Saturday, November 30, 2002

Who has more fun? Depends on what you mean by fun.... Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

This article says that men prefer brunettes for sex, blondes for marriage. This one has a somewhat reverse take, and also indicates that brunettes are more vengeful. (thanks to Randall Parker for the first link)

White, brown and yellow science & the forest from the trees Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Interesting article on non-western science. It starts out with the failed attempt to introduce Afrocentric mumbo-jumbo in the Portland school districts, and goes on to catalog a veritable stamp collection of non-western science and engineering. In particular, Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese and Maya achievements. One problem I have with standard multiculturalist theology is its Manichaean tendencies. In the beginning, the Lord God separated the West from the non-West, and he saw that the non-West was non-patriarchal, anti-capitalist, communal, pacifistic and all the rest of it. Of course, that's not really how it is. All the stamps counted and enumerated to show how vibrant non-western science was come from the aforementioned civilizations. The Middle East is in fact part of Western civilization-the cleavage between Islam and Christendom adding a somewhat artificial boundary between the two [1]. India and China between them created much of the high culture of southeast Asia. The Maya civilization was stillborn, it didn't really contribute much to modern central America aside from genes and language (OK, that's important, but the flesh of culture, religion, didn't really come through unscathed and is but a ramble of superstitions). Africa, non-Maya Amerindians, Australia, etc. are not mentioned, because they didn't really stumble onto any cool stamps so to speak. Of course, I use the analogy with stamp collecting because though specific discoveries by the non-European civilizations were interesting and more accurate in their details than later western science, they never systematized it. Astronomy was too entangled with astrology, science was seen as separate from engineering, the pursuit of eccentrics and marginalized intellectuals [2]. The European culture after the Renaissance managed to organically produce a system of science that took some of its inspiration from the Greeks, and borrowed details from other cultures, but could leverage their own advances so that hypothesis led to theory led to hypothesis, and so forth [3]. The Europeans saw the forest, though they might not have studied the trees in detail. [1] You could add that Orthodox Christianity was a separate civilization, with a similar intellectual flavor to that of the Dar-al-Islam, refining its ancient wisdom and mining the repository for more detailed elucidation, but doing little original. [2] I remember reading in ancient China that the logicians-who focused on math and science-were one of the least prestigious groups. Even the classical culture abandoned natural philosophy for ethics and later esoteric theology. Sextus Empiricus was an intellectually marginal figure compared to more abstract philosophers such as Plotinus who had little interest in the fouled natural world. [3] I am persuaded by arguments that the real revolution didn't happen until after 1700, when Europe began to really outpace Manchu China, and especially in the 19th century when engineering began to draw more explicitly from established science such as Newtonian Mechanics.

Why black students lag-part n Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

The New York Times has one of its recurring pieces up on why black students from middle-class backgrounds don't do well. The article runs around in circles. There are juxtpositions of contradictory assertions: black students don't value education, they value it more, black families have the same income, no that's deceptive, and so forth. One of the commentators says:
Where Professor Ogbu found that some middle class blacks were clueless about their children's academic life, for example, Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, instead concluded that such parents were often excluded from the informal networks that white parents use for information about courses, gifted programs and testing. "I believe, based on my own research, that the center of gravity lies with the school system," she said.
If the black middle-class is excluded from these "informal networks," why is the Asian middle/lower class not excluded? As a first generation immigrant in the United States, my parents were pretty "excluded" for "informal networks," and that didn't bother me that much (yes, I know a data sample of one is not much to go on, but this can be applied to the Vietnamese refugees that show up in the United States too-they create their own "informal networks"). This sounds like the old excuse that black students don't study together for math, so that's one reason they don't do well. Well yeah, but is that anyone elses fault? Does anyone believe that mandating black students to study together the exact same number of hours as Asian or white students will pull them to the same level? It might. But perhaps you should try it and see if someone doesn't accuse you of being a patronizing racist that isn't sensative to the different cultural norms of minorities. Note this excuse:
And Walter R. Allen, a professor of sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles, said that even when racial minorities and whites attended the same schools, they could have radically different experiences because of tracking and teacher expectations.
Well-perhaps we should reinstitute segregation and take as models school districts in majority-black suburban areas like Prince George's [someone pointed out this error to me-thanks Ed] county in Maryland where tracking and expectations should be less problematic since almost everyone is black. Oops! Scratch that, the black middle-class tends to under-perform there too. With or without whites, they lack social capital, stop blaming it on blue-eyed gaze or liberal Jewish teachers (like in New York City) who have lower expectations of their charges (yes, they have lower lower expectations, but from experience, not a priori principles, as they tend to be quite liberal and idealistic fresh out of college). One thing you have to remember is that many of these "middle-class" individuals could also be less competent tokens in their profession (the head of Human Resources or Public Relations) or work in government. These are not exactly the type of people that would produce academic all-stars, many of them might have gotten into law schools with a GPA of 2.8 and low LSAT scores, why should their children value standards when they know their own parents had to jump a low bar. Check out this gem:
The two anthropologists theorized that a long history of discrimination helped foster what is known in sociological lingo as an oppositional peer culture. Not only were students resisting the notion that white behavior was superior to their own, but they also saw no connection between good grades and finding a job.
There is a word for people that don't see a connection between good grades and a good job-they're called stupid. It seems to me that the best course is to stop worrying about this situation-it will resolve itself or it won't. Many of these kids will graduate from high school, will go college, get a degree in a soft non-rigorous field and parlay their race into a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. When you have low expectations, don't expect anyone to go the extra mile-that's why Communism always failed, you provided no incentives and no penalties. There is of course a one sentence reference to biological differences in g, which is ignored for the rest of the article. As John McWhorter told me in an e-mail a few years back: you don't have to be that smart to be in the middle-class. Black people in the US are pretty well-off, half of them are in the middle-class. So they won't be the stars on the math team anytime soon-is it the end of the world? If you accept the axiom of equality it might be.... Just curious: What's up with this picture? The black kid looks like he's got some major inflammation going on....

And you shall be as the gods.... Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Over at Randall Parker's Future Pundit blog-he comments on my post on religion and scientists. He broaches the topic of genetically engineering someone toward religiosity. Two questions I'd like to address: Will genetic engineering result in the withering of religion? [1] If it does not, how will religion change? What are the implications for modern religions? On the first question, I think religiosity has many factors. Germans have the same genetic background, but there is a spectrum of religiosity from southern Catholics, to northern Protestants, to secular easterners [2]. National and familial history are crucial, and well known. But people often do not wonder at their own propensities that might be hard-wired. Religious scholar Rodney Stark of the University of Washington believes that the reason that men are more religious than women cross-culturally is that there are biological underpinnings, for instance risk-taking men are possibly less likely to embrace religious concepts like delayed self-gratification. There can be many explanations for this discrepancy, but we should not discard a biological explanation out of hand. I have also wondered as to whether human biodiversity could explain religious differences, as religiosity tends to follow Rushton's Rule-Asians are the most secular, Africans the most religious (you can see if on a world-wide scale, or at the ethnic groups in the United States). On a more physiological level, neuroscientists have recently been finding clues that there are could possibly be a god module in the brain, just as psycholinguists have long asserted that there is a "language instinct" to use a Pinkerism. Though I think increased IQ (religious people would probably say hubris) and material success will be factors in diminishing religiosity, there is an opposing factor we often don't talk about: most parents want their children to be more religiously observant and show greater fidelity to their faith tradition than they do themselves. If there is a god module, religious people would surely want to load the die in their child's favor. Each generation might beget more religious people. Conversely, secular people might want their children to be less inclined to need "a crutch." So one might see a future that is even more polarized than today. But one thing that religious people might not want face up to is that genetic alternation might very well in the process make us almost god-like in our potentialities. This is certainly the long term prognosis-if humanity does not destroy itself, some of us will achieve god-like status. Speculating on the psychology of a post-human future is perilous at best, but I think it is reasonable that it will entail a greater change in spirituality than that of the "axial age" between 600 BCE and 600 CE (almost all modern great religious started in this time frame). In a world where lives are inexorably extended, criminal tendencies are eliminated, and virtue is pre-programmed into our genes, it seems much of the raison detre of religion would be gone. The allegorical power of the phrase "and you shall be as gods" takes on a whole new meaning. But the post-human future and its implications on theism has been mooted at length in science fiction. On the other hand, an analysis of genetic engineering on specific faiths and tenets has been less thoroughly explored. For instance, what of free will in a world where some might be naturally inclined toward religious belief because their parents "enhanced" their god module? Conversely, would it be just to damn those who might have had parents who genetically engineered them to have little interest and understanding of spiritual transcendence? Some religions (Islam, Calvinism for instance) accept predestination, so perhaps this would be more congenial to them, but what about religions such as Baptism or Catholicism that place more emphasis on free will (may Protestants out of the nonconformist tradition emphasize that choice is important, explaining late the baptism practiced by Baptists)? As human beings become progressively more intelligent, devotional religion might also decrease in popularity, while more rationalistic faiths ascend. By rationalistic, I do not mean tolerant or liberal, but rather more concerned with first principles, rules, etc. rather than experiential aspects of the faith. By this criteria-the Reformed and High Church Christian traditions (traditional Catholicism, Orthodoxy or the national Protestant churches of Europe as well as Calvinism) are rationalistic, while the nonconformist traditions and pietistic strains are more emotional. Aquinas asserted that there are two paths to Christianity, by reason and faith. While only the elite were able to access reason, the particular doctrinal disputes had less saliency for the masses. In a world of hyperintelligent people, doctrinal disputes might come to the fore once more as sincere believers follow theological issues much more closely than they do today. Highly intelligent people of faith often have rather sophisticated rationales for their beliefs, and increased education and intellectualism among religious people would no doubt change the tone of apologia. A rationalistic approach would certainly impact hierarchical structures such as that of Roman Catholicism more than than the decentralized denominations such as the Presbyterian. Priests might have to spend time disputing points of theology with parishioners, who though god-intoxicated might not be inculcated with the same sort of reverence for their betters (this might explain of the liberalism of the American Catholic Church as opposed to the traditionalism dominant in the Third World where priests are still more educated and wealthy than their flock). Of course genetic engineering is not guaranteed, religious bans might be imposed in many countries. But, the possibility that religiosity can have a genetic component brings up an interesting (and peculiar possibility): biological proselytization. For instance, suppose religion x employs a geneticist to create a virus that serves as a vector for gene therapy that eventually alters proteins that are involved in certain biochemical processes that make an individual more prone to hallucinations or have feelings of transcendence. Conversely, anti-religious activists (I am skeptical that most non-religious people care this much, but some might) might attempt the reverse. This of course presupposes that said biochemical processes are so amenable to gene therapy. In the former case, unwitting gene therapies could serve as seeding actions in the territory for missionaries who might know ahead of time the sort of hallucinations or feelings their targets are experiencing, adding to their credibility. In any case, this topic is a fertile one. [1] Religion as we know it, defined by some level of supernaturalism, transcendentally justified rituals and group cohesion. [2] I have read that German Protestants who are affiliated with the state subsidized church (as opposed to the Free Churches that exist without state succor) have attendance rates of 5%.

Friday, November 29, 2002

Does the Koran ask Muslims to kill non-Muslims? Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

So asks Jacob Sullum over at Reason. Sullum gives the reasonable answer: yes, but one can also find comparable injunctions in the Bible. In fact, 99% of Muslims have never read the Koran with any intelligibility [1]. Muslims don't do it because "The Koran tells them so." Islam, like all religions is an evolving man-made construct overlain over the basic building blocks of their Good Book. The problem is that I do believe that the historical evidence backs up Robertson & company in their indictment of Islam's belligerency toward unbelievers. Rather than point out passages in the Koran, Christian evangelicals should simply point out that you shall know them by the fruit of their works. Islam has a record. No Koranic exegesis is needed. [1] I believe its dialect of Arabic is so archaic as to make it difficult for Arabs to even understand coherently.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Life after Pim Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

This issue of The Economist has a lot of good stuff of particular interest to me. Below is an article on the new outlook on immigrants in Holland. Note a few things. 1) Black Antillians are more of a crime concern in some areas than Muslims 2) A minority of Muslims go to sectarian schools (in keeping with the Dutch tradition of confessional pluralism) 3) Muslim girls do better at academics than boys Fortuynism without Fortuyn Nov 28th 2002 | ROTTERDAM From The Economist print edition The populist politician is dead. But not his ideas THE young man was angry. The real trouble, he said, was the downfall of the unemployed young, white, Dutch male. There aren't in fact many of them, and the liberal, middle-class audience among whom he sat at this conference on the rise of the far right was minded to jeer. He burst out: “None of you lives in a ghetto.” It was the most telling thing said that evening. Walk west from Rotterdam's Kruisplein and you'll see why. In two kilometres of down-market shopping street, one face in two or three is white. Cross the canal into Spangen, a district that still voted 39% for Labour in the March local elections when, city-wide, that long-dominant party was routed by an almost ad hoc group called Liveable Rotterdam (LR), led by Pim Fortuyn. A primary school is coming out. Hardly one of the children is white. “You see what we're on about?” says an LR man. Fortuyn is dead, murdered just before the Dutch general election in May. The totally ad hoc national “party” he had put together for the election is in utter disarray. Its vote, 17% in May, is now almost invisible to pollsters. The three-party cabinet that it joined, as the number two force, collapsed last month. After the new election, on January 22nd, its partners, the Christian Democrats and Liberals, may well form a government on their own. But Fortuynism is not dead: these two parties have taken it aboard; so, if less so, has Labour, the big loser in May. The campaign will be about “security” (ie, crime), immigration and integration—for many voters, all one issue. An ugly campaign it may be. But at last the old parties have noticed what Fortuyn did: that immigration and its effect on the fabric of society are real issues that do not go away just because the elite chooses not to mention them. Fortuyn, in fact, was not on about race, but culture, specifically that of the Muslim Turks and Moroccans who (with people from the Dutch Antilles, Surinamese and some West Africans) make up 6% of the population. But race is visible, and in Rotterdam the figure is 30%, not 6%. Facing up to reality, at last If the newcomers' integration, or lack of it, into Dutch society that Fortuyn talked of were the only problem, it would be hard enough. But just as visible is crime. Any Dutch voter will tell you about it; many associate it with immigrants; and they are not wholly wrong, as even newcomers' defenders admit. Of 250-odd people jailed last year for street crimes in central Rotterdam, 80% were from ethnic minorities. Minority is a catch-all term. The Turks have a better reputation than others. One LR councillor would like all illegal entrants packed off home, but would turn a “blind eye to those who work.” For example? Turks, he says, generally do so, but too many Moroccans live off drugs. “Turks are more modern, more educated, more adaptable than Moroccans. They're the next group that will integrate,” says a reporter in Rotterdam. Indeed, the big crime worry there now is about neither Moroccans nor Turks but the (non-Muslim) Antilleans. Nor is fear of crime a one-party or one-skin-colour affair. Rotterdam's town-hall weekly newsletter recently asked four councillors what changes they would most like to see. Three put security first. Two were LR; one was a Labour man—and, ethnically, a Turk. What is to be done? The outgoing government, with a Fortuynist minister, Hilbrand Nawijn, in charge of immigration and integration, set out, with some success, to close the doors, especially against asylum-seekers. But Mr Nawijn also studied ways to stop, notably, Moroccans bringing in new wives or husbands from their villages. He even took a look at depriving some Moroccan, but Dutch-citizen, criminals of their citizenship, so they could be deported; unconstitutional, he was told. As to integration, new arrivals were already required to take courses in language and citizenship—1,000 hours, within a year. On top, Mr Nawijn proposed to charge euro6,000 ($5,940), half refundable if the newcomer completes the course. In Rotterdam, run by a “cabinet” that includes three from LR, two Liberals and two Christian Democrats, the big priority is security. But integration is number two. One aim is by 2006 to get 50% of “immigrant” children into kindergarten and to improve their language skills up through school. For adult newcomers, the aim is to get 95% to do citizenship courses while halving the 30% drop-out rate. And so on. It may not happen, but the push is genuine: LR, with 16 seats out of 45, was sensibly run by Fortuyn after its March success, and even critics admit it lives in the real world. How to embrace them Another drive is on housing. Nearly all the city's land is council-owned; 80% of its dwellings are rented, many from ex-council housing associations. So if you want to move upmarket and buy your own place, you have to move to the suburbs. Result: one-class poor areas, which means one-race areas like Spangen or the solidly immigrant district near the Feyenoord football ground. So the council now plans to sell land, to encourage middle-class building and restore the social, and racial, mix. And private initiatives? Nationwide, immigrant groups are gloomy about the trends. The twin towers attack had a sharp effect, putting all Muslims under suspicion. When a poll showed half could “understand” the attack, public opinion (falsely, as the poll also showed) turned that into “sympathise with”. In reaction, some Muslims feel they may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, “if we're going to be rejected anyway, however hard we try to be Dutch.” More Muslim women than before now wear headscarves. The good news is that wise Muslims, while resenting the new suspicions and media distortion, recognise they face real issues: the high rate of immigrant crime is a fact, not just a racist invention; poor command of Dutch or poor education are true barriers. Muslim society is under its own stress: paternal authority has weakened, while Muslim mothers are eager for their daughters to have the chances they themselves did not. The girls (boys less so) are starting to do well in education. A minority of the young go to the 37 Islamic schools, state-financed, in the Dutch tradition. Nor are these schools hives of separatism; most are just the opposite, said a recent official report. Nor, by and large, are the mosques, conservative as some are and unwise the odd imam, like the one whose comparison of gays with pigs, in the pigs' favour, set off Fortuyn's notorious attack on “backward” Islam. Tensions are indeed “worse than they've ever been”, says one pro-immigrant. But it is not just virtuous bodies like one called Islam and Citizenship that are trying to ensure those two words go together; so far, at least, it is the mass of Muslims.

And you thought America was engaged in social engineering Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

This article from The Economist is pretty scary reading. Some of the dystopian cyberpunk science fiction we read in the 80s and 90s might be a good preview of what is to come (especially in resource rich parts of Africa).... Forty million orphans Nov 28th 2002 | WINDHOEK From The Economist print edition How AIDS will disrupt African society Get article background JUST as the bubonic plague overturned the social order in medieval Europe, AIDS will reshape Africa. But how? This week, as the UN released horrifying new figures for the global epidemic (see article), representatives of 22 governments sat down with experts in Windhoek, the Namibian capital, to discuss scenarios. The outlook is unimaginably grim. Of the 42m people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, three-quarters live in Africa. In some southern African countries, more than a third of adults carry the virus, a rate once thought impossible. A 15-year-old boy in Botswana has an 80% chance of dying of AIDS. Among the many ways that this is destabilising the continent, perhaps the most worrying is the exploding population of orphans. Those who die of AIDS often leave children behind, most of whom are not infected. Counting all those under 15 years old who have lost at least one parent, Africa already had 34m orphans last year. By the end of the decade, that is predicted to rise to 42m, half orphaned by AIDS. A huge number of children without parental guidance is likely to spell trouble. Orphans are far more likely than other children to miss school, turn to begging or prostitution, fall sick, fail to be inoculated, pass on diseases, and die young. In Mozambique, 68% of children with both parents alive attend school, compared with only 24% of those with no parents. Orphans are often disruptive. In Latin America in the 1980s, street children drove up crime rates and were both the perpetrators and the victims of horrendous violence. Africa's orphans are far more numerous. Crowds of them congregate at traffic lights in Nairobi, Lusaka and Johannesburg, begging, sniffing glue and pilfering. Many are traumatised, having watched their parents slowly waste away and die. Most are shunned because of the stigma surrounding death by AIDS and the assumption that they carry the virus too. Such children slip easily into delinquency. In ten years' time, the UN estimates that one-third of South African 18-year-olds will have no mother. Doug Webb of Save the Children, a global charity, predicts “mass psychological problems”. Others link South Africa's high incidence of rape, especially of children, to the large numbers of men brought up in broken families in the 1970s and 1980s. If this is true, things can only get worse. In the rest of Africa, the big worry is orphans with guns. They are “putty in the hands of warlords”, says Hamish Young of UNICEF. Abandoned children know their lives are likely to be short, so they figure they may as well seek thrills while they can. Gangs or rebel armies can provide substitute families, while orphans can make attractively nihilistic recruits. Children as young as five fought in civil wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo and Uganda, and have been responsible for many of the worst atrocities. Some observers think AIDS is partly to blame for the mayhem in Zimbabwe: the country has a million orphans and many more young men who expect to die young, easy recruits for land-grabbing militias. What can be done? Extended families do a heroic job of caring for orphans and preventing delinquency. Typically, a grandmother takes on children after her daughter dies. Where governments can afford to help, as in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, bigger pensions and foster grants can keep families together. No parents, no grandparents either But as today's grandparents die of old age, and the middle generation succumbs to AIDS, there will be fewer people to care for future orphans. Carol Bellamy, the head of UNICEF, says that AIDS and hunger have already placed an unbearable strain on over-extended families in southern Africa. She predicts “an entirely disaffected, angry generation of children”. Many children are left looking after their even younger siblings. Child-headed households are becoming common. They need help. But few African governments are prepared to give grants to minors; many do not even allow them to inherit property. Nor are they keen on building day-care centres or orphanages, even cheap village ones. Is there any hope? Much more could be done to keep infected parents alive. If cheap anti-retroviral drugs were widely and safely distributed and better food and nursing care made available, mothers and fathers could expect to live for several more years. Children would of course rather stay at home than go to granny or join a gang. But without massive foreign aid, Africa cannot afford much in the way of drugs, food or nursing.

It began with the Greeks-perhaps it will end that way.... Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

This story from Scientific American is about a new contender for TOE-The Theory of Everything. It seems that to compete with all the stuff coming out of biology physicists have to push forward strange ideas as unintelligible as they are grandiloquent every year. I doubt this is going to be the definitive TOE, but one of them will stick. It helps that the physicist portrayed in the story is a young Greek woman. Thanks to /. for pointing it out. I'll really start to pay attention to when O'reilly comes out with The Definitive TOE: Explaining the universe and load balancing it too.

My Turkey-day (I thought the original misspelling was cute, but someone will get on my ass for it....) Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Guess what, I'm working on a website that's all about "IQ boosting educational tapes" and what not. Of course, my client doesn't know my personal views, but it's kind of hilarious. And don't tell me I shouldn't have taken the contract-the economy being what is now (though is it me, or is the IT sector getting imperceptibly better?). Also-the guy looks a exactly like Andrew Sullivan-somewhat porcine though not quite pudgy.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Religion: The Scientists Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Time permitting, I'm starting a multi-part posting on religion. Religion is in my opinion the most important part of culture, and culture along with biology are the twin pillars that make us human [1]. As someone with an underdeveloped "God module" faith and ritual fascinate me as exotic expressions of humanity that I to some extent find alien. In recent years groups like The Templeton Foundation have probed the boundaries between faith and science, and provided fodder for popular articles written about the dawning of religiosity amongst the pagans (the scientists). I take objection (and have repeatedly in this blog) to this characterization as a sop to popular demand. Scientists are still respected by the general public, but the perception that they reject faith in God and are atheistic disturbs many. When Time magazine publishes articles about the natural dove-tailing of faith and reason, it assuages its readerships concerns about the relevance of their faith in light of scientific progress [2]. So it was a surprise to me when Larson & Witham did some research into the beliefs of scientists (those with Ph.D.s) and found that 40-45% were theists, this was claimed as proof that the technical priesthood were in line with the general American public! No one seemed to want to point out that 90-95% of Americans are theists, so though the number of theists among scientists had remained stable (they were comparing to Lueba's work in the early 20th century), it was still far less than the norm. Their follow-up work, which was not noted much by the mainstream press, found that their respondents who were members of the National Academy of Sciences (equivalent to Lueba's "eminent" scientists) had rates of theism on the order of 5-10%! In addition, belief in immortality and the like had dropped considerably, indicating that a strict materialist understanding of the universe had increased among those who set the terms of debate in the scientific world. What does this all mean? The decrease in secularism among NAS members could be interpreted as directly proportional to g, in other words, smarter people are less religious, and so that explains why NAS members were less religious that Ph.D.s in general. But as Arthur Jensen has noted, many great scientists are not set off by extremely high levels of g, but rather a high level of g combined with dedication, passion and other such intangibles. Jensen and others seem to be indicating that professional success often requires a minimum level of intelligence, but beyond that at minimum the correlation between performance on a standardized test and prominence in the field becomes rather lower. As an example Jensen notes that the famous Terman study of high IQ children (140+) excluded two boys who were a few points below the threshold. These two went on to win Nobel Prizes in scientific fields, while none of the 140+ IQ boys did. Jensen asserts that for instance though an IQ of 140 is probably a minimum to succeed as a professional mathematician (the profession where g is most relevant), there is less information and certainty on what benefits an IQ of 180 has vs. one of 160. I am basically saying that though NAS scientists are probably smarter than the typical Ph.D., they are not that much smarter as to explain such a large sociological difference in religiosity if intelligence was the only causal variable. The fact that mathematicians have the highest rates of theism in both groups indicates that there is more to this than intelligence, as they are probably likely to score higher on an IQ test than an equally eminent group of biologists. In fact, I believe the 1996 study of Ph.D.'s in general indicated that some "soft" disciplines such as psychology had higher rates of secularism than "hard" ones such as chemistry [3]. Obviously other factors are at play. How to explain the discrepancy between NAS and non-NAS scientists than? There are many points that can be brought up. One idea that Larson and Witham bring up is that the NAS scientists are self-selected, and so non-religious scientists favor their own (this sort of politics supposedly played into Carl Sagan's exclusion from that organization, as his foray into popularization vulgarized his reputation). The culture of science itself can be inimical to religious faith, and so bright young religious scientists leave the profession and join a career where their ideals are more accepted and the remuneration is greater. In addition, it may be that religiosity tends to indicate a more "normal" psychological profile, and a more balanced life. With church, family and social obligations in the way, it maybe that religious scientists are less likely to remain in the lab or office and make the next break-through. Jensen's comment on passion and dedication is also important to consider, because someone who believes that they are already saved by the grace of God and await an afterlife might be less likely to feel that their scientific quest has as much transcendent value-they might derive meaning from their life in more diversified and conventional ways. Also, it is interesting that mathematicians are the most religious of scientists both times. Unlike other scientists, mathematicians deal with absolute truths, a world of ideals and ideas. Physical and life scientists can always be second guessed, and even the most elegant of physical theories can be vetoed by nature. The natural scientist does not truly view the mind of god, for their world is messy and chaotic. As Steve Sailer notes in his article Darwin's Enemies on the Right:
Anti-religiousness is the appropriate professional prejudice of scientists. The "Far Side" cartoon summed it up. A lab-coated researcher is filling the left and right sides of a black board with equations, but the only thing connecting the two clouds of symbols are the words, "A miracle happens here." Another scientist suggests, "Maybe you could give us a little more detail on that middle section." Relying on miracles in science is like relying on the lottery in retirement planning.
Unlike other scientists in mathematics a belief that the mind of god lurks beneath the surface of every proof or theorem is not a professional liability. Also, we must note that as many theists have reminded those of us on the less religious side of things, many great scientists of the past were religious. In fact, most of them were. Isaac Newton spent a large portion of his career on disputations and inquiries of faith and the supernatural for instance. But what many forget is that Newton was a theological Unitarian who spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about the pagan corruption of Christian theology that occurred in the 3rd and 4th centuries (his opinion, not mine). Though Galileo remained a believer, he was a dissenter from the orthodoxies of his church when they came up against his scientific instincts. Darwin, though an unbeliever at life's end, began life as the peculiar orthodox Christian in a family of free-thinkers and dissenters. Some of the early Arab scientists (I use the term loosely as they were more often engaged in quasi-medicine and alchemy) began to veer into Hellenic deism. Though Einstein believed in "God," many forget he believed in the "God of Spinoza", often considered by many theists to be nothing less than warmed-over atheism. My point being that one thing constant about scientists, and great minds in general, is that they are more likely heterodox than not, though one can not guess the heterodoxy outside of the historical context. I wanted to start my series on religion discussing scientists because many of us who believe in genetic engineering and the promise of the post-human future do not think in great detail about the cultural implications on the individual level. What would changes in the germ-line imply for faith in the soul for instance? Many of us secularists might imagine that high intellectual ability will mean that religions will whither away, and the scientists with their low levels of belief serve as models. But I think close examination of the data and some analysis indicates that scientists might not be the best models, that their atheism is the product of a complex interplay of variables, and not just the result of their super-human levels of intellect (cough, cough). [1] Proof? Aside from language differences (nationality) religious differences have been among the greatest causes of conflict in human history. Also, you can add "Christian" as an adjective to anything, from music to body-building. [2] I don't mean that religious faith is contingent on its coherence with scientific progress, but most people would rather not have that intellectual dissonance, explaining the books that sell so well that show the Big Bang Theory to be a reflection of a less literal reading of the Genesis. [3] Larson and Witham volunteer this might be due to the need for chemists and physical scientists in general to have cut & dried answers and explanations, while social scientists are more at ease with uncertainty.

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

I've populated an ACCESS 97 database for the Miss World contest with the following fields: Country, Region, LastName, Race, Race2, CountryRace, CountryRace2, Hair Color and Minority Most of the fields are self-explanatory, "Race2" and "CountryRace2" are basically the secondary race of any country, or the minor genetic contribution (for instance, Amerindian is "CountryRace2" in Chile since it is not as white as Argentina, but not as mestizo as say Mexico). I tried to guess if the person was from a religious, ethnic (or obviously) racial minority, but judgement was obviously subjective here. In any case, I don't have time to run queries, but I invite my readers to do so and post any interesting results. The file is located here. I also have an older file for Miss Universe. A few interesting things-lots of blondes in South America (as Steve Sailer would predict)-and Miss Brazil & Argentina both had Scandinavian surnames ("-sen"). Miss England had the name "Luan" but looked white, but I assumed she was a white looking Eurasian. Miss Jamaica had a really "All American" look to my eye, she could have been a high school cheerleader (she was white).

White America! Eric and Erica? Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

I was busy with work for a few weeks, so I couldn't get involved in some of the discussions. One involved the responses to godless' post on changing the immigration system to favor those with high IQs. Some people suggested we return to a white immigration policy, to maintain the character of this country. At this point, I don't care that much about a white immigration policy because I'm a citizen, and I have rights. But, the idea that race would be so important in the eyes of the law disturbs me. Historically race was important (Oriental Exclusion Act, National Origins Act, etc.), but so was segregation and slavery. Life goes on, and history takes a step forward. But it did get me curious, how would one enforce white immigration? One of the first things that would happen if you stipulated that only European immigration would be allowed is that Europe would be swamped with colored immigrants from the Third World looking for EU citizenship. If you narrowed down the racial criteria, and said only those of "Caucasoid heritage" could immigrate, would we have INS making physical inspections at the borders? Many people from the Middle East would be able to pass, while those that wouldn't would probably lighten their hair and stay out of the sun and try to claim they'd been on vacation in tropical locale. What I'm trying to get at is that race-conscious policies enforced by the government start to propagate into absurdities. That is the problem with affirmative action. The tales of the blonde Latina getting a Harvard education on the backs of a million brown-skinned folk who face discrimination are slowly multiplying. I'm libertarian enough to want to keep government out of everything it possibly can stay out of, but practical enough to know that in this world of ours that might not be very much.... If one wants to preserve the character of this country, the easiest way to do that is to institute a freeze. As Hoppe notes, free trade serves as a substitute for free immigration. Though I tend to agree with godless about emphasizing immigration based on education, there are problems with this too. There have been incidents of Chinese showing up with impeccable but fraudulent documents showing how well educated they are. Certainly if we take the advice of many paleolibertarians and enforce an "invitation-only" policy using employers, one would find that people were evading or tricking the system somehow (start a front business that pretends to employ people but actually collects a fee for a residence permit at which point the immigrant might work on the black market). Just goes to show, one should think before one open's one's big mouth.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Why can't I rhyme??? Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

I watched 8 Mile the other day. Pretty good. Eminem ("Jimmy Smith Jr.") has some great raps and disses. He is brilliant, though I have to say I wasn't an early fan and thought he might be a white flash in the rap pan. You know that Eminem though failed 9th grade three times? And how about many of the other black rappers out there? Aside from Will Smith (who turned down a scholarship from MIT and loves math), how many of them would score very high on IQ tests? And yet try as I might, I can't imagine throwing down raps like these guys though I suspect that they'd probably test duller than I. This brings up an interesting point: g isn't everything, and the distribution of IQ in certain groups (blacks) can mislead you into believing they're less competent and eloquent than they are in everyday situations. The problem is comparing tangerines to oranges, because sometimes it's more important to compare someone to their group mean rather than the general population. A black kid with an IQ of 70 is borderline mentally retarded according to the numbers, but he's only in the bottom 15% or so of his racial group, and according to Jensen such children are socially adept. On the other hand, a Jewish child with an IQ of 70 is in the bottom 1-3% of their population, and it would almost certainly indicate a whole suite of social and developmental problems. The point is, just because someone can't figure out a differential equation and compare analogies with ease on the SAT doesn't mean they lack basic human capacities for creativity. Eminem and his ilk show that. Their brain makes connections and their learned skills hone their native abilities to throw down harsh disses. On the other hand, don't hope that cheating off someone like this to write a college paper will help you out.... Update: The short of it is this-for years we've been reading about the high number of African-American children in special education. Many of these kids are in the 60-70 IQ range, sub-normal. But it is often quite clear that they don't belong socially in the same room with many who are suffering from chronic pathologies. If you take a sample of white or Asian kids in the 60-70 IQ range and put them in the room, I strongly suspect there will be many anti-social dribblers and droolers. On the other hand, you won't find this with black kids, because 60-70 is frankly closer to the normal IQ of this group so it is less an indicator for greater psychopathologies. I don't believe that the government should take race into account when it doesn't need to (for instance I think a case for racial profiling can be made), and in this case, the easiest course is for school officials to make sure that kids who are socially normal but academically impaired get put in a separate pool than those that are both socially and academically impaired. Our educational system and its elite is geared toward producing "college educated" people, especially those grounded in the logical-abstraction skills measured by g loaded IQ tests (or on-the-fly bullshitting skills nurtured by English profs). This is an illustration of the axiom of equality, for they expect all groups to be able to perform at the same level. The presence of many socially normal children of sub-normal intelligence in certain groups is a clue that g is not equally distributed, and this to me is a clue as to the reason that normally progressive educators throw so many black children into special education-they don't want to admit that there are any differences between blacks and whites in their aptitude on g loaded tests and their concomitant prospects as college graduates. Tutoring and coaching children with sub-normal IQs to perform at a higher level on these tests is probably futile (depending on its g loading), and the cost would be prohibitive in comparison to piling on the poorly paid special ed teacher. Maybe I should be more straightforward as to what I'm getting at....

A wrong doesn't make another wrong-Asian values isn't the same as Islamic values Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

In this month's issue (not online) of Foreign Policy Fareed Zakaria takes issue with the idea of Asian values (often promoted by statesmen such as Lee Kwan Hew and Mahathir Mohammed), and flips it around to caution those who would demonize Islamic civilization as violent and prone to cross-cultural conflict. Fareed is right on point 1 and taking a cheap shot on point 2. The idea of Asian values underpinning the success of Japan and the "The Tigers" was amusing even in an ahistorical context. Hew and others would often present Confucianism as the glue, and make parallels to Protestantism is northern Europe [1]. Comparing free-wheeling Hong Kong and tightly controlled Singapore seems bizarre on first blush. The two city states were both Chinese, and so presumably Confucian, but the contrast of two styles of Anglo-Saxon governance (laissez faire vs. puritan good government) sent them toward the same end-point (prosperity) via different trajectories. They are illustrative of the flexibility that human beings, and the Chinese in particular, have shown in reacting to varying political pressures and frameworks. Also, there is a sharp contrast between Japan, where non-familial ties (and therefore non-Confucian) have been far more important than in the Sinic and Korean cultures. And though the Chinese minorities of the southeast Asian countries propelled the economic growth of those nations, they flowered in very non-Confucian (Therevada Buddhist Thailand, Muslim Malaysia, etc.) settings. The irony, as Fareed rightly points out, is that theorists in the vein of Webber argued early in the 20th century that Confucianism was holding back the east from modernity. Its hidebound bureaucracy and easy attitude toward nepotism (also called crony capitalism today) were seen as blocks toward further cultural development. It is the classic "just so" conundrum, trying to invent causation where the process is effected by multiple variables. Sociologists who presented the idea of Confucian cultural retardation (like enthusiasts of Webber's thesis who presumed that France, Italy or Catholic Bavaria or the Rhine would always lag behind Protestant Europe in economic growth) have been empirically refuted. The 1998 Asian flu and the emergence of the problems inherent in crony capitalism now makes the second thesis, that Confucianism and Asian values were the keys to success, more precarious. I think the lesson that must be learned is that one has to be cautious when making these sort of bland generalizations. Fareed of course continues by criticizing those who would declare that Islam is at war with the rest of the world, for they might also be jumping the gun and making gross generalizations that will only be proven wrong by the march of history. There are problems in my opinion with the comparison to start off with. While Confucian civilization or Asian values are to some extent nebulous terms, no one doubts there is an Islamic civilization, a Dar-al-Islam. The Dar-al-Islam is not the creation of western geographers and historians (Asia and the Orient is to some extent), it is an idea that emerges out of the Islamic world, where many view themselves self-consciously as members of it. The Middle Kingdom certainly exerted cultural influence on the other civilized nations around its periphery and even planted a Diaspora of its own citizens amongst them. But only Korea and Vietnam were conquered and subjugated, and then only for a short period of time. In general, though China exerted a strong influence on Korea and Japan, and to a lesser extent Vietnam, it has had only a marginal impact on its southeast Asian near-abroad until modern times. And the relationship of China with Korea and Japan can not be likened to the Dar-al-Islam, for this was not a greater cultural community, but an often tense interplay of suzerain and subordinate. The latter nations maintained their identities, and dynastic ties such as those common in Europe did not sew their polities together into a common fabric. The Middle Kingdom demanded submission, but China's territorial expansion abated once the Han had their living space between the Gobi and Hainan Island [2]. In sharp contrast, the shadow of a unitary state (the Caliphate) and an expansionary drive (the jihad) are well elaborated concepts in the Islamic world. The early 20th century theorists who posited the bankruptcy of the Confucian system took a small data sample (the decadence of the late Manchu years) and projected it forward. On the other hand, those who portray Islam as a bloodthirsty civilization bent on expansion have over 1,000 years of evidence. This is simple historical fact. The examples are endless, the early expansion into Spain, the later drive into the Balkans, the lesser known jihads and coups in southeast Asia and eastern Turkestan. Islam is a religion of the earthly domination of Allah, it means submission rather literally. Islam has always had tense borders-anyone who disputes this ignores the historical record. Some of this belligerence is mutual, with Christian Crusades set next to the jihads. On the other hand, Islam's expansion into the realm of Hinduism and Buddhism has not resulted in a like thrust back, but rather the slow inexorable conversion of the people's of the east [3]. The late Manchu dynasty did not characterize the majority of the performance of the period of Confucian cultural hegemony. In fact, the Chinese were traditionally the most advanced and innovative people on the face of the earth, though unfortunately not the most systematic, ergo their failure to develop progressive science. Fareed is correct in saying that Islam may change, and there are more nuances than many of its critics are willing to acknowledge. True enough. Fareed and I are both from South Asian Muslim backgrounds, and both of us are secularists in the Western tradition. But one should not let this lull one into thinking that we are typical Muslims. The periods of tolerance under Akbar or cultural brilliance during the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror existed, but these were interludes. To compare the rather weak and incoherent ideas of Asian values against the critiques of a religion that has an extensive body of unifying theology (in the Koran) and law (the Sharia) is to use a straw man to prove one's point. [1] Max Webber's original thesis about the Protestant work ethic vs. Catholic indolence has been heavily disputed-and in my opinion is not longer authoritative as scholarship though important in the historical perspective. [2] China's western provinces have only been intermittantly under central rule. Tibet for instance was a Manchu possession and not incorporated into the general governance of the Empire. [3] Muslim conversions continue in India and Indonesia to this day.

$10,000 for your thoughts Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Alex Robson reproduces an amazing AAP dispatch reporting from down here in the land of the free, Australia (no link cited).

Justice Christopher Carr said the West Australian Senator had breached the Racial Discrimination Act with his comments to a journalist in May 1997. He ordered Senator Lightfoot to pay costs of up to $10,000. Perth woman Hannah McGlade had taken civil action in the Federal Court, seeking an order that Senator Lightfoot admit his comments vilified Aborigines, that he pay her costs and that he make a donation to the Aboriginal Advancement Council (AAC). Justice Carr granted Ms McGlade's request for a declaration that Senator Lightfoot's comments vilified Aborigines. ``I think that it would be fit to grant the declaration sought,'' he said. ``It is a useful and appropriate way of recording publicly the unlawfulness of the making by the respondent of comments which received considerable publicity and were reasonably likely to offend and insult,'' Justice Carr said. He also ordered Senator Lightfoot to pay most of Ms McGlade's costs. However Justice Carr rejected Ms McGlade's request that the Senator be ordered to make a donation to the AAC. ``I take into account also the fact that the order that the respondent pay the applicant's costs will result in a payment by him of several thousand dollars, possibly in the order of about $10,000,'' Justice Carr said. Today's decision came five years after Ms McGlade first complained about Senator Lightfoot's remarks to an Australian Financial Review journalist that:``Aboriginal people in their native state are the most primitive people on earth.''

Monday, November 25, 2002

Engineer's disorder and Extreme Male Autism Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Why women can't read maps..? Well my chickadees and cockadoos, it's all because men are just autistic super-pigs.
Autism, in its many guises, is an overwhelmingly male affliction, characterised by an abnormality in social development and communication skills and, usually, an obsessional interest in all sorts of weird, mechanistic stuff, from an early age (usually between three and five years). The current thesis among those studying autism holds that the condition is simply an extreme example of male behaviour. Simon Baron-Cohen, at the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, has put forward the ‘Extreme Male Brain’ theory of autism; simply that those abilities typical of the ‘average’ male brain — an ability to systematise, a facility for mechanistic analysis such as mathematics, computer programming and engineering — become, in their extreme form, part of what is now called a spectrum of autism. At the other end of the scale, the extreme female brain would be characterised by an extraordinary ability to empathise but a greatly impaired ability to, as he puts it, systematise. By ‘systematise’ he means an ability to read maps, do mathematical calculations, understand technical systems and so on; all those things which, colloquially, over the years, men have accused women of being hilariously useless at. The trouble is, men may now have the beginnings of scientific proof for what was previously seen as chauvinistic prejudice.
My one question.. why is scientific proof for non-egalitarian social phenomenon so much trouble for some people? Follow the evidence, said the wise TV forensic scientist, not one's wishful thoughts. When facts collide with ideology, it is ideology that must give way to adapt or else risk fading into irrelevancy. A parting thought, not entirely farfetched given the PC-ridden educational system in this country. What effect is the predominantly female teacher population having on young boys, as they teach them from an early age that they are hardwired improperly, their existence barely tolerated during classroom activity. How much damage is caused by the forced molding of young male minds into unsustainable personalities? It's not hard to imagine otherwise healthy behavior, even an "obsession" with mechanical objects like guns, becoming pathological and self-destructive. Harris & Kelbold, anyone..? Razib adds: During my freshmen year in college I took a survey course titled "Human Evolution." The professor asked the class (about 400 of us) if it was likely that Australian Aborigines had more "Erectine features" than other human races-should this possible fact be explored and publicized? 3/4 of the class answered in the negative (I was part of the 1/4 minority). The point is that for some people, facts are irrelevant. There are those who will blind themselves to the truth in the service to their ideology, but now there are those who don't even believe in the importance of facts at all. Didn't anyone tell them that sticking their heads in the sand won't help when the lion is prowling around the bend? They might not see it coming, but it will tear them to shreds nonetheless.

No seconds please.... Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

This LA Times article is about a study on humans of the low-calorie diet (reduce by 25% your average intake). The gist is this: reduce calories -> reduce metabolism -> reduce free radicals -> reduce cancers and the like produced by tissue damage caused by the free radicals. One thing that I don't see mentioned though-if you have less metabolism, does that mean you do less? Where was the extra energy allocated to on a daily basis? In addition, I have read/heard of studies in rodents where long life tended to lead toward greater stupidity. I want to see the results on variables other than long life on this diet.

Wow. And I thought I was paranoid... Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

for not wanting people to know my name. But Eric Raymond takes the cake:

A correspondent is concerned that by revealing that I know a diabolically effective attack plan, I have made myself a potential target of kidnap and torture by terrorists who would very much like to know what [CENSORED] cooked up, so they can do it. My civilization is at war. I am not a coward. I'm not going to hand our enemies vital information gratis merely to secure my personal safety. I'm not going to discuss my security precautions in detail, for obvious reasons. But my readers may be reassured that I am not a soft target. Nor is my wife. Osama, dude? If you're listening? I would just love a shot at a few of the vicious goatfuckers on your string. Send them over; I'll give them a very painful and very short education in what the wrath of Allah is really like. Then I'll bury them in pigskin.

Jayzus H. Christ. Talk about delusions of grandeur. How many Islamic terrorists are reading Eric Raymond's blog? How many of said terrorists are willing to listen to an infidel on how best to kill infidels instead of using the tried & true tradition of thinking up their own plans for mass murder? And of that number, how many care enough about Raymond's secret plan that they'd actually kidnap and torture him for it? I'd wager that the answers are zero, zero and zero respectively.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/25/2002 01:10:00 AM | |

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Second thoughts on Iraq Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

I suppose it's a bit surprising, but I am having second thoughts on Iraq, even after my disquisition on the subject some weeks ago. I still don't care much for the procedural objections, as I've never believed that anything the UN dictates can or should legitimate US policy, foreign or otherwise. No, my second thoughts all boil down to one thing: what will the occupation be like? Invasion is pretty much a done deal now, but what'll be the result? I used to think that the occupation would go smoothly, and we'd basically turn Iraq into a gas station & lookout post to keep tabs on the other dictators in the region. Now, I'm not so sure. I now think that: 1) We'll win in a cakewalk. (same as before) 2) The people of Iraq will be better off. If you care about human tragedy, starvation, etc. - the 500000 per year starving ostensibly because of sanctions but actually because of Hussein will stop dying, and Hussein's reign of terror will end. There really was never a strong humanitarian objection to invasion, and I think the leftwingers objecting on such grounds are delusional morons who don't realize that half a loaf is far better than none at all. (same as before) 3) Our problems will come during the occupation. The thing is, I think there's a nontrivial risk of the US forces in Iraq turning into another Israel, besieged by maddening low-level terrorist pinpricks that get saturation coverage. The terrorists won't be able to target American civilians, but they only need a few successes against the US forces to provoke a PR disaster and massive pressure for a pullout (e.g. Beirut truck bombing or Mogadishu). In terms of retaliation, the sort of impressive lethality that the armed forces can bring to bear is next-to-useless when reporters are around - especially those of the Fiskian antiwar persuasion. As we can't invade every terrorism-sponsoring country to cut off the money spigots, we'll probably experience quite a bit of terrorism once we really are the occupiers that bin Laden and his fellow travelers imagine us to be. I guess what I'm saying is that the 21st century United States does not have the stomach for imperialism. With a pliant, silent media and the ability to use all necessary force against terrorism, the occupation would likely proceed smoothly. But absent such guarantees, I think this might become ugly. The operative word is might . I don't know what will happen. I understand the arguments made in my previous post, and the main difference is that my estimate of the American will to retaliate against terrorism if cameras are around is quite a bit lower. As for what caused this evolution - I must credit Capital Influx's books on realist theory, and her insistence that I actually read said books. Realist theory is far more nuanced than I stated in that earlier post. And, uh, as for saying the theory was "intellectually bankrupt"? I was quite wrong about that...While I still disagree with some of its proponents (particularly on arms control) realism has stood generations of American policy makers in good stead, and has too many successes to dismiss out of hand. I'll probably post later about exactly how my previous critique fell short in some - but not all - areas, and how that influenced my position on Iraq. Now, the reading was a slow process [1] that tipped my scales back up towards uncertainty, but the tipping point came when I saw the nontrivial number of people who objected to the summary execution of known terrorists in Yemen on procedural grounds. Will we have the stomach to fire a Hellfire missile if it's a car full of four suicide bombers and a child as a human shield? If there are no cameras or reporters around - of course. If there are reporters around - I doubt it... [1] I did have experiments to run, after all - blogging and arguing all day is fun, but it's by no means my number one priority.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/23/2002 01:31:00 PM | |

Update on Blacks, Hispanics, and Crime Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

La Griffe Du Lion performed an analysis similar to the one I suggested in the earlier post on the real explanation for the LA/NY murder rate mismatch. He plotted non-white percentage vs. violent crime rate, which roughly shakes out to the analysis I suggested - with two caveats. First is that an increase in the Asian percentage would decrease the violent crime rate, and second is that an increase in Hispanic admixture would increase the violent crime rate, but not as rapidly as black admixture. Thus "non-white" is an imperfect surrogate for a complete breakdown by the major racial groups (W/H/B/A). As a like-minded mathematical/statistical type, Griffe is aware of such things:

I omitted Hawaii because its nonwhite population is not characteristic of the US. Hawaii is largely Asian of various sorts and has a correspondingly low violent crime rate. The line is least squares best fit. Corr Coeff = 0.84. The outlier is DC. Though not a state, I included DC in the fit.

The inclusion of Asians in the non-white percentage won't make that much difference in most other states (except perhaps in California) because Asians are only 3% or so of the US population. Again, though, it would be preferable (but more work) to do a W/H/B/A decomposition of the data. Ok - without further ado - here's the plot: You might miss DC - it's almost off the charts in the upper right corner, with a horrifying 2500 victimizations (!) per 100000 population per capita. This is much higher than a simple linear extrapolation would predict...meaning that the linear fit is likely reasonable for low non-white percentages only. While there aren't many data points in "intermediate" regions (with, say, 60/40 blacks/whites) [1], one can infer what the middle regions would look like from a study of the extremes (e.g. DC and Idaho) and a bit of mathematics. I suggest you check it out... Source: I'm pretty sure Griffe used the FBI Uniform Crime Reports and US Census. Will update this when I get that info from him. Now - for those of you who aren't familiar with such things - a correlation coefficient of .84 is HUGE, especially in social science. And if you look at the scatterplot, you'll see that a linear fit is well justified by the data, at least for low admixture rates (see here for some famous data sets devised by Tukey et. al. to show the problems involved when a linear fit is not justified). Point being: the explanation for violent crime differentials is far simpler than most pundits (bloggers or not) realize or admit. Demography is statistical destiny, and a high percentage of blacks and Hispanics means a high rate of violent victimization. [1] Just a hypothesis - such places (at least at the neighborhood level if not the state level) tend to rapidly swing towards 100% black once whites start to flee.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/23/2002 12:35:00 PM | |

It's about integrity Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

This developing story about the Saudi money trail to al Qaeda terrorists might turn out to be a dead end. But there are hints and implications that the US government is trying to do "damage control" on this issue. This after trying to make the most tenuous of connections of Iraq to al Qaeda. The Bush administration needs to stop playing favorites on this issue, or tweeners that lean toward an Iraq invasion in part because of the trust we have in the administration's abilities to gauge threats accurately and objectively will fall away. And of course, need we say that it undermines the moral case for the war when it starts to seem as if we are trying to protect one oppressive autocracy to take down another oppressive autocracy. This shit needs to stop. PS: I want to be clear that part of my anger/irritation comes from my feeling that while regime change in Iraq would benefit the American economic elite (transfer of energy contracts), a Saudi revolution would undercut the lucrative relationships between the US and Saudi plutocracies. I am not one to see these sort of conspiracies in every act of American foreign policy-but I can't help but think that the personal/financial relationships that the Saudi plutocrats have cultivated over the past few decades gives them breathing room that other thugs around the world do not have. In the case of Saudi Arabia, I begin to wonder whether its stability is more a concern for those do not wish to destroy their cash cow more than anything else (ie; fear of a fundamentalist coup, disruption of oil supplies, etc.).

Friday, November 22, 2002

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

of the Human Biodiversity hall of fame. That is, if those pictures aren't photoshopped...and as long as this kid isn't a Gary Coleman like cherub. Who wants to bet that this kid will be like 5'2" when he grows up? He's surely stunted his growth... Also - a good friend of mine works in pediatrics, and she reports that it's not uncommon for young black children to come in with well defined six-packs, robust arms, etc. (albeit scaled down to their height). So the real unusual feature of this kid is his race...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/22/2002 10:13:00 AM | |

LA leads the nation in number of murders Again from Nick Denton, this story on the absolute number of murders per year shows that Los Angeles has claimed that dubious national honor. But note that Detroit leaps off the page with 34 plus murders per 100000 per year. And that brings an important consideration to mind: the more relevant statistic, in my opinion at least, is the per capita murder rate, a category that Washington DC usually leads in. If one were enterprising enough, one could use the Statistical Abstract of the United States along with information on the geography of jurisdictions to create a "murder rate per capita" vs. "% black" or "%Hispanic" scatter plot. [1] We'd keep the murder rate on the y-axis and the %b/H on the x-axis, as befits their status as dependent and independent variables respectively. With blacks in particular, I'd bet the correlation between "%black" and "murder rate" is substantial, and probably a better predictor than most politically correct indicators of criminality (like degree of urbanization or a spatial variant of the Gini coefficient). The point is that demography is statistical destiny. One might have two jurisdictions with similar black/Hispanic population percentages and somewhat different crime rates, but a) they're probably within a fairly small band and b) it's almost a sure bet that they both have a higher crime rate than a locale with a small or nonexistent black/Hispanic population. This might be the explanation that Nick is searching for:

The city's murder rate is, in relation to population, less than half that of Los Angeles or Chicago. One explanation: the New York metropolitan area includes more peaceful suburbs, which fall outside the borders of metropolitan Los Angeles. But still.

Mass Hispanic immigration has changed the demographics of Los Angeles even more than it's changed New York. I'm too busy to look up the demographics now, but I'll do so later today (or one of you readers can do so for me). Who wants to bet that demography = statistical destiny? Note: I believe that intensity of policing is probably the second most important variable after demography in determining the crime rate. In a bivariate regression we could theoretically assess the influence of both variables on criminality simultaneously. But policing intensity is far more difficult to quantify than a simple percentage, as the number of police officers per capita is (in my opinion) a poor surrogate for the dedication of said officers. So for the purposes of this analysis, one can consider geographic variation in policing intensity to be the primary source of vertical displacement off the scatter plot's trend line. [1] Note that I don't use brown to be synonymous with Hispanic as in "driving while black or brown", for what are (i hope) obvious reasons...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/22/2002 09:04:00 AM | |

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Disparate Impact! Call the EEOC! Nick Denton takes a little poke at the new cell phone laws:

Another racist law proposed: this one banning the use of cellphones in cinemas, which everyone knows targets Asians. Next, white lawmakers will be telling black cinemagoers to quit their noisy call-and-respond with the screen. Multi-cultural tolerance has its limits, obviously.

Perhaps someone should file a class action suit on behalf of all those deprived of the intra-cinema use of their oh-so-cute Hello Kitty cell phones... ;)

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/21/2002 07:48:00 PM | |

Domestic Psyops Psychological warfare for picking up women - single males, take note. Here are some of the more amusing tips:

Number 9 Umpire or referee a women's sports team Not only do you get to be surrounded by a group of sweaty, athletic women, but you also may meet someone who shares your love of sports. Try consoling a woman from the losing team and point out one of the excellent plays she made. Or, approach a woman from the winning team. Since her endorphins will be soaring from the exercise and the victory, she may be in a state to say yes to just about anything. ... Number 4 Lectures or demonstrations These events are usually rallied around passionate and controversial subjects, and the atmosphere is usually emotionally charged, making female attendees more emotionally available (or vulnerable) and open to discussing the events with a fellow concerned citizen. Try attending poetry readings, anti-clear-cutting lectures, or demonstrations to free Tibet. But make sure you actually have a somewhat intelligent opinion on the subject; otherwise she may run straight into the arms of the sensitive zealot with the banner and the guitar.

This has been forwarded around quite a bit because of its bluntly Machiavellian references to "emotional vulnerability". In fact, the site is full of this sort of psyops stuff - such as Can You Hypnotize Women Into Wanting You? , When "The One" Isn't Pretty Enough , and Fighting With Your Woman The Right Way. The message? Relationships are just another type of warfare. Murtaugh commented on the phenomenon of genomic imprinting recently, something I'd been meaning to talk about but never gotten around to. Briefly: even at the molecular level, there's a battle of the sexes for whose parents' genes are expressed in the infant's body. For the cynics among us it's just another brick in the wall, as the biological evidence is already conclusive: males & females cooperate, but only insofar as they need to in order to pass on their genes. Fortunately or unfortunately, this battle is something of a genetic stalemate. Kissinger said it best - No one will ever win the battle of the sexes; there's too much fraternizing with the enemy. Update: This could be an interesting thread. Male readers - I call upon you to add to the wisdom of John Brothers and Martin. Their tips:

Brothers: #11 - tutoring elementary school children I volunteered to tutor kids at a local elementary school. I discovered two interesting side effects - the teachers (who are invariably female at this level) were very nice, and delighted that you were helping out. Secondly, walking through the halls on the way to the library for the tutoring, every door had the name of the teacher on it, along with a Mrs or a Ms. So you know which ones are available. (I was already married at the time, so I didn't pursue this strategy. But I'm sure it would have worked). Martin: Corollary to Number 9 Your boy is 100% correct on the demonstrations. About 1990, I was in Los Angeles, loitering outside a store while my then girlfriend was shopping. Walking down the sidewalk, I noticed that all these girls were stopping to look at me, generally smiling, and about half saying hi or otherwise oozing good vibes. Although I admit to above average looks, I usually don't attract such attention. About 20 minutes later I figured out why. The women started having a streetside pro-choice rally -holding up signs and encouraging cars to honk. Because of the general lack of pedestrians in LA-these women assumed I was there to partake in the demonstration-major brownie points. My girlfriend exited the store before I had a chance to start one of those girls on the road to an abortion , but I later passed on the tip to my LA friends, whose subsequent abortion rights advocacy did indeed serve them well.

Editorial note on Martin's comment: Those of a libertarian/centrist bent generally can't get too enthused about attending protests to pick up women. Unless you're looking for a short fling, ideological incompatibilities and the eventual revelation that you were faking your zealotry would put an end to the relationship in short order. But pro-choice rallies are a huge exception, at least for the group I travel in. Perhaps there are others as well that I'm missing. What other rallies are frequent, well populated by females, and don't require intellectual compromise? Note that this excludes the standard pacifism/Free Mumia/anti-globo rallies that would be ideological poison to most readers of this blog... Second note: I actually prefer the bookstore, which is number 5 (I think) on the list. Perhaps that's because I prefer thinkers to political zealots or "those who can't" ;) (kidding!)

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/21/2002 03:00:00 AM | |

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Post-Traumatic Slavery Disorder Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Post-Traumatic Slavery Disorder Possibly the funniest "nurturist" rationale for minority failure I've ever seen. From Matt Welch's comment section for this post (which I found through Capital Influx in this post) comes Lonewacko:

I know who Gloria Estefan is. I might, however, have been wrong about the Lebanese part. Apparently, she's married to someone who's Lebanese-Syrian. Racism exists yet today. However, I don't think it's unfair to dismiss the complaints of the leaders and many of the members of these groups as a combination of whining, power grabbing, self-aggrandizement, anti-white racism, and other undesirable actions. For instance, Jackson's barbershop complaint, Tawana Brawley, map of Aztlan found; Mexicans rightful owners of Utah, UN council on racism, PTSlaveryD (for kicks, try to figure it out before reading the article) I could go on. Anyway, for more kicks, find the funniest two words in the last link. SPOILER SPACE SPOILER SPACE SPOILER SPACE Those two words are: "and Latino." See, like the way that "Driving while black" later became "Driving while black or brown," the inventors of PTSlaveryD have decided to included Latinos in the aggrieved movement. Power in numbers, don't you know. Me, I read PTSlaveryD as yet another scam, a whine, an attempt to divide. Not a real attempt to solve racial problems.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/20/2002 04:41:00 AM | |

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Of Trojan Horses and Immigration My response to Derb's NRO article on immigration today, in email form:

"We might, for example, have a "probationary" system for resident non-citizens, imposing all sorts of restrictions and requirements on them, government agencies licensed to collect all kinds of information on them. Then, when a person becomes a citizen, the restrictions and requirements vanish, and the gathered information is purged by law from the databases. What would be wrong with that? What, exactly, would be wrong with it? "

Dear Derbyshire, Well, the INS is hopelessly incompetent. I'm not too keen on solving these problems with a massively more powerful INS bureacracy empowered to surveill people's lives. Remember that many non-citizens have family and friends who are citizens...where do you draw the line? Personally, I think the real question is: a) who do we let in? b) why do we need to let in people without regard to their ethnic origin? It's b) that is the real powderkeg. I would much prefer a realistic race/religion/etc. savvy screening procedure to an intrusive and ineffective tracking procedure. Far easier and more efficient to deal with people at a port of entry than for years and years over the course of their lives. An explicitly race conscious policy is a pipe-dream now, of course, but a Canada style points system would do nicely, possibly with minus points for coming from a terrorist nation. (but see below.) Note also that we're dealing with two very different issues with regards to immigration: the large scale low intensity threat of mass Hispanic immigration, and the small scale high intensity threat of islamic fundamentalist immigrants. To some extent it is to the advantage of immigration reform advocates to conflate these issues in order to get traction on the former by preying on the fear of the latter...but I feel that such efforts will be counterproductive in the long run because the solutions to these problems are not identical. There is also the ironic tang of using Trojan Horse tactics in response to the perceived or real Trojan Horse of immigration... A simple skills/IQ filter (implemented by a Canada style system) along with border enforcement will stop the deleterious effects of mass Hispanic immigration. [1] As for Muslim fundamentalist immigration, well, I don't know how easy it will be to deal with that because it's not as immediately seen as a numbers game (unlike it is in Europe, say). Disallowing citizenship for immigrants from terror sponsoring nations would deprive of us many very competent, loyal, and secular Iranian engineers - who are of the same caliber as their Indian, Chinese, or Eastern European counterparts, and are likewise fleeing oppressive and/or corrupt regimes to pursue happiness in the land of the free. There aren't easy solutions to this, beyond increased scrutiny for potential terror-sympathizing immigrants. I'd prefer that sort of thing to be tacitly handled by the CIA rather than overtly through the INS... [1] A quick explanation of my position on immigration: if Hispanic immigration did not result in externalities for which employers are not liable, then I'd be for it. The problem is that employers get cheap labor, but do not bear the full costs of immigration. The public is saddled with the bill for welfare, social services, crime, second language translation, affirmative action, etcetera. This is a classic case of externality created market failure - and provides a theoretical basis for government regulation. Note also that I'd be all for (say) mass Chinese immigration, because Northeast Asians don't bring such problems with them.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/19/2002 12:59:00 PM | |

A drop in the bucket my friend The title says it all: Intense Tutoring for the Suburban, Smart and Disadvantaged. Wealthy schools can afford to coddle and encourage their tokens and push them forward as shining exemplars of their race. You have to read the article to taste the patronizing attitude. One thing that really bothers me is the idea that you "need to see someone like yourself that has made it to know you can succeed." Is this true? I don't know or care much myself. Godless rolls his eyes: First off, Razib is entirely correct when he dismisses the "role-model" rationale. It's total BS - Asian males are invisible in the media and in entertainment, yet they don't seem to suffer academically from a "lack of role models". However, the worst bit of the article was this line:

She is a student at Greenwich High School, a bastion of wealth and accomplishment, where it would be easy to hide the performance of a few minority children amid the high test scores of the majority. Or would have been easy before a new federal law, the No Child Left Behind Act, that aims to expose this unpleasant corner of American education. Under the law, schools will be forced to publish achievement data broken down by race and will be shamed, with escalating penalties, if disparities are not corrected.

The disparity must be "corrected". How is this possible if the disparity is partly biological in origin, a hypothesis that must be entertained if we are to proceed with any measure of objectivity? This article resorts to the false invocation of the axiom of equality more immediately and blatantly than most. The most objectionable part of this farce is that there is now every incentive for the school to evade lowering standards to blur distinctions between high-achieving pupils and their less intelligent counterparts. In other words: they will "correct" the disparity by softening the tests. But the real world doesn't work this way. You're not going to be building bridges and developing diodes if you can't understand mathematics. Lowered standards will eventually come back to bite you if you do battle with nature or with organizations that have high standards. Killing the messenger will not "correct" anything... Oh other paragraph of this execrable article stuck out:

Dr. Gordon added that the Prep model "helps us understand what a good education has to look like," including music lessons, travel, tutors and college counseling, especially for "kids whose lives don't predispose them to high achievement."

Again, total nonsense. All you need to get a good education is a library card and possibly a computer...and a high IQ. Music lessons are fine, but all the rest is just fluff. Most of the friends of mine who went overseas for "studies" just had boozy fun. They got little or no education out of their "travel". As for tutors and counselors...well, let's just say that you'll never be on the cutting edge of anything if you always need someone to teach you something. Razib's addendum: It strikes that perhaps what these educators are trying to inculcate in their charges is exactly the wrong attitude: that of the pampered privileged prep schooler of the days of yore. Forgotten today, but standardized tests were the tools of the meritocracy that broke the old-line WASP stranglehold on the Ivy's. At these schools, a "well-rounded extracurricular background" is probably more typical of the legacies (an excuse to let them in without being totally shameless) than kids that made it by merit alone-who had plenty of sports and activities, but are distinguished by their academics. Another thing is that underrepresented minorities that do well in school and are poor to boot also have a huge handicap in their favor in terms of getting scholarships and acceptance into elite schools. Seems like these "enrichment" programs make up for that, so perhaps they should not be eligible??? In any case, these programs exist more for well-off white liberals than anyone else. It is a self-affirmation of their inherent virtue as they take up the latter-day white man's burden. The minorities who follow the path of identity politics-who accept the little "good as white but a little smudged on the outside" sticker-are the modern day colonial collaborators.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Urban Wasteland NRO uses Detroit's bleak situation in Eminem's movie 8 miles to illustrate the failure of modern urban liberalism. The article points out that the city of one million has one movie theater and no major retail stores. The racially diverse suburbs (Arab, black and ethnic white) bordering Detroit are prospering while the city collapses in on itself. The only problem I have with articles like this is that the problem is greater than liberalism. Almost all cities are run by liberals. Seattle, San Francisco, Portland for instance have not needed Republican mayors (who were only center-Left not far Left) like New York or Los Angeles [1]. But the cruel fact is that the mayors that represented the apogee of urban decay and chaos prior to the Republican (read: non-Leftist) takeover (Riordan and Guliani) were black (the more conservative second Daley also took over after the long tenure of a black mayor). Detroit (and Gary, Indiana) are illustrations of the failure of black liberalism, which is manifested by an absolute lack of social capital mixed in with government programs. My point is that liberalism is toxic only in certain contexts. In other situations (Sweden, San Francisco, Boston, etc.) the social matrix can absorb it, and the choice of welfare statism is a trade-off rather than a dead-end (less freedom and mobility for more security). By the way, what did Gary do to change its image? The black city elected a white (liberal) mayor. [1] Black liberalism is more than just skin deep-Seattle, a mostly white city, had a black mayor from a middle-class background. Of course, his skin color automatically made him the "urban" candidate in the race for governor, and he lost out to a Chinese man from a lower-class background who was percieved as being less liberal and polarizing. Update: From the message board:
Tom Bradley was a pretty good mayor of Los Angeles, but he got old in office and his fifth term was a disaster. But, in a city that has never been much more than 15% black, he had to do a lot of things right (like bring the Olympics to LA in 1978 when no other city in the world wanted it) to win five elections. Steve Sailer

A lighter shade of brown This article bemoans the lack of colored faces in magazine publishing. Progress is being made-in the form of the likes of Halle Berry (the image that serves as the link to the article). It is noted repeatedly that the magazine reading public is diversifying. There are some red herrings thrown in about the % of the general population that is now non-white (not everyone reads Cosmopolitan at the same rates). Magazine publishing is also segregated to some extent, so one reason Cosmo doesn't have many black faces on its cover is that black beauty magazines fill that niche. Of cours, one reason it doesn't have so many black readers is that there aren't any black faces-so round and round it goes.... But what I find interesting is The New York Times definition of "non-white." In the United States Halle Berry is of course non-white:

To those of us who look closer though, it is clear that she is of mixed-racial heritage (her mother is white after all). Though she has African blood-qualifying her as African-American-her white features and lighter skin (and more importantly her exquisite physique) are close enough to European norms to satisfy and not threaten white Americans and serve as a sop to political correctness. Later on the article notes this:
And race itself has become more complicated and less definable, said Mr. Wynter. He suggests that many of the Latin superstars like Jennifer Lopez are often seen not as minorities by young white teenagers, but as a different kind of white person. Very few of the breakout artists featured on covers are dark skinned.
Here are some of the non-whites listed above that grace covers: Enrique Iglesias. Despite his Spanish (so in the US automatically assumed to be Latin American) surname-his father is from Spain (Madrid), while his mother is a Spanish Filipina (the pictures I've seen indicate mostly European blood). Christina Aguilera. Her mother is Irish-American, her father is Ecuadorian, and from the one photo I've seen, a light-skinned mestizo (it seems unlikely that someone of full Amerindian blood would immigrate to the United States). She is predominantly of European ancestry from the looks. The Times says:
The singers Shakira, Beyoncé Knowles, and Christina Aguilera, all nonwhite, have at times worn blond hair that is indiscernible from that of Britney Spears.
I have kept track of the careers of both Christina and Britney (as my friends know) despite a lack of interest in their music. The Times characterizes Christina as non-white and Britney as white, but the fact is that Ms. Spears' hair is as fake and her general complexion swarthier than Ms. Aguilera. Take a look see:
Brown-eyed Britney always has more transparent roots than blue-eyed Christina. Of course, in the PC age, all people with Spanish surnames are non-white. As for Shakira and Ms. Knowles, the former is a mix of white Columbian and white Arab (Lebanese), while Ms. Knowles is from a reputable "high yellow" mixed family, at least judging by the appearance of her mother (she looked like a middle-aged southern California woman with a lot of fake 'n' bake tanning). Then the article moves away from women's magazines toward the growing "laddy" publications like Maxim:
But a newer generation of men's magazines seem to find ethnicity sexy. In the last year, 5 of the 12 women featured on the cover of Maxim, the spectacularly successful young men's magazine owned by Dennis Publishing USA, were other than white.
In the interest of thorough research, I decided to look up the cover of Maxim for 2002. Kelly Hu and Lucy Lui are Asian (Kelly is actually Eurasian-though she's from Hawaii so the combination is hard to parse). Not too surprising. Shakira is as I said marginally non-white, while Beyonce is high-yellow. I don't know who the other non-white person was supposed to be, though it might have been at the tail end of 2001. In any case, one thing you notice about the article is that it spends an inordinate amount of time on blacks, who are underrepresented from what I can see in "men's magazines"-and from what I read in women's magazines as well, some on Latinos who are generally phenotypically white (if Christina's mother was from Ecuador she wouldn't be considered non-white), while shafting Asians, when the women are pretty well represented in men's magazines. As Asia Carrera said: when guys want a change up from a big-boobed blonde, they go for an Asian. All this indicates to me that the journal of record writes stories on race to satisfy its own internal quota of guilt, and is more concerned with liberal politics at the paper rather than the real world. Perhaps because its based in New York, they can pretend that Christina Aguilera and Enrique Iglesias serve as the faces of Latino America, while ignoring Asians who concentrate on the Pacific Rim. I hope this post generates some traffic.... (though they might not stay long since there aren't any Britney Nipple Slips) Godless provides an existence proof: In response to Jon Jay Ray - there are Indian women that I'd wager are cross-culturally attractive. Aishwarya Rai is one example: Interestingly, she's of South Indian ancestry, though she is (I think) a Brahmin, and (anecdotally at least) would be lighter than the Non-Brahmins. Interesting note - Brahmins dominate Bollywood like Jews dominate Hollywood. Here's another Indian beauty, Miss Universe 1994 Sushmita Sen: Now, an interesting trend that I'll be following in the years & decades to come: When weight training and cardio hits Bollywood in the 21st century like it hit Hollywood in the early 90's, what sort of transformation will the figures of Indian actresses undergo? Empirically speaking, India is athletically atrocious - its Olympic performances are shamefully bad for a nation of almost a billion souls, and poverty is no excuse as not *everyone* in India is poor (and many poor Africans do quite well...). I happen to think that mesomorphicity is just less common in the subcontinent for some as-yet-poorly-understood evolutionary reason. [1] Thus I think that Indian models will (on average) have higher body fat percentages even after personal training/etc. than their European or African (or even Asian?) counterparts. This'll probably be more noticeable in the males than the females. Just a prediction. [1] Yet the climate of India is just as warm/tropical/fertile as that of Africa. It's stuff like this that makes me question Rushton's theories, though their explanatory power for East Asian, European, and Sub-Saharan African racial groups is clear. Perhaps the caste system can account for the difference, but I'm not entirely sure...there may also be multiple evolutionary "sweet spots" (or local optima, for the mathematically inclined) for a given climate. A wild card is the notion that the Indian & African climates may have some functional difference that causes differential selection pressure for mesomorphicity in one region vs. another, but this is a bit strange as well as neither "climate" is quite so monolithic. Long time readers, by now you know the refrain: we'll only know for sure when the hapmap comes out in < 5 years. Razib adds: Looks like Lara Dutta, Miss Universe 2000, has a pretty low body fat %:

She is 1/4 English (she is from Bangalore, but I think she is from the Hindi-speaking portion of the population, Dutta looks like a North Indian name).

Sunday, November 17, 2002

We might as well be Zen I am linking to a Maureen Dowd article. It's about Saudi Arabia-and even Dowd can't manage to trivialize the subject, though she does her best (some issues do not require snide satire, but righteous gravity). In any case, as I read the article, I came to two conclusions: 1) Saudis believe America does too much 2) Saudis believe America doesn't do enough We really can't win here, can we? It reminds me of the Naomi Wolf anecdote where feminist students at a liberal college attacked her book for: 1) Not having enough scholarly footnotes 2) Being discriminatory against women of color in the Third World who were illiterate and could not read

The Law of unintended consequences.. ..manifests itself in the strangest of ways. Several conservation successes have been traced to the popularity of Viagra among Asian men, who are apparently dismissing folk remedies for impotence in favor of a proven technological alternative.
The results are preliminary, but the paper's authors, Frank von Hippel, of the University of Alaska, in Anchorage, and his brother Bill, of the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia, have shown that the trade in such exotica as seal penises is falling rapidly. They suspect, though they cannot yet prove, that this is because men with “vigour” problems who once placed their faith in penis soup have found that Viagra works rather better.
What todays watermelon environmental activists would have us do is to climb down from the technological ladder of progress, when it is increasingly obvious that the lions share of solutions to our environmental and conservation issues will come from climbing up that ladder, as fast as we can.. free markets drive technological innovations, which provide consumers with choices. Sometimes these choices can have remarkable effects, such as reducing the human-use footprint on the environment.

Can Gates buy off Indian programmers? Gates takes on Linux in India, in an effort to win the battle for the future by winning over Indian software developers of today. Gates is fighting a war, and he knows it, even if he won't admit it publicly.
In his third visit to India, which ended on Thursday and which he called his most radical yet, Microsoft chief Bill Gates unveiled a US$400 million investment plan over the next three years for the country. According to Gates, this will be Microsoft's biggest non-manufacturing investment outside of the United States, and the largest share of this - $280 million - will be devoted to the development of skills around the "dot net" platform to increase business opportunities for Indian companies by leveraging Microsoft product development.
Even though Linux has crept into widespread acceptance in Indian academic and government organizations (free is always good, and the hidden costs of open-source can be buried even deeper in Indian bureaucracies), Gates task may be easier than it looks. Indian programmers and software development firms are not a religous bunch, muttered prayers to Lord Ganesha to speed up that green card notwithstanding. They go where the money is, where the consulting dollars are marginally higher. They are also, paradoxically, a conservative bunch, who prefer low-return long-term income generation over risky investments in fleeting technology. If Microsoft can make a convincing case for .NET, and for the long-term viability of the MS development platform and web services, and demonstrate diminishing returns in keeping up with Linux/Java/PHP open source, Indian programmers will stampede in an attempt to be Gates's new high priests. The one thing Linux has going for it in India that Microsoft cannot hope to match is it's elitist appeal. It is the Bramhim of OS technologies. It affords India's programmer elite, already drawn from it's upper and middle classes, a much-needed opportunity to draw finer lines of social distinction and seperation. The caste appeal of certain kinds of technology are very real. It's what gives the Oracle DBA with his arcane SQL+ knowledge, a certain cachet in Indian high-tech social circles, one that is not matched by a VBA/MS Office programmer, even if the latter makes more money on a given project. If Gates throws enough money at academic institutions, puts just the right amount of, er, monetary incentives in the pockets of the right pols, helps bring in consulting tie-ups and a measurably larger flow of dollars, he could actually change this perception. The Indian economy is still very much a crony capitalist mish-mash. He could make .NET cool, using economic tactics alone..! The .NET programmer suddenly becomes top dog. The open source wizards get sent back to their free sandbox... And some people think George W. Bush runs an evil empire... sigh!

It's all about the music-well, not really.... Andrew Sullivan pointed me to this article about pressure from Craig David's advisors for him to drop his white guitarist to appeal to the urban demographic. The article talks about how segregated American music is, and that's totally true. The irony being that the music scene tends to be dominated by "progressives." When I was a freshmen in college, one of my neighbors in the dorms was a big fan of the tail-end of the Seattle Sound (late 95ish, think Smashing Pumpkins). He didn't really like rap and R&B too much. He wasn't a snob about it, but his preferences were clear. Then one day, I saw that he had a Beasty Boys CD in his collection. I know that the Beasty Boys "transgress" (as the PoMos would say) the boundaries between rap & rock, but I asked my friend why he listened to them when he had absolutely no interest in anything else that smelled of rap. I was curious as to whether it was because they were white. My friend became very angry, but he didn't quite deny it. Not that the shoe can't be on the other foot, the lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish (not my type of music, but they sell, or used to) is black and gets shit from his peeps for playing rock in a white band. With bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit breaking down the barriers between rap and rock-race is a better indicator of a band's genre than any substantive musical style. The key here is that "Eric and Erica" (as in the white kids that love Eminem) take race into account in making quick purchases. On the other and, they go through a battery of sensitivity and indoctrination in PC that inoculates them to the charge of racism and tends to make them point the finger at others, those much less enlightened and more likely to make a racial "party-foul." That's the biggest problem with today's attitude toward race-it's all about surface dynamics. But remember the formula for a boy band: Two bothers, a heart-throb, a bad-boy and a Hispanic guy. Black's need not apply, unless it's a black boy band (one of the guys in O-Town is half-black, but he could pass as Latino if he wore a hat).

Destined to become legendary I'm not sure whether this has already taken off and is only now experiencing a revival...but you're witnessing the start of another "All Your Base" email-forwarding frenzy if Kikkoman hasn't been seen before. Thanks to Murtaugh for this link - truly a great find.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/17/2002 01:46:00 AM | |

Thursday, November 14, 2002

A reliable rule of thumb... Is that any new communication medium will be most profitably pursued by the pornographers. Such will be the tale for trans-Atlantic touch:

In a milestone that conjures up the refrain to a Paul McCartney song, researchers at MIT and University College London have linked “hands across the water” in the first transatlantic touch, literally “feeling” each other’s manipulations of a small box on a computer screen. Potential applications abound. “In addition to sound and vision, virtual reality programs could include touch as well,” said Mandayam A. Srinivasan, director of MIT’s Touch Lab and leader of the MIT team. Imagine haptic (touch) feedback for a surgeon practicing telemedicine. What about artists from around the world collaborating on a virtual sculpture? They could create different forms, colors, sounds and textures accessible over the Internet. Students in a physics class might “feel” the forces within the nucleus of an atom. “That application could also be sent across a very widespread network,” Srinivasan said. “We really don’t know all of the potential applications,” he concluded. “Just like Bell didn’t anticipate all of the applications for the telephone.”

Well, since Srinivasan is unwilling to speculate, I will do so for him. The possibilities are endless: long distance relationships, phone sex, and prostitution will become far easier, and the insatiable demand for better touch for long-distance-sex will push the boundaries of the technology so that the "nobler" applications (research collaboration, remote surgery, etc.) will be enabled along the way. It's much like the internet was in the early 90's. Every teenaged male wanted the internet to download porn and free software, not to "surf the information superhighway", but the latter was an excellent fig leaf for the former when pitching the idea to skeptical parents. The same will be true for teletouch, or whatever they decide to call it...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/14/2002 09:12:00 PM | |

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Calculus on Manifolds Just heard of this woman for the first time in a while today (she spoke on campus some time ago), and I did a double take. I doubt there are many people who've heard of both, but did anyone else think from her unusual Anglo last name that she might be married to the great mathematician Michael Spivak? She's not, though...she's one of these postcolonial gobbledygook generators. Quite unlike the real Spivak's work - ah, I remember many a lovely day during my undergraduate years, manipulating manifolds and toting up tensor products... For those vanishing few who care about such things, a representative comment from Amazon that captures the elegance of Calculus on Manifolds:

When you are in college, the standard calculus 1,2, (maybe 3) courses will teach you the material useful to engineers. If you want to become a mathematician (pure or applied), you must pretty much forget the material in these courses and start over. That's where you need Spivak's "Calculus on Manifolds". Spivak knows you learned calculus the wrong way and devotes the first three chapters in setting things right. Along the way he clears all the confusion arising from inconsistent notation between partial derivatives, total derivatives, Laplacians, and the like. Chapter four contains the main objective of the book: Stokes Theorem. I think Spivak does a great job in minimizing the pain students feel when faced with tensor algebra for the first time, by carefully developing only what is essential. By first developing the notions of vector fields and forms on Euclidean spaces rather than manifolds, he eases the assimilation of these concepts. There is a slight price to pay by not developing the notion of tangent spaces in terms of germs and derivations (the modern approach), but this is quite justified for the level of the book. The student who completes chapter four (including the exercises) is well-equipped to study differential geometry. Chapter five is a brief introduction to differential geometry, a teaser if you will, for the amazing ramifications of the tools developed in the book. As Spivak remarks in the introduction, the exercises are the most important part of the book. Spivak rewards the students in the exercises by leaving many interesting developments to them like the indefinite integral of a Gaussian and Cauchy's integral formula. This book is a gem for the student of mathematics.

You might not believe it, but I use this stuff regularly in some of the work I do. The chain of connection is: calc. on manifolds -> high dimensional formal manipulation -> pattern recognition -> genetics. Many are partial to his calculus book, but I actually prefer either Anton (for first timers) or Apostol I & II (for rigor). Spivak's univariate calculus textbook is in that vast middle ground...his manifolds book, however, is in a class by itself. I never managed to get through his 5 volume work on differential geometry (I had other priorities), but a fair case can be made for that work as well... Funny how the name of a mediocre and entirely replaceable postcolonial nitwit can evoke memories of the eternal beauty of higher mathematics! Namespace conflicts have unpredictable consequences... Update A kindred spirit comments on Spivak's calculus book:

This book will give you a deep, crystal clear understanding of Calculus. It is also the perfect introduction to analysis or to rigorous math. Every single person on the Earth should have read this book. One day, when we have vanquished poverty and cured every disease, all of our genetically engineered, supersmart kids will read this book in elementary school.

Yes...soon ;)

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/14/2002 08:43:00 AM | |

For want of a nail, the war was lost Apologies in advance to US readers but I found this piece of Oz political trivia too damned hilarious not to post. Robert Dean's name will deservedly be remembered in political history one day. (Background info - Elections are on in the state of Victoria, Australia. The Liberal Party is the name of the main conservative party here in the antipodes. Their Coalition partners are agrarian socialists who call themselves the Nationals.)

STATEMENT BY ROBERT DOYLE At 9.00 pm last night I was informed by the State Director that Dr Robert Dean had failed to enrol as a person eligible to vote at the forthcoming election. That advice has been confirmed this morning in writing by the Electoral Commissioner. Consequently Dr Dean is unable to stand as a candidate for the Liberal Party in the electorate of Gembrook. As a result, I have immediately terminated Dr Dean's appointment as Shadow Treasurer. I have also asked for, and received, his resignation from the Parliamentary Liberal Party

all the flakes in LA Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

all the flakes in LA Tonight Caltech's Social Activism Speaker Series brought erstwhile weapons inspector Scott Ritter to campus. Doors opened at 7:30, but I figured it would be popular, and I was the 10th person (or so) in line, shortly after 7. The Green Party, "War For Sale", and "Amnesty International" all set up tables right in front of the lilypond I'm always tempted to push people into, and boy was I tempted tonight. Some guy selling "Revolutionary Worker" papers came through the line and asked me if I understood that the United Nations was just rubberstamping Bush's war plans. "Of course," I told him, "that's what they're there for!" He smiled approvingly and walked on. The auditorium (seats 400 or so) filled up fast, and they filled an overflow auditorium and stuck several hundred people more on the lawn with loudspeakers. Caltech is not a political place, by and large, so at first I thought maybe people had come hoping to see John Ritter. But it seems like every flake in the greater Los Angeles area showed up. After being introduced by a kid with pink hair ("pinko!"), Scott Ritter showed up and expressed his pleasure that Iraq had agreed to accept inspectors. But, he maintained, the new tough resolution was a sham. For starters, it had arbitrary deadlines in it ("Why 30 days to turn in an assessment? why not 60? or 90?" I was unable to point out that either of those would be equally arbitrary.) Ritter had the answer: because of airplane carrier logistics, the optimum window for attacking Iraq opens around December 15 and closes in March. And so the UN resolution was crafted with those precise dates in mind. "WE'RE GOING TO WAR!" Whenever the crowd's attention level seemed to have dropped a bit, Ritter would pipe in again, "WE'RE GOING TO WAR," in his folksy "I'm-just-a-marine" drawl. This segued into the anti-war portion of his speech:
War is about one thing and one thing only: death and [sic] destruction. People will die. So look in the mirror and ask yourself, "Am I willing to die for Iraq?" What gives you the right to send people to Iraq to die?
So began an evening of moral equivalence, bad analogy, and faulty logic, all of which the crowd ate up. Then he started talking about the Constitution: "I took an oath to a piece of paper! ... The Constitution defines who we are as people." His point seemed to be * GWB's new war powers are unconstitutional, * we joined the UN via a treaty (per the Constitution), and so * we should do what the UN says At this point he began an extended spiel on "Democracy." We, you see, have "failed as a democracy" by not voting on War with Iraq. (This part made little sense to me, and I was partially distracted by making Arrow's Theorem jokes to the friend I'd dragged along). Ritter noted that we'd just had an election, but "was Iraq part of that election? No!" I don't particularly agree with this -- one could argue that the election results constituted tacit endorsement of GWB's Iraqi plans. But Ritter would have none of it:
We're not a democracy! We're a dictatorship of one!
This brought rousing applause from the crowd. Next he went into a description of his inspection strategies. He'd done a good job, he assured us, and any assertion that Iraq still had weapons of mass destruction seemed to be an affront to his competence. Ritter described repeated patterns of Iraqi lying, UN detective work, and weapons destruction, the general logic of which went like this: (1) So they lied to us about having VX gas. (2) But then we found evidence they had VX gas. (3) Oh, right, we had VX gas, they told us. But only 10 gallons. (4) But then we found evidence of 50 gallons. (5) They proved to us that they'd destroyed 48 gallons. (6) We were satisfied. In short, they seemed to be satisfied with very little, largely on the basis of self-congratulation regarding their own detective work. He hadn't spoken about sanctions, so he did that now. Saddam might be "pulling the trigger," he assured us, but the US (and hence you and I, as citizens) were surely responsible too. Imagine, he asked us, that on the way from the airport to Caltech he'd asked his driver to stop at a bank, at which point he'd gone in, robbed it, and shot two people. He [analogous to Saddam] was "the triggerman" but the driver [analogous to us] was legally an accomplice. I leave it to you to pick out the holes in this analogy. Not willing to stop at one bad analogy, he demanded to see GWB's evidence for Saddam's WMD. Imagine, he asked this time, that you went to the doctor who told you you had a brain tumor and that he needed to cut open your head on the spot. And further, when you asked him to see the X-ray, he assured you that he didn't need to show it to you. This, he maintained, was what GWB was doing to us. I leave it to you to pick out the holes in this analogy. At long last he brought out the "U" word -- unilateralism. Why, unilateralism is a rejection of "international law!" In fact, it's outright "imperialism." And Scott Ritter will be damned if he's going to let us become an empire! [Wild applause.] Finally, we descended into utter bogosity: "why do they hate us?"
Because we consume their resources. Our "consumer attitude" is a threat to their existence. [True, but not in the way Ritter meant it.] We're removing hope [huh?] of a better life, and they have no choice but to blow up buses because that's the only option we give them.
And with that, we opened up the floor to an amazing Q&A session. People lined up at the microphones, and one of them -- a fat guy in a nice suit -- had a certain air about him. "Watch him," I told my friend, "that guy's crazy." The first guy thanked Ritter for his courage, and then asked -- on behalf of his "conservative neighbors" -- about Ritter's film deal. Ritter gave a fairly convincing explanation of where the money came from and some associated FBI investigations, and I decided not to hold this particular incident against him. Next someone asked about Iraq's purchases of nerve gas antidotes, and whether that meant Saddam had nerve gas. Well, Ritter told him, we were good inspectors, and he didn't have any in 1998. But it only takes 6 months to produce, so he guessed Saddam might have some now. An old lady wearing a strange hat and lots of buttons started giving a speech: "You are a true patriot..." and then started talking about "spontaneous [sic] demonstrations we have every week." There was limited time for Q&A, so people started shouting at her, "QUESTION! QUESTION!" She kept on with her speech and finally people shouted her down. Someone asked what role oil plays, and -- surprisingly -- Ritter said he thought it played very little role: "This is not about oil, it's about ideology." He was very very very focused on American Unilateralism. The next person asked "why Iraq," and Ritter reiterated his view that Iraq was a "case study for American Unilateralism." Since it had been a while since we'd had any real loopiness, the next person asked, "what about American weapons of mass destruction?" The whole audience laughed. Clearly, our possession of such weapons is the same as the Iraqi's, and we've just discovered a new glaring hypocrisy! Ritter made some astonishingly naive assertions about nuclear strategy, included in which were the propositions * The Soviets pursued nuclear weapons only because we already had them, and * If we got rid of all nuclear weapons, then no one would want any anymore. This naivete brought, as expected, overwhelming applause. An old woman approached the microphone and argued: "I do believe the major factor is oil!" (She was quickly shouted down with "QUESTION!", though Ritter praised their "agreement to disagree" as healthy for democracy.) Next someone asked Ritter how his story had changed since 1998. "It hasn't changed; it's evolved." Ritter was asked about his address to the Iraqi "parliament." Well, he told us, Bush and Blair were getting together in early September to discuss war plans, and were going to send out Condi and Cheney and Powell and Rumsfeld on the Sunday shows to pitch war to the nation. And he had to do something to pre-empt them. So he went to Baghdad and used his "bully pulpit" and convinced the Iraqis to take back inspectors. And on Sunday morning, Bush's people had to deal with him, dadgummit! The next question was about sanctions, to which Ritter (who supports lifting them, obviously) responded, "You can't have a policy that results in the deaths of innocents." I though about pointing out that raising speed limits from 55 to 65 resulted in the deaths of innocents, but I decided it wouldn't be productive [update: apparently this might not even be true. Good thing I didn't say it!]. Finally, my much anticipated fatman got to the mic, and he didn't disappoint:
Why isn't it mentioned that the mideast is supposed to be a nuclear-free zone. Isn't there a double standard against Israel? [my ears perked up at this point] I read the British papers, and I wonder why the papers here don't report on the Radical Zionist Agenda of Paul Wolfowitz and others in the administration!
Amazingly, this comment brought loud applause! (I was at this point waiting for someone to shout out "kill the Jews"). Ritter backed away from this guy, but he didn't really call bullshit on his ludicrous anti-Semitism. Then he closed with the assertion that immediately after 9/11, Americans were sold the idea of Saddam (rather than Osama bin Laden) as the 9/11 mastermind. While I'm sure that there are people who believe this, I read a lot of news and I can't remember any suggestions that this was the case (other than the supposed Atta-Iraq connection). And so we ended. The flakes shuffled out, and I came back to my office to turn 13 pages of scribbly notes into this. :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Anglo-Germanosphere Check out this year's Index of Freedom. All the top countries seem to have a connection to the Anglosphere or are Germanic. (click on the "view scores" button)

Science and religion-the romance continues.... (?) Greg Easterbrook has an article in the new issue of Wired about the confluence of science and religion. It is an entertaining read for the lay person-but there are shadings of the truth in his piece. For instance Easterbrook breezes through the past generation in science and characterizes it thus:
Meanwhile, decades of inconclusive inquiry have left the science-has-all-the-answers script in tatters. As recently as the '70s, intellectuals assumed that hard science was on track to resolve the two Really Big Questions: why life exists and how the universe began. What's more, both Really Big Answers were assumed to involve strictly deterministic forces. But things haven't worked out that way. Instead, the more scientists have learned, the more mysterious the Really Big Questions have become.
By intellectuals, does Easterbrook mean the scientists themselves, or the reporters that cover them? Even the term "why life exists" is loaded, for strictly speaking Easterbrook is trying to indicate the problem of abiogenesis, how did life comes from non-life, but it hints at the normative issue of "why," as if science can answer such a question laden with questions of oughts that we have never been able to satisfactorily answer. As for the universe becoming more mysterious, this isn't new. Lord Kelvin thought that science had ended by the end of the 19th century, but soon enough the 20th century exploded in a plethora of new theories and experimental results. Scientists wondered how the sun could generate as much energy as it did, and the paradox of how it could be eons old (the biologists and geologists were pointing in this direction) befuddled physicists who had no knowledge of the strong and weak molecular forces that power fusion. Ignorance, paradox and anomalous data is the seed-bed for new science, not the fertilizer for faith (at least for scientists). Of course, there is the standard soft-peddling of the personal atheism of many scientists. To name a few names, Easterbrook continues:
Science luminaries who in the '70s shrugged at faith as gobbledygook - including E. O. Wilson and the late Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Sagan - have endorsed some form of reconciliation between science and religion.
Wilson was a Southern Baptist as a child, so he knows the importance of religious feeling for most human beings. He is also the doyen of sociobiology and likely accepts that religion is part of our evolutionary heritage. He squares the circle by proposing a humanistic religion to replace our modern shriveling theism. I suspect most religious people would find this patronizing at best, blasphemous at the extremes. Gould did not propose anything so ambitious, but his national status as a science popularizer meant that he worked ever so hard to separate science and religion into two separate fields-not meld them together into one incoherent whole! Gould especially had been prominent in advocating the position that science and religion occupy two exclusive domains, similar to his assertion that biology and sociology should also remain segregated. Sagan's work, and his series Cosmos, almost seemed to offer an alternative to religion, with his ideas about benevolent aliens and the relationship between all living creatures (his later books strayed farther from his background in astronomy and toward social policy and psychology). In any case, Easterbrook can paint whatever ambiguous picture he wants to of these scientists, Wilson is too busy avoiding feminists intent on throwing ice water on him for his "fascism" while Gould and Sagan are gone and so can't set the record straight (Sagan at least was the subject of some death-bed conversion rumors in Christian circles-which his widow Anne Druyan has dismissed). The article doesn't shirk from portraying scientists as petulant either:
About 10 years ago, just as scientists were becoming confident in big bang theory, I asked Alan Dressler - one of the world's leading astronomers, and currently a consultant on the design of the space telescope scheduled to replace the Hubble - what caused the bang. He scrunched his face and said, "I can't stand that question!" At the time, cosmologists tended to assert that the cause and prior condition were unknowable. The bizarre physics of the singularity that preceded the explosion, they explained, represented an information wall that blocked (actually, destroyed) all knowledge of the prior condition and its physical laws. We would never know. The more scientists testily insisted that the big bang was unfathomable, the more they sounded like medieval priests saying, "Don't ask me what made God."....
I don't see where Easterbrook gets this analogy-scientists are ignorant of a lot of things, and they probably would rather not speak of things that they have no data on, or no theoretical model for. Easterbrook has covered science long enough to know that some (though not all) scientists would react viscerally to big questions like "what caused the Big Bang" when the answer is already known by the one posing the query (God of course!). I suspect that Easterbrook holds scientists to such high standards because they have had a long track record of being vindicated, on the other hand, would he care to make a bet on the explanatory powers of a medieval priest? The medieval priest believed in a God of History who walked among man, imagine that, the font of all Creation in the flesh! Of course Christ could not tell us everything while on this Earth, most of his message dealt with redemption and the like, but the poor scientist is even lacking in a Book of All Answers. Alas, where is the scientist's Bible? Sometimes I have to think Easterbrook knew what he was doing, look at this passage:
To the late astronomer Fred Hoyle, who calculated the conditions necessary to create carbon in 1953, the odds of this match occurring by chance seemed so phenomenally low that he converted from atheism to a belief that the universe reflects a "purposeful intelligence." Hoyle declared, "The probability of life originating at random is so utterly minuscule as to make the random concept absurd." That is to say, Hoyle's faith in chance was shaken by evidence of purpose, a reversal of the standard postmodern experience, and one shared by many of his successors today.
If you read this article, you would think that Hoyle showed up at church one day because of the data about God's existence, but he was an atheist to his dying day. Hoyle did promote a kooky idea that life is ubiquitous in the cosmos-panspermia. But Easterbrook doesn't mention this at all. In addition, you'd think that many physicists believe that there is design in the universe according to his last statement and nuggets interspersed through the polemic-oops, I mean piece-but the most recent study of leading scientists indicates that theism is not an overwhelming position in the natural sciences. As Easterbrook progresses, his vision becomes grander and grander:
This web of improbable conditions - making not just life but intelligent life practically inevitable - came to be known as the anthropic principle. To physicist Charles Townes, an anthropic universe resolves a tension that has bedeviled physics since the heyday of quantum theory. "When quantum mechanics overthrew determinism, many scientists, including Einstein, wanted the universe to be deterministic," he points out. "They didn't like quantum theory, because it leaves you looking for a spiritual explanation for why things turned out the way they did. Religion and science are going to be drawn together for a long time trying to figure out the philosophical implications of why the universe turned out favorable to us."
I realized early on that the "Anthropic Principle" would show up at some point. What I didn't expect is that Easterbrook would leave out that there are two major versions: Weak Anthropic Principle (WAP): The observed values of all physical and cosmological quantities are not equally probable but they take on values restricted by the requirement that there exist sites where carbon-based life can evolve and by the requirements that the Universe be old enough for it to have already done so. Strong Anthropic Principle (SAP): The Universe must have those properties which allow life to develop within it at some stage in its history Easterbrook only speaks of the SAP throughout the piece, as if that's the only version. The WAP on the other hand basically says we shouldn't be amazed by the exact requirements for humanity's existence occurring, as if those requirements weren't around to facilitate our existence we wouldn't be asking the question (basically a tautology). Our very existence acts as a constraint on how the universe will be ordered (and I'm not so sure that we're not just not creative enough in our ideas about exobiology when we say that universes with different physical forces would not be conducive to life of some sort). The article then continues cataloging all the wacky ideas out there in science. It might seem sillier than religious assertions via authority, but that's kind of the process of science. Easterbrook seems to imply that all these theories require faith, and probably aren't true, and that we might as well look at the Good Book and the Church Fathers. Well, yes, 99.99% of scientific theories turn out to be a load of crap, more or less so. What's remaining are the accepted models that pop out good predictions. Science more than anything is a methodology, not a beginning or end point. As far as transcendence goes, what has science to do with that? I feel that Easterbrook first puffed up science in all its explanatory glory, as if all scientists were logical positivists out of the 1920s, and then mischaracterized the befuddlement of modern cosmology and evolutionary biology (the two places where God and science seem to intersect). There are unanswered questions our there in their millions, and perhaps science won't get to answering all of them. Overdeveloped apes that we are, I suspect our current level of cognition and sentience precludes our understanding of much that which higher beings, gods or supermen, would find naturally obvious. To me God explains everything by explaining nothing, and is far too small an answer to a cosmic question. Easterbrook has his own opinion, what I object to though is his selective use of quotes and peculiar characterizations to buttress his position (don't I always?).

Apartheid-one way or another? Rarity of Black-Run Businesses Worries South Africa's Leaders notes an article in The New York Times. They are setting ridiculous targets, and frankly going about it all wrong. One thing that this article leaves out is that government creation of a middle-class in South Africa has a long history-the Afrikaners did it in the early 20th century, pulling themselves into a semi-respectable parity with the English speaking whites. But even after 70 years of proactive promotion of Afrikaners, the English speakers still tended to be more well off and "control the means of production." The Afrikaner's prosperity and income was more likely to come from government service. The blacks are trying to do what the Afrikaners did, but there is a problem in that they are some 75% of the population, so a push toward parity stretches many more resources. And they haven't learned the lessons from the Afrikaners-this attempt to maintain or create wealth through government policy is never temporary, but creates structural incentives that rational actors will take into account. The "New Economic Policy" in Malaysia, designed to increase the wealth of the Malays in exchange for not killing the Chinese out of envy is still in effect-after 30 years! Brahmins still dominate the professions in much of India, even after decades of pro-back-ward caste affirmative action [1]. And after one and a half generations of affirmative action in the United States, there is still no end in sight. Government programs to promote wealth creation undermine the very skills and traits that are necessary for capital accumulation and instead encourage a suite of other tendencies that entrench government parasitism as the road to riches. I do understand that a long term scenario where whites (and to a lesser extent Asians) control the means of production while black, and to a lesser extent colored, masses toil is not tenable for a democracy. And apartheid, the solution for all those decades when such a modus vivendi was the status quo is not an option. So in the end, you will see the whites, and probably Asians, of South Africa leaving the country, as they are doing now, and taking with them their social and economic capital. The irony of it all will be that though there will be less envy and resentment of the few minorities left from the black majority, the latter will probably be less well off than they would be if the capitalist classes and races had stayed. Such is the way of the world.... [1] Just like in the United States-what is "backward" has expanded to the point where most of the beneficiaries are not social or economically marginal. Similarly, the Malays or blacks that take advantage of affirmative action are those already in a position to acquire wealth, it simply serves as an added means to an ends.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Of Fish, Bicycles, and Thoughtless Sloganeering Does anyone else think/realize that the famous Gloria Steinem quote - "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" - has an unfortunately lewd implication? I heard it today for the first time in quite a while from one of my sadly misguided colleagues, a well-meaning woman stuck in the dark ages of radical feminist doctrine. I could barely restrain a chuckle at the thought of said individual's slang term "riding" something...yet another slogan gone wrong:

  • Coors put its slogan, "Turn it loose," into Spanish, where it was read as "Suffer from diarrhoea".
  • Clairol introduced the "Mist Stick", a curling iron, into German only to find out that "mist" is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the "manure stick".
  • Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.
  • In Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin' good" came out as " eat your fingers off".
  • The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, "Salem -- Feeling Free", was translated into the Japanese market as "When smoking Salem, you will feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty".
  • When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with the beautiful Caucasian baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what's inside, since most people can't read English.
  • Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno magazine.
  • An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of "I saw the Pope" (el Papa), the shirts read "I saw the potato" (la papa).
  • In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into "Schweppes Toilet Water".
  • Pepsi's "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" translated into "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave", in Chinese.
  • We all know about GM's Chevy Nova meaning "it won't go" in Spanish markets, but did you know that Ford had a similar problem in Brazil with the Pinto? Pinto was Brazilian slang for " tiny male genitals". Ford renamed the automobile Corcel, meaning "horse".
  • Hunt-Wesson introduced Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos. Later they found out that in slang it means "big breasts".
  • Frank Perdue's chicken slogan, "it takes a strong man to make a tender chicken" was translated into Spanish as "it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate".
  • When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, " it won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you". Instead, the company thought that the word " embarazar" (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read: "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant".
  • The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as "Ke-kou-ke-la", meaning "Bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax", depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent "ko-ou-ko-le", translating into "happiness in the mouth".
  • A few years ago, in the American Midwest, some people decided to show off their new "real" Mexican restaurant, named Chi-chi's to some visiting Californians. Upon seeing the name on the marquis, the Californians started to laugh. When asked why they were laughing, they explained that in Mexican Spanish, "chi-chi's" literally means "titties."

I'm sure I'm missing some - I'm particularly interested in campaign slogans, song lyrics, or political chants gone awry. Endless fun...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/12/2002 11:35:00 PM | |

Anyone care to translate this into English? So it seems like Putin lost his cool:

Putin was then asked by a reporter from Le Monde about the use of heavy artillery and mines in Chechnya, and began replying, defending his policy on Chechnya, before suddenly becoming agitated and launching into a verbal assault on the reporter. Speaking in Russian, Putin told the reporter that the radical Muslim forces fighting in Chechnya endanger all non-Muslims, who are called "crusaders" if they are Christian, and also place non-radical Muslims in danger. ... Putin then said: "If you are prepared to become a radical Muslim and undergo circumcision, I invite you to Moscow." [ Ed.: ??? ] "Our nation is multi-confessional, we have specialists in this field who can deal with this. I suggest you have an operation so that nothing grows out of you again," the Russian leader said. The remarks were not translated from Russian during the news conference, so as not to embarrass E.U. leaders present, but Russian speakers in the audience were stunned by the Putin's words. ... EU officials, informed later of the actual words used by Putin, said the remarks were "out of place" and "completely inappropriate." Putin has been known to lose his cool over Chechnya at news conferences, using slang and descending into jargon used by criminals. In October 1999, before he launched a massive military attack on rebel forces, Putin famously declared that he would "waste the bandits in the sh**house." On Tuesday, the Russian media appeared as shocked as Putin's aides, jumping on the story. Russian television networks repeatedly broadcast the tape with Putin's outburst, and Russian newspapers gave the remarks front-page coverage, with the respected Gazeta daily headlining its story "Putin suggests Europe gets circumcised," while the Vremya Novostei used "Invitation to a circumcision" as its headline. The Kommersant daily said the European summit had ended in scandal because of Putin's heated outburst. News coverage of the Kaliningrad agreement was overshadowed by the remarks, but there is no sign that the outburst will hurt the tough-talking president's ratings. Following his sordid remark three years ago, Putin's ratings jumped as he was seen as a no nonsense guy who would be ruthless with terrorists and separatists.

Is a "circumcision" slang for something else in Russian? It seems like a weird thing to say, but not a tremendous insult...just sort of incoherent. I suppose something's been lost in the translation.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/12/2002 05:24:00 PM | |

Geeky hot chicks I'm asking the erudite readers of this blog to submit the names (and pic links) of chicks who have a background in science & math and are hot. I'll start off: Cindy Crawford-Northwestern, engineering (didn't finish-went into modelling) Teri Hatcher-De Anza College, math & engineering (was going to transfer to Cal Poly, but got a choice part and left to act) Ally Walker-UC Santa Cruz, biology & chemistry (did work in genetic engineering after graduating, left to act, was the first Profiler and Jean-Claude Van Damme's sidekick in the first Universal Soldier, and did you know that Dolph Lundgren has a background in chemical engineering? So Jean-Claude was the dummy in that movie) Natalie Portman-Harvard pre-med, so lots of biology and chemistry Lisa Kudrow-Vassar, biology Before I get accusations of loserdom-please note, I am trying to look beyond the surface here, and not feel guilty about the women I ogle. I mean, I really can respect them for their intellects, and appreciate their hottieness simultaneously.

Leftist slip-see what he really thinks of us.... Tim Noah seems to slip into saying what he really thinks in an article critiquing the thesis of the "Emerging Democratic Majority":
But Judis and Teixeira argue that McGovern also laid the foundation for a "progressive centrist" Democratic coalition of the future: working women, minorities, highly skilled professionals, people who live in university communities that have now evolved into new-economy "ideopolises." .... Chatterbox has no projections to offer (though he'd guess that the big decline in the nation's manufacturing sector has already occurred). But he does fear for the future of a Democratic party whose attractions are evident only if you're on the dole or have three advanced degrees.
It seems that "minorities" (and perhaps add in working women too, but the fact he uses the adjective working indicates Noah doesn't mean them) turn into people that "live on the dole." Such high expectations!

English or Spanish? Went to the library today, and the self-check out now has a "English or Spanish option." I looked around hard, and didn't note any Latinos in the library. In fact, I can't ever recall seeing one of those short squat indigenous looking women with their gaggle of children at the library, though they are always in evidence at the supermarket one block down the street. I didn't get angry at their sop to inclusiveness, but it seemed kind of pointless. I don't think too many Latinos use the public library system in Portland, the most common foreign language I hear is Chinese. The Multnomah county (basically Portland) area is only 7.5% Latino. In addition, our branch library has almost no Spanish language books (the main library probably does-and they buy their software centrally, so that can explain why they would prompt for Spanish even though no Spanish speakers come to read Spanish language books at this library). And as I've noted, I go to the library at least once a week, and there simply aren't that many Latino's speaking Spanish in the library anytime I go there (as I've said, some Asian immigrants are in evidence). In addition, though the mainstream pundits always tell us how hard-working Latinos are, their kids have very high drop out rates, so I wouldn't be surprised if they don't use the libraries as their proportion of the population would indicate (they don't use National Parks either-to the horror of the Park Service. Pretty soon the vegan movement will bemoan the lack of minorities-what next, vegetarian lard & chitlins?). Now, it's not a big deal, but this sort of thing makes me wonder, has anyone tried to calculate how many minutes a year are wasted in aggregate by English speakers selecting between English and Spanish? (my bank does this too, how many times you have come to the automated answering system that prompts you?)

Bacterial resistance and The Heart of Darkness Stories about bacterial resistance make me have second thoughts about loosening regulations on prescriptions and decentralizing control of medical treatment (the libertarian in me). I have a friend who's a 4th year medical student who told me that many of his patients (generally parents with children) come into the office demanding antibiotics, and that one of his major tasks is to convince them otherwise. The story above reports on a woman in Detroit with a super-bacteria. This has important social implications: I read once that the common cold can not exist below a certain population density, explaining the fatalities that the cold can inflict upon hunter gatherers. A city like Detroit, on the verge of collapse, with a large portion of the populace not self-supporting and weaned on socialized medicine is petri dish that will likely incubate the next plague. Peter Brimelow of VDARE has trumpeted the warning for years about immigrants bringing diseases from the Third World, but pestilence will be given succor in urban deserts like Detroit [1]. [1] Before I got on the plane for America when I was 4, the authorities loaded me up with a large battery of shots. I screamed and bitched at the time, but I'm glad they did it. One of the things that bothers me about the amnesty for illegal immigrants of Mexican nationality is that these people have avoided these sort of epidemiological inoculations but still might look forward to naturalization. Call me petty, but it grates on me.

Liberal Islam, the legend continues.... Here is an article in The New Republic on a liberal Muslim intellectual at UCLA who is receiving death threats and little press in the Islamic world. Nothing too groundbreaking. I would like to add though that it is a well known tendency for Muslims to come to the United States, and become MORE religious and observant. This follows the tradition of many immigrant groups though, European Jews for instance are a classic example where they often got religion and joined Reform Temples where in the old country the only two choices were Orthodoxy and Secularism. The only difference is that the religion in the case of Muslims is a stricter and less flexible version of Islam than they often started out with-local traditions tend to not take root in the United States, while the more universal Wahabbi influenced fundamentalism is transnational.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Truth is the number #1 weapon against your enemy Communitarian theorist Amitai Etzioni has a piece titled Killing Christians over at FrontPage (from The Weekly Standard originally). The point is that Christian persecution is ignored by the media and the political class (aside from Christian conservatives). This is true, and if you read the blog, you know that I'm not averse to bringing up the lack of religious freedom in the Islamic world, and its effects on Christians, frequently. But, accuracy is also important, so I'm going to pick on Dr. Etzioni's piece for a bit.
People who follow international news are aware that a civil war raged in Ethiopia for more than 30 years. But few realize that it was a religious war--between Muslim Eritrea and Christian Ethiopia--in which tens of thousands perished. Many know that the people of East Timor were savaged, but it is rarely mentioned that most East Timorese are Christian, while the Indonesian militants who killed many of them and brutalized the refugees in West Timor are Muslim. Indeed, Christians in other parts of Indonesia have hardly fared better; for instance, thousands died during riots in the Eritrea Islands in 2000. .... ...Just lately, in the Ivory Coast, Muslims in the North have been attacking Christians in the South.
First, Eritrea is about 50/50 Muslim/Christian and one of the few examples of this mix not resulting in violence [1]. From what little I know about East Timor, though the Indonesian military (mostly Muslim, but more nationalist than religious in inclination judging by their ravaging of orthodox Muslim Aceh) armed and trained the militants, many were Timorese, though perhaps from West Timor rather than East. What Dr. Etzioni leaves out about Ivory Coast is that Christians have excluded Muslims (this is more a south vs. north issue, but it maps well onto a religious divide) from power, and to reduce the northerners' numerical preponderance disenfranchised them as non-citizens (both politicians and the masses). I am not saying that I don't agree with the general point he is trying to make, but the facts should dictate conclusions, so when it seems that you are playing fast and loose with them, don't be surprised if people take you less seriously than they should. This applies to many issues. Godless' problem with the Warbloggers isn't the overall policy toward Iraq and the Middle East, but specific issues about style, intent and justification that undermine their moral and rational standing. I'll take my stand-with reason and facts that is [2]. [1] Eritrea is also friendly with Israel. The war with Ethiopia was one of national, not religious liberation. Though the dominant ethnic group in Ethiopia is Christian (the Ahmara), a plural majority are Muslim (Oromo, Somali, etc.). [2] I suppose you could say that I'm throwing up a strawman, that everyone favors reason and facts. But this isn't always true. Many of the neocons for instance are influenced by Leo Strauss, who didn't shirk away from the idea that one had to deceive the masses for the greater good. This is exactly what people should be trying to avoid when it comes to public policy, because no matter how dumb the public is (and it is pretty dumb), it's not as dumb as you'd think. Two examples of deception for a "good cause" that I've been seeing recently: 1) Trying to connect Sadaam to al Quaeda, 2) Trying to say the United States and Israel are natural allies because we're both liberal democracies. On point 1, I think that there maybe something to it, but to use any tenuous connection to buttress intervention is Iraq is stretching it and simply undermines your credibility. On point 2, Israel's bona fides as a liberal democracy are good-if you are a Jew, not as solid if you're Arab. In addition to this, there are plenty of liberal democracies with which we don't have close relations with in a like manner. After all, what nation are we more similar too, Pakistan or India? And yet, we back Pakistan. The reasoning of course is strategic, and that's pretty well understood and out in the open. The American alliance with Israel is obviously more dependent on strategic and political concerns, not some numinous affinity between Two Cities on the Hill in a dark despotic world.

The Left cannibalizing itself? This article titled Out of Control, Deer Send Ecosystem Into Chaos is a nice complement to Michael Pollan's piece An Animal's Place (also, this article on mountain lions is pretty cool). Compare these two passages, from each article respectively:
...Others are expanding seasons and the number of deer a hunter can kill, but federal wildlife officials note that hunters are a graying population, with fewer each year to make a dent. In any case, controlled hunts staged in suburbs often run up against strident opposition from animal welfare groups. .... Nearly four centuries later, Wrightson Island is home to 380 goats that have consumed virtually every scrap of vegetation in their reach. The youngest Arcania tree on the island is more than 300 years old, and only 52 sea sparrows remain. In the animal rights view, any one of those goats have at least as much right to life as the last Wrightson sparrow on earth, and the trees, because they are not sentient, warrant no moral consideration whatsoever. (In the mid-80's a British environmental group set out to shoot the goats, but was forced to cancel the expedition after the Mammal Liberation Front bombed its offices.)
I sympathize with some of the sentiments of both environmentalists and animal rights activists [1], but obviously I have issues with the "extremists," who tend to be the public face of both movements. We often speak of a "Conservative Crack-up," but we might be seeing an emerging "Leftist Crack-up." Feminists vs. multiculturalists, animal rights activists vs. environmentalists, immigration activists vs. zero population growth activists, and so forth. The possibilities are endless. [1] The natural world is crucial for humanity's well-being, so a humanist system of ethics would have a sizable dollop of environmentalism, but it should be based on sound science rather than spiritualism. In addition, gratuitous cruelty to animals does nothing for human well being and is generally a trait that indicates a lack of empathy that would likely extend to one's fellow man. But, that does not imply I believe animals and humans have equivalent rights.

"Diversity" Substance free article from The New York Times on attempts to "foster" diversity at Dartmouth. Check out the following snippets....
The idea behind affinity houses - separate residences for different racial and ethnic groups - was that minorities needed places where they could learn about their cultures and relax and feel comfortable on campus. .... Mr. Stevenson, 20, said he thought the hardest part for everyone was simply breaking the ice. "My black friends ask me, 'What do I say to a white person?' " Mr. Stevenson said. "My white friends say, 'What do I say to a black person?' " Mr. Stevenson smiled. "I tell them," he said, " ' "Hi, what's your name and where are you from?" is a good place to start.' "
This is Dartmouth, why do the smartest minorities in the country need places where they can learn about their own culture and feel comfortable? If their parents didn't inculcate them with a sense of who they are, and they are intelligent enough to get into an Ivy League school, they should go to the library and read up on their heritage. The second part also illustrates how stupid these people can be. Sounds more like they should have learned skills like how to interact with other human beings who happen to look physically different in kindergarten. I understand that some areas are racially homogenous, but it's not like we live in apartheid South Africa, people have many opportunities to meet the token minority or white person if they so choose [1]. You never know what you'll learn from people. My Mexican-themed culinary skills were acquired from a female of German-American heritage for instance! :) [1] I've played the token minority role well enough in my many years. I hope I've not destroyed any white liberal's kumbaya fantasies about brown noble savages who aren't shackled by preconceptions of western patriarchy and oppression.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Monkey appeasement? Check out this story from Drudge: (I copied since he might change URLs on me)
Hungry monkeys invade Thai village 11/11/2002 Bangkok (dpa) - Hungry monkeys have invaded a village in northeastern Thailand, breaking into homes, stealing food and biting the village headman, provincial officials said Monday. Virat Boontod, a provincial administration official in Yasothon province, said about 500 pig-tailed monkeys had been making frequent raids on Taohai village, 430 kilometres northeast of Bangkok, because there was not enough food in the jungle during the current dry season. He said the monkeys managed to get inside many homes through windows or by scratching holes in villagers' roofs. ``They steal chicken and duck eggs and any other food they can find,'' Virat said in a telephone interview. ``Now the villagers are getting fed up with the monkeys. Some of them are using slingshots to drive them away.'' He said one big domesticated monkey was pressed into service to guard an entrance to the village, but it was outnumbered by the simian invaders, who found other ways in. Last week the village's leader was bitten in the thigh by one of the invaders and had to get rabies shots. ``The hungry monkeys get some food from local (Buddhist) temples, but it's not enough,'' Virat said. ``We're going to ask for food donations to feed them and we'll ask the district administration to provide a budget for them.''
Don't they know that appeasement doesn't work? They need to get tough with the monkeys and rattle some simian-sabers.

How is pornography legal to produce? Interesting question arose over beers tonight with some similarly gutter-minded geneticists: If prostitution is illegal, and pornography involves paying people to have sex (on film), the only difference is that the latter is filmed and distributed. Might prostitution be legal then if the act is filmed and/or recorded in some way? Paging Imbler Volokh (or some other legal eagle) to offer their thoughts on this pressing matter...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/10/2002 05:12:00 AM | |

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Find out about other weblogs This site called Waypath tries to create a rational network of related weblogs. Got it from /..

Chris Mooney's new blog Chris Mooney has a new blog. He's a pinko, but he's not a post-modernist pinko, so that's all good. On the blogroll now.... Oh, and from the evolutionary psychology perspective, does he get a lot of play with ovulating women with that big testosterone pumped jaw of his???

Sarah Silverman A funny lady:

SportsHollywood: When you play basketball with John Cusack and Bill Fishman, how often do they suggest a game of shirts vs, skins with you, where they wear the shirts? SILVERMAN: I've never played bball with John Cusak, I"ve only played at the court he has in his office. But, yes, that HI-LARIOUS shirts/skins joke is made by some comic genius just about every time I play, and each time I fall to the ground laughing while I piss and shit myself in comic awe. SportsHollywood: Which do you enjoy more: Getting a basket in front of a crowd or getting a laugh in front of a crowd? SILVERMAN: They're both great. You can't compare them. What do you like better: cumming on a porn star's back, or watching your first child be born into the world? --See, they're both wonderful.

GNXP - the place for sophisticated humor. More Silverman - she's quite funny in person:

"A couple nights ago, I was licking jelly off my boyfriend's penis . . . and I thought, Oh, my God--I'm turning into my mother!" "The writers of Sanford and Son were so brave in bringing their program to television. I mean, working with all those black people!" "So I live in this apartment that's disgusting--it's really dirty. And the kitchen floor is, like, sticky. And I had to do something about it. So finally I went out and bought some, uh, slippers."

I leave GNXP readers to decide for themselves whether Silverman's clinging kitchen is due to her maternal mimicry...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/09/2002 02:30:00 AM | |

Friday, November 08, 2002

The Netherlands-for now.... This article is about a woman called the "Salman Rushdie" of the Netherlands. Let this excerpt speak for itself:
Then Ms. Hirsi Ali, 32, began receiving hate mail, anonymous messages calling her a traitor to Islam and a slut. On several Web sites, other Muslims said she deserved to be knifed and shot. Explicit death threats by telephone soon followed. The police told her to change homes and the mayor of Amsterdam sent bodyguards. She tried living in hiding. Finally, last month, she became a refugee again, fleeing the Netherlands.
I really don't want to comment too much on this, I've written about this enough. But I want to see a firm explanation of how to handle this sort of cultural change with accommodating multiculturalism from the Leftists who attack restrictionists and defenders of the Western tradition as being xenophobes.

Rothbard on Mencken I recall there was at least one fellow Mencken-fan among the regular Gene Expression readership. It's a pity his work isn't read more often nowadays. PJ O'Rourke (who I think holds a HL Mencken fellowship at Cato and is almost seen as a contemporary version of Mencken) is funny but not as funny or learned as Mencken was. Lew Rockwell sometimes does have really great stuff, especially its historical material, and publishes Rothbard's tribute to Mencken. I think as is his wont, Rothbard makes Mencken out to be a much more systematic libertarian than he ever was. IMHO Mencken was anything but systematic or an ideologue, which was what made even his most polemical political pieces so funny. Nonetheless a piece worth reading.

Interview with Fukuyama The latest issue of Policy, the journal of Australia's Centre for Independent Studies (my employer in my student days), carries an interview with Francis Fukuyama (he was in Australia recently on a lecture tour). I dare say that there are many positive assertions that Fukuyama makes that regular readers will agree with and many normative assertions he makes that they will not. However it does seem that the 'blank slate' theory is more or less dead as a dodo bird among serious mainstream thinkers (the interview is entitled 'Back to human nature'). Note for instance the start of the interview where he says:
One of the consequences of the whole genetic revolution is that you are going to be able to tell empirically what is natural, what is genetically determined, and what is environmentally determined in a much more precise way. Right now if you look at something like intelligence, the only way they come up with estimates of what degree of variance in intelligence is due to genes rather than environment is through behavioural genetics, which is the study of monozygotic twins. In the future, you are going to have actual molecular pathways between particular genes through certain proteins which will then affect certain higher order behaviours. They'll do this first in animals and gradually figure this out for human beings. At that point I think you'll still have these stupid arguments that say, well, human beings are cultural animals and how can you say there is a human nature. But what cognitive scientists are showing is that while there is a cultural and social component to behaviour, human beings also learn, understand and modify their behaviour in certain determined ways. There are limits on plasticity, and certain typically human ways of seeing things relate to other human beings.

And you shall know them by the fruit of their titles.... I use the NY Times' most frequently e-mailed articles feature a lot to check on the non-international stuff that might be interesting. One thing I've noticed, I can almost always tell the ones that are by Dowd, Kristof and Krugman just from the title. Especially Dowd, I almost always have the reaction "Why the hell is this in the journal of record!?!?!?!" Anyone else have the same experience?

I am no longer a warblogger. The term has changed its meaning, and the change has left me on the outside. I realized this some weeks ago, and my decision was further vindicated by more evidence that Tom Coates is a reasonable guy:

The weird thing about this whole thing is the assumption that I'm against war in general - or even this particular war in specific. In general, of course I'm not - in certain circumstances, when the other options have been exhausted and when the need to conduct war is obvious - well then it should be undertaken. In specific, I'm actually very unsure about the whole thing - I don't like Iraq's leadership, but I don't entirely trust the Bush administration's reasons for trying to get rid of them... I've always thought that questioning and challenging one's leaders was a good way to stop them doing things you vehemently disagree with... When I made my comments about the "most hawkish and blood thirsty warbloggers" I meant just that - the people who seem to revel in the desire for war whatever - the people who seem to group individuals together into huge homogonous groups and demonise them in order to identify them as an enemy and attack them. There are many people in the world who don't share my politics, but I have no issue with them. I'll argue with them, but I won't find them terrifying. It's the people who don't seem interested in finding out whether conducting a war on Islam or Iraq is even SLIGHTLY a grey area... They're the people who terrify me, because where might they turn their gaze next? The rest of the warbloggers - people who are interested in the events that are unfolding around them, and have their own opinions of it that they're prepared to question and challenge occasionally - I have no problem with them at all... And in the meantime, I can't quite stand the sight of people scrabbling (even in jest) for the title of the weblog that most craves war and wants to see people - real people - die...

Coates, if you did not know, is the guy whose offhand remark started the "most bloodthirsty warblog" contest, which I've commented on before here and here. It seems to me that Coates is the reasonable guy in this little fracas - and I'm nothing if not a partisan of the "reasonable guy" position. In fact, this whole contest issue has pushed me to a decision I was edging towards anyway: the repudiation of the "warblogger" title. I used to half embrace this term as denoting "someone who blogged about war and was not a pacifist", but now the term has been hijacked by extremists to mean "those who support an all-out war on Islam and/or the Middle East". I've always believed that it's the duty of those who consider themselves centrists to criticize extremists on the merits of their position - or else risk being associated with them. I'm not talking about the "rhetorical distancing" tactic (ably described by Sailer) in which one excoriates an ideological kinsman as "extreme" while subscribing to a position with nary an epsilon of difference from the "extremist's" own views. Rather, I refer to a detailed point-by-point listing of what's wrong with extreme warblogging and why it's not the hard-nosed, pragmatic, and realistic philosophy that its advocates believe it to be. So in the next few days (or weeks, or whenever I get around to it), I'm going to post a more in-depth analysis of what the warblogger movement was and what it has become. A few quick points as prequel: 1) It's easy to score points and look smart when your opponents are the caliber of WarbloggerWatch. Those who opposed action in Afghanistan because "war is bad for children and living things" are sitting ducks, and need only be pushed a little bit to collapse under the weight of their inconsistency. [1] Many of the self-proclaimed centrists (yes, I consider myself a centrist - perhaps a radical centrist) were unaware of the extreme positions of some bloggers because many of their heavily linked posts were devoted to refuting similarly extreme opponents on the other side of the ideological spectrum. 2) It's when presenting your own ideas that your ideological positions are subject to scrutiny. This burden has been impossible to bear for the pacifist left. [2] What has been missed is that it's equally unbearable for the bloodthirsty right, because those calling for an all-out war on Islam and/or the Middle East are looking to create problems rather than solutions. They fail to make the most elementary distinctions between combatants and non-combatants, and are often guilty of romanticizing World War 3 - if not advocating it outright! To be perfectly clear: there is an ocean of difference between contemplating the stupidity of those Islamists who wish for Ragnarok, and being stupid enough to wish for it yourself. [1] Example: So all war is bad? So was WW2 bad? Wasn't it against the only real bad guys, those racist white men? Huh? [2] See footnote 1 directly above.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/08/2002 07:01:00 AM | |

Demons in the shadows, THE BLANK SLATE, by Steven Pinker A review (thanks to Charles Murtaugh for the link) of Steven Pinker’s new book THE BLANK SLATE by Robert J. Richards in THE NEW YORK TIMES includes the following snide snippet:
He focuses on ''dirty tricks'' [only conservatives can be capable of “dirty tricks”] and political biases of leftish scientists who reject his genetic version of human nature. He charges Lewontin with using a ''doctored'' [distortion in the service of a noble cause is simply virtuous cleverness] quotation from an opponent (careless, inconsequential misquotation, it seems to me) [it would seem so wouldn’t it?] and derides Gould's Marxism -- which most biologists take to be faux Marxism that merely adds rhetorical flourish to serious ideas [some would say that Gould was all rhetorical flourish]. He is somewhat less irritated by neoconservatives like Irving Kristol, Leon Kass and Tom Wolfe, since their metaphysics has no sting.
Perhaps Pinker is also less irritated by neoconservatives because they are less apt to mischaracterize his perspective and position in the following manner:
With the triumph of evolutionary theory, Pinker sees a new scientific, cultural and political alignment near, one that accepts a more constrained conception of human nature and adopts corresponding social and economic policies, but does not neglect the genetically less endowed -- in short, a compassionate conservatism.
Pinker is an avowed liberal and an admitted atheist. Since when were liberal atheists partisans of compassionate conservatism? George Bush’s guiding philosophy derives in large part from the writings of an evangelical Christian, Marvin Olasky, and owes an intellectual debt to the Catholic idea of “the seamless garment.” One of Pinker’s repeated refrains in THE BLANK SLATE is the scientific bankruptcy of the ghost in the machine, a position adhered to religiously by those who affirm compassionate conservatism and the seamless garment. Could Steven Pinker be so intellectually incoherent? Of course not. Is Richards simply playing a game with us? Prodding us to explore Pinker’s assumptions and the political implications of his ideas? Of course not. Compassionate conservatism used in this context was stripped away of any philosophical or political depth and denuded to the point of becoming a common slur, an insult hurled at a heretic who dared to question the indefensible dogma of the blank slate. Steven Pinker’s dissent from one of the many contradictory axioms of the modern day Left has resulted in his expulsion from the ranks of decent society in the eyes of the reviewer. Richards seems to feel that he can take a merry jaunt over content-free fields of verbal diarrhea and not be called to account for his absurd and superficial style. While much of the Right disagrees with Pinker’s position on the ghost in the machine, they will give credit where it is due and admit that he fights the good fight on the issues of the blank slate and the noble savage. The Left on the other hand ignores whatever commonalties it might have with this pagan barbarian and exiles him to the outermost hells of conservatism. This fanatic adherence to dogma is why Pinker savages the Left more than the Right. But of course the Left is somewhat justified it deconstructing and smearing Pinker so thoroughly, for his broadside against them is axiomatic, while his critique of the Right happens to be with particular policies rather than overarching principles. Pinker never agues for genetic determinism, only that the genes be allowed their time in the sun to speak their truth [1]. The Left though adheres to the dogma of the infinitely malleable and perfectible human nature, and commits the fallacy of deriving is from ought! [2] As Pinker points out, the irony of it all is that the political positions of the most demonic of the sociobiologists range from moderate to radical Left! [3] The circle of the pious Left-Elect grows ever smaller until it reaches the singularity point of the modern post-modernist Left, which closes its eyes to reality to swim in a sea of its own imaginings. Of course the great horror of it all is that their fantasies now percolate into the public discourse and inform the political life of many nations. What hath the demon wrought in the end? Steven Pinker’s book, though titled THE BLANK SLATE, is actually about three ideas. The blank slate, the idea that human nature doesn’t truly exist, but only is created by inputs from the outside world after birth, the noble savage, that we are by nature peaceful beings who do good without compulsion, and the ghost in the machine, that we exist as more than the sum of our biological parts, that humanity is more than an emergent property of the four forces of nature and quarks and electrons [4]. As many reviewers and commentators have noted, there is a problem with Pinker’s thesis, insofar as the three ideas seem a bit strangely fitted. After all, the idea of the noble savage seems to contradict the blank slate, and many who accept the ghost in the machine have no problem with rejecting the blank slate or the noble savage. Most of the book is given over to the blank slate, and the other two ideas are often appended to the chapters almost as afterthoughts. The congealing of the three ideas has in my opinion tenuous sociological reality at best, and seems more like a monstrous chimera on the verge of collapsing due to the tremors of its own tensions [5]. Though Leftists were perturbed by Pinker’s attacks on the blank slate and the noble savage, Rightists who generally sympathize with Pinker were dismayed by his consistent, and to their mind gratuitous, attacks on their faith via the ghost in the machine. What to make of this? Pinker is no Dawkins, he cuts and chops through metaphysical supernaturalism (and its child, dualism) mercifully, where the British ethologist would rather saw slowly with a dull rusty implement to extract the maximum pain and discomfort. The author’s explications of the scientific materialist position would have been more neatly slotted into a separate book or pamphlet, for it seems more a digression in defending secular moralism than anything else [6]. As a secular person with no god-belief to speak of, I sympathize and agree with many of Pinker’s critiques of theism and the ghost in the machine, but I don’t see the point in connecting them to the blank slate unless he wishes to engage in an act of expansive consilience that would unify even more fields than he already dares too. That Leftists ignore Pinker’s persistent anti-clerical and anti-theist chatter throughout the book makes me wonder if they read it closely, or if they cared much what Pinker said after declaring his partially hereditarian manifesto in the introduction out of the bounds of correct thought. They might not have noticed that one of the most interesting chapters in the book, titled “Children,” is a thorough demolition of one of the dictums of modern conservatism, that parental guidance is crucial to the development of the child. Perhaps because it is one of the last chapters means that many people who purchased THE BLANK SLATE as a coffee table book will never understand that it is more than as some would say a collection of “saloon-bar assertions.” In this chapter, Pinker points out that many studies purporting to show parents’ behavioral influence on children have an a priori assumption of the blank slate, and so mistakenly assume that environment rather than genes are the cause of parent-child congruency. Here are Pinker’s “three laws of behavioral genetics”:
  • All human behavioral traits are heritable
  • The effect of being raised in the same family is smaller than the effect of the genes
  • A substantial portion of the variation in complex human behavioral traits is not accounted for by the effects of genes or families
You can purchase it or check out the book from a library to get a detailed elucidation of laws 1 & 3. I want to focus in on the second law. Here is some relevant explanatory text from Pinker:
…The actual findings are easy to understand. First, adult siblings are equally similar whether they grew up together or apart. Second, adoptive siblings are no more similar than two people plucked off the street at random. And third, identical twins are no more similar than one would expect from the effects of their shared genes….
Parents don’t matter as much you think, the peer groups they choose do! All those anti-drug commercials that mention that children rate their parents' opinions as the number #1 factor in their behavior is simply a regurgitation of platitudes that the children have learned to emit when queried in that tone that adults have mastered to impress each other. Perhaps it does take a village! And surely, that should be crow for any modern American conservative who asserts the centrality of the nuclear family. Compassionate conservatism indeed. Much of the rest of the book is a synthesis of a broadly accessible swath of modern day evolutionary psychology. Pinker has a section that is a superficial survey of genetics and neuroscience. Specialists in either field will likely find his treatment unsatisfying though accurate enough in its generalities (I make this assertion based on the genetics section, which I can judge. The neuroscience part fascinated me, and I ate it up, but frankly I don’t know if Pinker is pulling my leg when he presents his ideas as the accepted wisdom of the day in that field). He spends considerable time rehashing modern day evolutionary psychology, our propensity for violence (where he can insert relevant lectures on the foolishness of the idea of the noble savage), sex and selfishness. He touches upon the intellectual controversies that have more to do with politics than science that involved Lewontin, Wilson, Gould and Rose. All of these areas are covered in more detail in the technical literature, or in books more aimed at the academic audience (for a entertaining and accessible narrative of the sociobiology controversy, I suggest DEFENDERS OF THE TRUTH). If one is not especially aquainted with the ideas of evolutionary psychology, THE BLANK SLATE can serve as an excellent guide, and the notes can act as a window into a bright and diverse intellectual universe. On the other hand, for those more well read in this area, I suggest that a careful examination of the contents will clarify what would most interest any given person, though I hope everyone reads the chapter titled “Children” simply so that one can be exposed to some of the counter-intuitive heterodoxies that can emerge from evolutionary psychology. Of course, Pinker tosses many darts and spears at his enemies, but he hesitates at a certain point. Here are the chapters listed under the heading “Hot Buttons”: Politics, Violence, Gender, Children, The Arts. Anything seem missing? Of course, race. Steve Sailer has observed that Steve kind of wimped out on this issue. Pinker asserts that race differences probably don’t exist on the behavioral level several times. But, unlike many who are dogmatic, he does admit that it is possible that they do, though he simply does not believe that the data warrants that position [7]. He draws upon Thomas Sowell’s work to show how cultures can be influenced by geography and history, rather than their biological substrate. And yet note the following passage:
The comedian Richard Pryor described his experience at the Arizona State Penitentiary during the filming of Stir Crazy: It made my heart ache, you know, to see all these beautiful black men in the joint. Goddam; the warriors should be out there helping the masses. I felt that way, I was real naďve. Six weeks I was up there and I talked to the brothers. I talked to ‘em, and …. [looks around, frightened] … Thank God we got penitentiaries! I asked one, “Why did you kill everybody in the house?” He says, “They was home.”…I met one dude, kidnap-murdered four times. And I thought, three times, that was your last, right? I says, “What happened?” [Answers in falsetto] “I can’t get this shit right! But I’m getting paroled in two years.” Pryor was not, of course, denying the inequities that continue to put disproportionate numbers of African Americans in prison. He was only contrasting the common sense of ordinary people with the romanticism of intellectuals-and perhaps exposing their condescending attitude that poor people can’t be expected to refrain from murder, and that they should not be alarmed by the murderers in their midst.
Pinker implies in several chapters that certain individuals have a genetic predisposition toward criminality. They are amoral, and are in need of a deterrent to prevent them from committing crimes. It is part of his debunking of the noble savage. Some of the examples he uses are the like the ones above, of African-Americans, though he is careful to disavow the idea of group differences. But it is in these passages and chapters that I think Leftists spy the seeds of the demons that hide behind Pinker’s paradigm. Race is the elephant in the room, the Hot Button that dare not speak its name. Here is another section from THE BLANK SLATE:
But the theory of reciprocal altruism raises another possibility: that some of the genetic differences among people in their social emotions are systematic. One exception to the rule that selection reduces variability arises when the best strategy depends on what other organisms are doing. The child’s game of scissors-paper-rock is one analogy, and another may be found in the decision of which route to take to work. As commuters being to avoid a congested highway and opt for a less traveled route, the new one will no longer be less traveled, so many will choose the first one, until congestion builds up t here, which will induce still other commuters to choose the second route, and so on. The commuters will eventually distribute themselves in some ratio between the two roads. The same thing can happen in evolution, where it is called frequency-dependent selection. One corollary of reciprocal altruism, shown in a number of simulations, is that frequency-dependent selection can produce temporary or permanent mixtures of strategies. For example, eve if reciprocators predominate in a population, a minority of cheaters can sometimes survive, take advantage of the generosity of the reciprocators as long as they don’t grow so numerous as to meet other cheaters too often or to be recognized and punished by the reciprocators. Whether the population ends up homogenous or with a mixture of strategies depends on which strategies are competing, which start of more numbers, how easily they enter and leave the population, and the payoffs for cooperation and defection.
Evil hereditarian that I am, I wonder, could it be possible that different populations, responding to different environmental stimuli, might employ different permanent mixtures of strategies? I think I’ll end this before I dig myself any deeper, but I suggest you read THE BLANK SLATE closely and connect whatever dots you find in it yourself. [1] Read attacks on Pinker, and you will note many of his critics grant a role for genes, but distort Pinker's position into a grotesque parody of genetic determinism. [2] Lysenkoism was an early example of this. [3] Yes, the most conservative have the temerity to be Democrats, while the most radical supported the black Panters. Reactionaries all! [4] I refer to Electromagnetic, Weak, Strong and Gravity. [5] If I was more of a cynic, I would say Pinker strung together the three ideas because it seemed a novel way of presenting yet another book on evolution and human behavior. [6] John Derbyshire accuses Pinker of naive materialism and scientism. I don't go so far, but I will admit many scientists are historically and philosophically innocent and make mistakes or espouse ideas a century out of date, logical positivism for instance is one that comes to mind. In any case, I think some of Derbyshire's criticism of naive materialism can be avoided if one hews to methodological naturalism. [7] I think that like many people, Pinker will stick to the cultural model until an overwhelming amount of evidences shifts his opinion.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

On Democratic politics & the House leadership race I don't like to talk about stuff others are talking about all the time anyhow, but this time, I want to speak up on something that I've been thinking about. I'm a "Man of the Right" so to speak, so I think maybe I can view the Democratic leadership race more clinically than the folks over at The American Prospect or The New Republic. Nancy Pelosi of California is running against Martin Frost of Texas. Pelosi is a California liberal, Frost is a Texas moderate. Many are saying that a Pelosi win will signal the death knell of her party because she'll pull it too far to the Left. But the most powerful Republican in Congress is probably Tom DeLay, who is very conservative. Speaker Hastert is moderate only in comparison to DeLay and Armey. Trent Lott, though pragmatic, is also a conservative. Moderates like Jennifer Dunn of Washington can only aspire to junior level leadership positions in the Republican party today, because they are well, too moderate (Dunn is pro-choice for instance). So, though I'm a Republican (the less Evil Party you know), why is it that Pelosi leading the Democrats is scarier than DeLay leading the Republicans? If Martin Frost is good enough for the Democrats, and gives them the best centrist shot at respectability, why not Chris Shays for the Republicans? (don't laugh) Yes, yes, of course we all know that this is a conservative country, and conservatives outnumber liberals in all the polls I've seen since about 1975. But let's give that as the reason for moderate Democrats fearing a Pelosi tenure. Personally, I don't think that she'd lead the party that far Left-she's pragmatic enough to know that this is not a country filled with California Democrats.

The pitter patter of brown feet toward distant shores Got this link from Common Sense about getting the hell out of India. Excerpt of the The Onion article:
Upon making the breakthrough in Germany, Chattopadhyay immediately began working 16-hour days to complete additional research in the areas of visa application, airplane tickets, and employment opportunities overseas. He also began gathering data on school districts, as well as cardboard boxes and packing tape. In spite of their success, Chattopadhyay and the others are not resting on their laurels. "There still remain many questions I wish to answer," Chattopadhyay said. "Is Nature supersymmetric, and if so, how is supersymmetry broken? Why does the universe appear to have one time and three space dimensions? And do I really have to wait another four weeks to get out of this godforsaken place?"
Of course, these brainy physicists should just think about getting a cheap flight to Mexico, blend into some Maya village in Chiapas, come north and get a dish-washing job, and get in line for the coming amnesty.

Who speaks for us? This article on MSNBC talks about how GW is courting Muslims during Ramadan. One thing that I find amusing is how sarcastically some conservative commentators like Rod Dreher use the term "Religion of Peace," when GW was the first one to parrot it widely. One reason I call myself a conservative is because I think the Right is willing to defend the West and European civilization in particular. GW's accommodation with Islam and attempts to add it to the Catholic-Protestant-Jew consensus is predictable-he is a politician after all. On the other hand since we can't look to the Left to defend the West what other option do we have? Like religious conservatives, perhaps those of us who consider ourselves civilizational traditionalists might be stuck with a Republican party that takes us for granted-talking about American values, while offering amnesty to millions of illegals and pushing bilingual education.

The Celestial People's Republic? I guess I'm going through a period of Sino-philia. Check out this excerpt from a LA Times article:
But the imagery also has dynastic overtones, suggesting to observers that, despite limited reforms, the transfer of power in China has not progressed far from the pre-modern days of patriarchs who enjoyed lifelong tenure and chose their own successors. The influence of traditional political culture and the realities of how power works in China, analysts point out, make it unlikely that President Jiang Zemin, or any Chinese leader, would cede power of his own accord. "As with imperial power, lifelong tenure has existed all along in China, especially for top leaders," said Yu Haocheng, a visiting scholar at UCLA. "Despite the republican revolution of 1911 and the Communist revolution of 1949, up to the present day, this problem has still not been resolved."
The leopard changes its spots, but remains a leopard nonetheless? Perhaps China analysts should stop reading Mao's little red book and get straight to their Ssu-ma Ch'ien.

Overheard #1 I'm too busy to post real stuff for a while. So posting will consist of some quick hits and thoughts pounded out while my centrifuges spin down. Here's the first in my "overheard" series, theme stolen shamelessly from pseudo-co-blogger Capital Influx. There are really an endless store of these to blog... Overheard in a facility full of semi-autistic individuals at a nameless American University:

Speaker 1: I'm not sure whether it's worth going to this party tomorrow. Speaker 2: Well did you get the parameter? Speaker 1: What parameter? Speaker 2: Has your education not taught you to give a figure of merit whenever describing an event? Ideally, a single parameter that (as far as is possible) sums up the quality of the outing? In this case: the sausage/salmon ratio... which I fear comes arbitrarily close to 1...

Editorial aside: The unkempt aspect and horrific visage of the second individual involved made these casually macho remarks an event of gut-busting was clear that he was no David Webb...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/07/2002 02:34:00 AM | |

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

The Chinese I posted this one hour ago-but somehow it was deleted, so a second go around.... The question was simple: if southeast Asians cluster with south Chinese, while north Chinese cluster with Japanese and Koreans, why the high IQ values for Taiwan and Hong Kong? First, these two groups are genetically "south Chinese." Hong Kong is a Cantonese city, while 90% of Taiwanese trace their ancestry to the coastal province of Fujian to the west of their nation within the last 300 years. 10% of Taiwanese are "mainlanders," of various provenance, while a minority of the residents of Hong Kong are non-Cantonese (much of Shanghai's entrepreneurial class relocated to Hong Kong). That being said, a thesis that holds that southeast Asians have lower IQs than northeast Asians, and has the south Chinese clustering with the latter, would predict lower IQs for south China than north China. The fact is that the Chinese Diaspora is overwhelmingly south Chinese (southeast Asia, the United States, etc.) and these are characterized by dynamic economically productive individuals. One could assert that the Diaspora is not representative-that selective immigration is causing the high IQs of south Chinese abroad, as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan. But the fact is that most Chinese did not go abroad to become businessmen and professionals, rather they were hired labor. The majority (men) returned after they had accrued sufficient funds to elevate their status in the homeland. Who remained? Perhaps those who had not accumulated as much status and wealth. I don't honestly know the raw intellectual capital of these immigrants, but the United States did not practice selective immigration in the late 19th century like Canada today, vetting for education and talent. The IQ of American whites maps closely to their root populations in Europe, and likewise Asian Americans. One could argue that different selective pressures transformed the southeast Asian or south Chinese population, despite their genetic closeness. Dysgenesis or IQ elevation through the Chinese scholarly system of exams may be candidates. But these are highly speculative, and Vietnam and Thailand were not far behind China proper in terms of political development (especially south China). Both peoples in fact derive from the south Chinese substrate-with the "Dai" ethnic group of southern China the remnants of the Thai nation. Historically I think it is likely that the south Chinese, especially the speakers of dialects, are not genetically the same as other Han, and might be Sinicized Vietnamese and Thai (or their equivalents). I have read that the dialects have traces that indicate that their brand of Chinese has been grafted upon a non-Chinese substrate. Parts of south China, such as Yunnan, actually are dominated by the Mandarin dialect. Why are Guangdong and its affinal provinces so different? Likely because the density of the indigenous population was so high that the Chinese migrants could not impose their language without transforming it within the pre-Chinese matrix. The fact is that Hong Kong and Taiwan are advanced technological societies. Even Thailand, the most advanced of the mainland southeast Asian nations, can not compare. I am not one who says that the Lynn-Flynn Effect can cause enormous changes and explain differences between all ethnic groups and societies, but neither am I an absolutist at the other end. I will be interesting for instance to see how the Philippines and Indonesia develop. Both are "Malay" genetic stock (as opposed to mainland southeast Asians who are more explicitly Mongoloid), but have very different cultures because of history (the Spanish halted the inevitable Islamicization of the Philippines-when they arrived, Muslim merchants were in evidence in Manila Bay). Update: Had dinner with a Vietnamese friend, he thinks Cantonese and Vietnamese look different, but more similar to each other than they are to Koreans or north Chinese. Update on previous post: Here is the text of the previous post that seems to have reappeared.... Southeast Asians, Northeast Asians and Chinese Illuminating post on the message board:

I wanted to know whether people from Taiwan(not aboriginal) and Hong Kong are considered North East Asian or South East Asian. Cavalli-Sforza indicates that, genetically, they are closer to South East Asians, but in terms of IQ and physical features they resemble North East Asian. Prof. Rushton is skeptical in regards to Cavalli-Sforza's South East Asian - North East Asian data. It seems odd people from Taiwan and Hong Kong would cluster genetically around South East Asians but achieve IQ scores on par with North East Asians. the_alpha_male28

90% of people in Taiwan trace their ancestry to the costal province of Fujian across the straits from Taiwan, so they would likely classify as south Chinese. Hong Kong is a Cantonese city-quintessentially south Chinese. In addition, the Chinese Diaspora, until recent times, was almost all south Chinese [1]. Even today, the Chinese of southeast Asia trace their ancestry to various regions of south China, or are Hakkas. I have read that the south Chinese dialects are spoken in a manner that indicates there was grafting onto a non-Chinese linguistic substrate [2]. The Vietnamese and Thai people in addition have had a presence (and the Thai do even today, as the Dai) in south China. From my reading of history, it seems most of the massive migration during the interregnum between the Han and the Sui/Tang (~300 to ~ 600) stimulated by barbarian conquest of the north was to the Yangtze river valley, rather than the coastal south (someone can correct me on this). But regions of the inland south like like Yunnan do speak Mandarin, so the fact that Cantonese and the other dialects still exist (and are de facto separate languages) indicates a pervasive indigenous presence that could not be absorbed or assimilated by migrants. Let me also add that the distinction between "north Chinese" and "south Chinese" is confused by the fact that after ~600 and after ~1200 (both periods of barbarian domination in the north of China) Chinese from the Yangtze region and further south resettled depopulated areas of the north. In addition-the barbarian genetic contribution to the remaining northern population was likely non-trivial (especially through the male line-even the Tang emperors had non-Han ancestry for instance, a partial reason for their affinity for horses). I would like input from those who know Chinese people personally as to whether there is a noticeable phenotype difference between the two groups. And what is there relationship to southeast Asians? [1] Political refugees and elite immigration to the West likely has a higher portion of north Chinese from the Yellow River plain. On the other hand, many American "Mandarin speakers"-are probably Taiwanese who are of Fujianese-south Chinese-extraction. [2] The same can be said of many "Indo-Aryan" languages of north, west and east India, they "sound" like Indo-European spoken by non-Indo-Europeans. Of course, these examples are endless-French is Latin spoken with a Celtic accent, etc. etc.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Spot the logical fallacy Steve Sailer and I have both independently referenced a little parlor game you can play by yourself with each copy of the NY Times. Any time you see an article that mentions race (that isn't written by Nick Wade), start a mental timer and ask yourself how long it takes before you spot the logical fallacy [1]. Today's episode is another obvious yet hilarious exercise in incorrect attribution of causation. [2] Writing on a story covering the dual Chinese language instruction at Shuang Wen high school in New York City, the Times says:

Although only two of the school's first class of 45 students were not of Chinese descent, Shuang Wen gradually gained a reputation among some of the city's black middle-class parents for being nurturing yet rigorous. In last spring's citywide third-grade math and English tests, Shuang Wen ranked third in math and 23rd in English among the city's almost 1,000 elementary schools. Now, before the start of every school year, more and more black parents arrive at the office of the principal, Ling-Ling Chou, seeking admission for their children to the prekindergarten class — which is based on interviews with prospective students and their parents. They are undeterred by the fact that their children will be among the few non-Asians in the school, or that Mandarin is famously difficult to master. Chinese instruction runs from 3 to 5:30 p.m. daily. All subjects, however, are taught in both languages.

The article continues in this vein. The black parents are flocking to the school, thinking that its "nurturing yet rigorous" status is related to the content of the curriculum. Of course, the truth is that the school is good because of the Chinese in the classroom, not because of the Chinese in the curriculum. With fleetingly rare exceptions, an influx of black students means a corresponding dip in academic performance indicators, and an influx of Asians means the converse. [3] [1] Or, equivalently, the false invocation of the axiom of equality. [2] Thanks to Diane E. from Letter from Gotham for the link. [3] The story is a little more complicated. Northeast Asians and elite South Asians do very well, but Southeast Asians and a substantial fraction of the South Asian population don't do very well at all. In other words, Asian students are a bimodal group. Razib adds: When I read the article, I did note though that the parents were very motivated. These aren't your stereotypical "ghetto" types. So the quality of the school might not suffer as much as racial stereotypes would predict. Also-remember that over half the blacks in the greater-NYC area are middle-class. I wouldn't be surprised if most of the black kids that go to this school are in the top 15% of the African-American IQ range, and so map pretty well in the middle of the Asian/white bell curve. Add to that the prior self-selection of West Indian immigrants, you might be in for a surprise (though the NY Times wouldn't report the negatives being what it is).

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/04/2002 01:41:00 AM | |

Friday, November 01, 2002

Time just doesn't get it Their coverage of the marijuana legalization debate in Nevada now is pretty interesting, but Joel Stein makes one unforgivable mistake. He invokes Tupac's name in vain:

John Walters has traveled to fight an initiative that would legalize marijuana, he calls out his three sworn enemies as if he were Tupac Shakur. ... he ticks off their names and says, "These people use ignorance and their overwhelming amount of money to influence the electorate. You don't hide behind money and refuse to talk and hire underlings and not stand up and speak for yourself," he says. By the end of a similar speech at a drug-treatment center in Reno, he says, "Let's stop hiding. I'm here. Where are you?" The czar is bringing it on.

and again:

The marijuana legalizers, including the billionaires Walters vilifies, don't have much kinder things to say about him. In fact, for old rich men, they can sound a lot like Tupac .... "Mr. Walters is a pathetic drug-war soul who is defending a whole catalog of horrors he's indifferent to," Sperling says from his office in Phoenix, Ariz. "The government's drug-reform policy is driven by a Fundamentalist Christian sense of morality that sees any of these illegal substances used as evil."

Joel just doesn't understand. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen: I knew Tupac Shakur. Tupac Shakur was an artist I liked. Mr. Drug Czar, you're no Tupac Shakur. You see, Joel, THIS is Tupac:

First off, fuck your bitch and the click you claim West side when we ride come equipped with game You claim to be a player but I fucked your wife We bust on Bad Boy niggaz fucked for life Plus Puffy tryin ta see me weak hearts I rip Biggie Smallz and Junior M.A.F.I.A. some mark ass bitches We keep on comin' while we runnin for ya jewels steady gunnin, keep on bustin at the fools, you know the rules Little Ceaser, go ask ya homie how I leave ya cut your young ass up, leave you in pieces, now be deceased Lil Kim, don't fuck around with real G's Quick to snatch yo' ugly ass off tha street, so fuck peace I let them niggas know it's on for life So let the West side ride tonight hahahah Bad Boy murdered on wax, and killed Fuck wit' me and get ya caps peeled, you know ... see ...

Ahhhh....brings back the memories... PS - Long time readers may be befuddled, but I've always been pro-rap. I just don't like seeing rap scenes enacted in real life. As long as it stays on the CD (or in the movie, whatever), I have no problem with murder/drug use/etc. PSS - Tupac actually had a vocabulary. The above lyric should read "clique" rather than "click". If you missed it, it's right at the beginning, when Tupac first promises to murder all those "Bad Boy niggaz".

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/01/2002 03:00:00 AM | |

The Eight Kinds of Bloggers Go here. And click on the obvious link. Then read the whole article here. It's not really *dead on* (or close), but it's fun to see how non-political bloggers perceive political bloggers:

War Blogger (Woggler) Percentage of blogger population: 18% Hours spent blogging: 40/week Habitat: The warroom, of course. Average Age: 46 Favorite hangout: The shooting range. NRA meetings. The woods. Last Book Read: Fascism and Resistance in Portugal: Communists, Liberals and Military Dissidents in the Opposition to Salazar, 1941-1974 Favorite Offline Activities: Survival training for the coming apocalypse. Mode of Dress: camouflage anything. Psychological profile: ESTP Typical post: 4:30:23 p.m. - Stupid right wing commie nuts like X and Y really upset me. This country was founded on the principle of guns and happiness or something, wasn't it? What's all this peace crap? We're the best. Love it or leave it. Semper Fi, my boy, never surrender!

Perhaps the funniest part is that these guys link to Warbloggerwatch as an example of the above kind of warblog...

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/01/2002 01:07:00 AM | |

Principles of Population Genetics
Genetics of Populations
Molecular Evolution
Quantitative Genetics
Evolutionary Quantitative Genetics
Evolutionary Genetics
Molecular Markers, Natural History, and Evolution
The Genetics of Human Populations
Genetics and Analysis of Quantitative Traits
Epistasis and Evolutionary Process
Evolutionary Human Genetics
Mathematical Models in Biology
Evolutionary Genetics: Case Studies and Concepts
Narrow Roads of Gene Land 1
Narrow Roads of Gene Land 2
Narrow Roads of Gene Land 3
Statistical Methods in Molecular Evolution
The History and Geography of Human Genes
Population Genetics and Microevolutionary Theory
Population Genetics, Molecular Evolution, and the Neutral Theory
Genetical Theory of Natural Selection
Evolution and the Genetics of Populations
Genetics and Origins of Species
Tempo and Mode in Evolution
Causes of Evolution
The Great Human Diasporas
Bones, Stones and Molecules
Natural Selection and Social Theory
Journey of Man
Mapping Human History
The Seven Daughters of Eve
Evolution for Everyone
Why Sex Matters
Mother Nature
Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language
R.A. Fisher, the Life of a Scientist
Sewall Wright and Evolutionary Biology
Origins of Theoretical Population Genetics
A Reason for Everything
The Ancestor's Tale
Dragon Bone Hill
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
The Selfish Gene
Adaptation and Natural Selection
Nature via Nurture
The Symbolic Species
The Imitation Factor
The Red Queen
Out of Thin Air
Evolutionary Dynamics
The Origin of Species
The Descent of Man
Age of Abundance
The Darwin Wars
The Evolutionists
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Of Moths and Men
The Language Instinct
How We Decide
Predictably Irrational
The Black Swan
Fooled By Randomness
Descartes' Baby
Religion Explained
In Gods We Trust
Darwin's Cathedral
A Theory of Religion
The Meme Machine
Synaptic Self
The Mating Mind
A Separate Creation
The Number Sense
The 10,000 Year Explosion
The Math Gene
Explaining Culture
Origin and Evolution of Cultures
Dawn of Human Culture
The Origins of Virtue
Prehistory of the Mind
The Nurture Assumption
The Moral Animal
Born That Way
No Two Alike
Survival of the Prettiest
The Blank Slate
The g Factor
The Origin Of The Mind
Unto Others
Defenders of the Truth
The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition
Before the Dawn
Behavioral Genetics in the Postgenomic Era
The Essential Difference
Geography of Thought
The Classical World
The Fall of the Roman Empire
The Fall of Rome
History of Rome
How Rome Fell
The Making of a Christian Aristoracy
The Rise of Western Christendom
Keepers of the Keys of Heaven
A History of the Byzantine State and Society
Europe After Rome
The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity
The Barbarian Conversion
A History of Christianity
God's War
Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople
The Sacred Chain
Divided by the Faith
The Reformation
Pursuit of Glory
Albion's Seed
From Plato to Nato
China: A New History
China in World History
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Children of the Revolution
When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World
The Great Arab Conquests
After Tamerlane
A History of Iran
The Horse, the Wheel, and Language
A World History
Guns, Germs, and Steel
The Human Web
Plagues and Peoples
A Concise Economic History of the World
Power and Plenty
A Splendid Exchange
Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD
Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations
A Farewell to Alms
The Ascent of Money
The Great Divergence
Clash of Extremes
War and Peace and War
Historical Dynamics
The Age of Lincoln
The Great Upheaval
What Hath God Wrought
Freedom Just Around the Corner
Throes of Democracy
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A Beautiful Math
When Genius Failed
Catholicism and Freedom
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