system-was the most populous country in the world)-points toward its success. But there are many models for a pre-modern civilization, and fewer ones once many people get powerful weapons in their hands and information in their heads.

Sunday, August 04, 2002

Why I am not a paleolibertarian I don't need to write a whole book on this topic. Just read this from Here's a particularly moronic quote:
How this would happen I'm not exactly sure. But if evolutionary theorists tell us that a substantial amount of our genes, under environmental pressure, can change simultaneously and almost instantaneously to morph one species into another, without the slightest bit of proof, then I see no problem with a woman giving birth to a Dandelion Baby. And the idea that these kinds of changes happened billions of times over hundreds of millions of years – sure, why not? It's not as if scientists are some kind of religious fundamentalists who have political agendas, right?
The basic ploy here is to assume that Punctuated Equilibria has disproven "Darwinism" and than to lambast and satirize the former theory-especially its tendency toward Saltationism (though I suspect that most partisans of Eldridge and Gould's theory would reject the label of Saltationists). What would Mises have thought of these "followers" of his???

The march of history.... Zimbabwe's white farmers are leaving. Here is the most telling quote (from a native African):
"We wake up in the morning with no food," said Mr. Tafirenyasha, 18. "We need help. Those who are good in agriculture, they should continue. Those white farmers, they must stay for now."
Of course, the "for now" point indicates how deep an apprecation for their white brothers and sisters blacks in Zimbabwe have (and yes-for good reason too).

Is this a bad thing? The New York Times reports that many school districts in the south and midwest are having a hard time finding ESL and bilingual education teachers. On the latter-I think this is great. ESL is more of a mixed bag. I think that in areas where the concentration of non-English speaking students is high, it will be more difficult for them to absorb English from their environment and ESL teachers might do some good. But if these schools can't get these teachers-the best strategy is to split up the non-English speakers between the classes, and perhaps even make them become part of separate reading groups. If kids who don't speak English are deprived of an easy default communication outlet-they'll speak the only language around, English.

I think this has already happened... Eric Lien is perplexed as to why people expect Asians to integrate. He derides the lunacy of those who expect that:

"Asian immigrants and all their children will choose to become whites who celebrate Lunar New Year and eat foods with funny names, rather than function in the mainstream but retain a non-mainstream identity.

Hate to break it to you, but this does describe many Asian-Americans - meaning Asians born in America. Asians integrate - Latinos and blacks don't, or at least not as much. Whether you measure this integration rate by intermarriage rates, scores on the SAT-V, attendance at colleges, mingling with whites, or just general harmonious coexistence in multiracial communities, Asians do integrate after the first generation . It's just the immigrants who don't, which is perfectly understandable and no cause for concern. They're peaceful in their nonintegration and contribute to the economy, and I have yet to hear of Asian children born in the US who speak Chinese/Korean/Hindi rather than English. Contrast this to the situation of blacks and Latinos. My point being: nonintegration of Asians is a single generation affair , and no cause for concern during that single generation. Update: This is a response to Zylonet - it's too long to post in the comments box. Read his and my comments before reading this in order to understand what's going on. These are my last comments on this issue. Again, I think you need to tone down your rhetoric. You were the first to start cursing and insulting people, and this cannot and should not continue. As for your post:

"If language is your measure of "culture" then you have redefined the term ... Since female infanticide is flush throughout rural China this makes it a cultural pattern. Now if you do not share my opinion that female infanticide is a backward practice, then I think that says more about you then me. "

The culture that Asians in the US feel nostalgic for is mainly the mix of language + food + people-being-able-to-pronounce-your-name. They don't feel nostalgic for (say) the autocracy of China or the bureaucracy of India. Can you find a single organization composed of Chinese-Americans who wish to promote Chinese-style communism in the US? You need to understand that Asian immigrants generally don't endorse the political systems in the countries that they left. Female infanticide? Yes, it's horrible, but it's also irrelevant. Find me ONE example of a Chinese immigrant to the US practicing female infanticide and we'll talk. Until then, it's not the sort of culture that we're in "danger" of importing to the US by letting in Chinese immigrants.

"I was merely stating that if people from non-democratic cultures do not change their behaviors (assimilate) to promote continued democratization then it will damage society by weakening the ideal that nation's should be ruled by its citizens."

No, you weren't. You're trying to back away from the thrust of your initial argument, which was an indiscriminate indictment of Asian culture. Had you restricted your criticism to the political systems or the crimes against humanity, you might have a leg to stand on here. But your quotations give you away:

"then wish to remain isolated and claim no similarity...A comparatively paltry literary scene? The same food day after day? ...Do they think Americans are lazy? Do they think Americans are stupid? Are they insane? I see no need for any more immigrants that are so stupid as to move to Rome and then bitch about Roman culture..."

You railed against the isolation that Asians feel in America, while insulting Asian food and literature. You then set up a parallel universe in which Asians who feel out of place in America are nothing more than discontent leeches for whom you have no more patience. I think the claim that you were "merely" advocating assimilation is risible on its face.

"Well, I am sure Asians do a lot of things better than Americans, but the question wasn't whether Asian culture is superior to American culture in a half-dozen instances, it was whether new arrivals should assimilate into (and teach their children) the larger culture."

Well, hold on a second. Do you really think that Asian students in the US would do as well as they do without Asian values? Suppose they embraced the "All American" values they see on the television - do you think the values of the surrounding culture are always superior? American culture is laudable for its individualism, but it is suffused with anti-intellectualism. Those who combine independence and intellect are at an advantage, and that advantage comes from a cultural fusion rather than an uncritical acceptance of the dominant culture.

"You are entitled to your opinion. I am glad to see your communist command policies coming to the fore again. By declaring which industries people should work in you show your statist bent. I hold no such opinions. As for insinuating that I am a nativist, I think both unfair and amusing. I never suggested people should abandon some measure of native custom. Read what I said."

I think that your declarations stamp you as a nativist independent of any insinuation. As for my "communist command policies", I didn't say that people should work in those industries. Rather, I implied that people who work in these industries are more valuable to society because they're less replaceable. An investigation of the statistical record shows that Asians populate such high IQ jobs at levels vastly disproportionate to their representation in society. Thus, Asians are immigrants who can do the difficult jobs that most Americans can't. Whether you accept it or not, it is the development of new technology that drives the US economy. I think it clear that the only way that America will preserve its lead in technology is through importation of high IQ individuals from other countries, particularly those of Eastern Europe and Asia. In other words - you should be happy that Asians are coming to the US to make it stronger. If they want to bring their culture with them - meaning their thousand-year old traditions of food and language and custom - I think it is harmless to accomodate them.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 8/04/2002 04:03:00 PM | |

Saturday, August 03, 2002

No Free Lunch The Boston Review takes a stab at William Dembski's No Free Lunch. If anything, it is a good peak into the intellectual mind set of the Intelligent Design movement.

The future of action? OK, another Time article, this time about Vin Diesel. The article gives a lot of play to the fact that Diesel is consciously multi-racial:
With his exotic looks — olive skin and full lips — he's widely assumed to be of Italian and African heritage, but Diesel resolutely refrains from identifying his ethnicity. One Race is the name of his production company, and he refers to himself simply as "multicultural." "I support the idea of being multicultural primarily for all the invisible kids, the ones who don't fit into one ethnic category and then find themselves lost in some limbo," says Diesel, 35, as he dips into a bowl of hummus on the patio of Los Angeles' gothic Chateau Marmont hotel.
Steve Sailer has noted that some want Diesel to play Hannibal in a new flick. Others are pushing Denzel Washington. Now, though I think that Diesel is phenotypically closer to Hannibal-I'm not sure if he can bring the sort of iron tragic gravity to the story of the ancient Carthaginian that someone like Washington is known for. Though I'm skeptical that most Americans will ever be multiracial-in areas like entertainment it makes sense that future stars will attempt to appeal to the greatest number of people world-wide, and so present a non-racial (ambiguous at least) image on the silverscreen. In addition-in areas like science and business where meritocracy rules (supposedly) the socialization of races together will no doubt lead to many cross-racial marriages. Those who will remain mono-racial will be those rooted to place and time and content with the ancient ties that bind of faith, family and stable placidity outside the main freeways of the global economy. Basically, the vast majority of the human race.

Would you rather be dead and pretty than ugly and alive? Fascinating story from Time Asia about cosmetic surgery and its omnipresence in modern Asian life. This little chunk is a pretty good sample of the article:
The cultural quirks of the plastic surgery business in Asia also extend to sexuality. In China, Korea and Indonesia, where virginity is highly prized, young women go in for hymen reconstruction in time for their wedding night. In Japan, Indonesia and Korea, men ask for penis-enlargement procedures, in part to avoid shame when bathing en masse. In Thailand, with its sizable population of so-called "lady boys," a thriving industry has sprung up to provide male-to-female sex-change operations.

remarkable Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

remarkable Doc Searls brings up my #1 pet peeve:
It's remarkable to me that lots of people who care deeply about free speech and free enterprise -- hard core libertarians, dynamists, objectivists and other enemies of Big Government and Big Regulation -- would rather carp about yet another left-wing hypocrisy in a Times op-ed piece than take notice of the most big-gov, big-reg, big-tax campaign to destroy a marketplace in recent memory. And on the Net, no less, where hundreds of these people blog every day.
I think his criticism of the net is a little harsh -- Instapundit [search on RIAA or MPAA or CARP or Hollings] is pretty on top of this issue, and -- if anything -- anti-Hollywood sentiment seems more concentrated on the net. It's my in-real-life anti-government colleagues, with their Hank-Rearden-inspired "corporations can do no wrong" attitude, who are really off the ball. -- And, if your view of the entertainment industry isn't cynical enough, read the detailed story of how they fabricate new musical acts. It's all about the "poor, starving artists" indeed!

Must read on race! Steve Sailer has an excellent article on race up. In fact, one of his best! It distills common sense synthesized with a sophisticated understanding of anthropology and ethnology in a fashion most Americans find distinctly alien due to the politics of our culture. On an interesting note-I've spent the last week with a friend of mine of Finnish extraction. A few interesting things Americans might find interesting:
  • Most Americans have figured out that she's "European" without hearing her accent first. Her features have a purity that most American whites simply don't see that often, and they note it without thinking about it.
  • She has a hard time telling what age "black haired people" (ie; non-whites) are. In other words, she's politely saying that we all look alike. Now, the truth is I think many Indians, Chinese or Zulus would be hard pressed to tell many Swedes or Finns apart as well.
  • A lot of the stereotypes about Scandinavian being pretty are true in her case. She definitely turns heads.

Friday, August 02, 2002

Massage anyone? Eric Lien has an interesting observation about those running "Asian Massage" parlors.

Where have the Calvinists gone? Our friend Steve Sailer has poked fun at godless capitalist's name a few times-noting that capitalism and godlessness tend not to mix well. This draws upon Max Weber's Catholic/Protestant (Calvinist) dichotomy. Steve says:
Godless Capitalist (I keep telling him that capitalism works better among the God-fearing who worry about the fires of Hell as well as the SEC, but, kids these days, they never listen)
But as this site from Gallup indicates, regional trends in religiosity aren't that clear cut in correlation toward capitalistic vibrancy. For instance, while North America tends to be rather religious, western Europe and eastern Asia tend not to be. On the other hand, Africa and Latin America are very religious (granted, it is not Calvinism that is dominant in these countries-in fact, one could assert than the secular nations of eastern Asia are more Calvinistic in their general outlook than the Christianity of either Africa or Latin America). And of course, we all know how religious the Islamic world is! If you want to look at regional trends, Canada is probably somewhat more secular than the United States, and less economically dynamic. On the other hand, northern Europe is more secular than southern Europe, and more economically dynamic. Within nations-the pattern can be even more complex. In certain regions of Europe-the working class is anti-clerical, while religious faith has a middle-class association. And yet the intelligentsia still tend toward secularism. In Chile-Latin America's "tiger"-the growing Protestant minority (who practice charismatic evangelical Christianity) tend to be the underclass, while an ostentatious conservative Catholicism is dominant among the political and economic elite (though the current president is an admitted agnostic). In almost every non-Islamic country, women are more active in religious life than men, and yet are invariably less affluent. In Germany, de-Christianized eastern Germany (Prussia) is destitute, while relatively pious Bavaria is prosperous. And yet the secular north German states, where the Protestantism is only marginally more active than that of the Prussian heartland, also contribute to German economic strength (North-Rhine Westphalia for example). Sociology is a tricky subject, and any two positions can be argued rather well by knowledgeable and articulate people. And that is one of the saddest facts of all.

Pro-cloners in The New Republic After publishing a few neo-luddite (in my opinion) tracts by neo-cons, The New Republic comes with this pro-cloning article more in keeping with its pragmatic domestic liberalism.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

a "bizarre" debate? Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

a "bizarre" debate? Michael Kinsley makes a key observation about the prescription drug benefit being considered by Congress:
Thought of as insurance, the crazy-quilt set of benefit levels and cutoffs in the House bill and the slightly-less-crazy quilt rejected by the Senate were both attempts to insure against two different risks. One is the risk of being poor. The other is the risk of large drug costs. The principles underlying these efforts are that nobody should have to go without needed medicines because of a lack of money, and that no one—whatever his or her financial situation—should have to pay more than about $4,000 a year for needed medicines. Put like that, the second principle seems odd.
Kinsley goes on to recommend that Congress focus its attention on providing prescription drugs for poor people. While this makes practical sense (at least compared with providing prescription drugs for everybody), it doesn't make political sense. The AARP demands that
the Senate to make good on a long-standing promise to provide critical relief from the soaring cost of prescription drugs and to make them more affordable to those who need them the most.
Not "more affordable to those who can't afford them." But rather "more affordable to those who need them most." The AARP's position statement is clear:
It's important that a prescription drug benefit be available to everyone in Medicare, because middle-income older people, as well as those with low incomes, need help with prescription drug costs.
(As it stands, I need help with moving costs, though I don't have the AARP on my side, and so I'm not expecting Congress to step up to the plate.) Kinsley's second principle seems "odd" because he left out an important part. It should read: "No one represented by the AARP should have to pay more than about $4,000 a year for needed medicines." But does that make the debate "bizarre" or just business as usual?

Mob killing The story about two men killed by a mob due to a traffic accident (seems like the driver ran a stop sign and injured three women) is rather bizarre. I just listened to a community representative on NPR trying to explain why people aren't coming forward and how such an act could have happened. She seemed to imply that people were in such shock they couldn't recall what happened exactly. Her description of her community indicated that it is moving up the economic ladder due to urban renewal programs. The solicitous NPR interviewer didn't really put a finger on any reason why this sort of act could have in 2002 in some part of the United States, but can't we guess? Certain inner city locales are basically lawless and simply don't follow the social and cultural norms prevalent in the rest of the country. In addition-law authorities have abdicated much of their responsibilities in these areas due to a combination of risk to officers and community activists who complain about police brutality. Update: Listen to the interview yourself-select "Chicago Beating Deaths."

anti-social behavior, genes, and environment Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

anti-social behavior, genes, and environment New Scientist reports on a new study that's found "the first clear link between anti-social behaviour and a specific interaction of genes and environment":
The study of 1037 males in New Zealand, now aged about 30, revealed that the low-activity form of the gene alone is not linked to antisocial behaviour. But those who had the gene variation and who had experienced moderate or severe mistreatment as children were much more likely to commit crimes. That group made up only 12 per cent of the study group but were responsible for 44 per cent of offences.

copyright thursday Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

copyright thursday Doc Searls says just about everything that needs saying about the nasty collaborations between Congress and Hollywood. And Joe Katzman echoes my view that "the trends in [Copyright Law] are the single largest threat to our freedoms." (I like the validation that comes from not being the only one who gets riled up about this stuff.)

Principles of Population Genetics
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Narrow Roads of Gene Land 1
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Statistical Methods in Molecular Evolution
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R.A. Fisher, the Life of a Scientist
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A Reason for Everything
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Endless Forms Most Beautiful
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