Green Tide at the Gates?

ParaPundit has another post up addressing Muslim immigration into the West. Randall states:

The more Muslims that come to Australia (or any other Western nation) the more there will be to complain and lobby for allowing more to come and to allow more radical ones to come. Until Islam grows up and goes thru something equivalent to the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment why should Western nations put themselves in the position of having to deal with this?

I haven’t stated a pro or con opinion on this topic because I am not totally sure how I will articulate agreements or disagreements with Randall’s position, and many of my concerns are procedural rather than practical, but I think this idea needs to be aired openly, because I believe many Americans, and to a greater extent Europeans, speak of it privately quite frequently. You see this sort of sentiment, expressed in far less measured and reasoned language on message boards, and I believe this sort of thing happens when the punditocracy consciously avoids discussing certain topics, leaving the inarticulate but unvoiced to speak up.

That being said, I know that the first reaction that occurs to many people is that it is fundamentally “unfair” to judge an individual based on group attributes (foreign citizenship). Certainly I have argued against the government making these sort of decisions in the case of citizens [1]. But I do know of a situation where we routinely judge people by their citizenship when they come to this country-asylum & refugee seekers. Back in the 1980s a graduate student that my father knew from Ethiopia got a greencard because his nation was judged to be a tryanny (it was under a Marxist dictator). The individual in question was intelligent and not in fear for his life, but he was from a country where there is a presumption of persecution. In a similar manner, Cubans, or during the Cold War, Soviet Jews, receive considerations that other groups of immigrants do not. What Randall is suggesting is basically the reverse-the presumption that someone should be kept out instead of let in, which means that some individuals will be unfairly targeted, just as many individuals did and do take advantage of the accident of tyranny in the old country to make a case for staying in the United States outside the purview of the law’s intent.

[1] This does not mean that as a legal point it is unfair treatment, non-citizens are routinely treated somewhat differently, I know as I was a green card holder for many years before naturalization.

GNXP political orientation?

Sometimes people make assumptions about GNXP’s political orientation. If you took the sum of our views and “averaged” them out, I’d suspect that “classical liberal” would be what you ended up with. That being said, there’s a fair diversity here, despite the fact that some topics we address that are taboo ghettoize us with the Right. So, to clear things up, I took a political quiz, and invite other GNXPers to take the quiz and tell people the results so that everyone has a good idea where everyone else is coming from.


The quiz I took was here. Here is what it said about me:

NW-You would feel most at home in the Northwest region. You advocate a large degree of economic and personal freedom. Your neighbors include folks like Ayn Rand, Jesse Ventura, Milton Friedman, and Drew Carey, and may refer to themselves as “classical liberals,” “libertarians,” “market liberals,” “old whigs,” “objectivists,” “propertarians,” “agorists,” or “anarcho-capitalist.”

And the image produced:


Here’s me. I would have probably gone for more regulation if I retook it, but I am pretty close to the center. I campaigned for Gore in 2000. Interesting that there were no foreign policy questions – that is a third axis that separates a lot of people.


My map. Very close to razib (just one ‘unit’ to the east I think). Adding a foreign policy dimension would be interesting, but there are a lot of areas they could ask more questions in. Anyway, we’re all clustered pretty close together so far, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Oddly though I classify myself as a left-libertarian where razib seems to think he’s a rightie – but we probably draw the line in different places.

And here is mine. I’m not sure how accurate this is as I seem further north than Razib. As I noted, a finer instrument for distinguishing between the common libertarian GNXP position is the Libertarian Purity test. One virtue of this test is that it does have a foreign policy dimension taken into account. I scored 53 on this i.e. ‘medium core libertarian’.

Go for it!

Today on NPR (audio archive will be available after 6 PM) there was a short interview with an economist who stated that “going for it” on 4th & 1 yard to go in a football game is the rational thing to do. And yet most fans know that coaches generally refuse to “go for it,” even if it is “4th & inches”! Why? The economist stated “…we are quite perplexed, because we know that people tend to maximize their benefit….” This is a clear application of rational choice theory and its short-comings, the economist notes that coaches are probably carrying over decision making patterns from other areas of life without reflecting upon it. I believe that rational choice theory has a big role to play in social science, but it tends to put the emphasis on human rationality and choice, neglecting that our evolutionary background probably has a strong effect on our reactions to any given situation. Our software can react dynamically to many situations, but we also have many pre-built modules that simply initialize whenever a familiar context is recognized.

Update: Here is David Romer’s paper that elaborates his argument. For a more sports-oriented take, here is a column on the topic by ESPN’s Greg Garber.

Poor, poor Africa….

Why is Africa so poor? asks an article in Frontpage Magazine. Like many mainstream conservative outlets, they diagnose the symptoms well enough, lack of civil society & clean transparent government, but they neglect to be very specific about a course of treatment (corrupt international agencies & toothless NGOs?). Granted, this is better than much of the modern day Left, which either ignores the issue to focus on “injustice” that can be more directly ascribed to Western perfidy, or simply takes recourse to a blanket accusation of racism hanging over the continent like a mythical penumbra, affecting events far after its direct existence has been excised through decolonization and empowerment of native elites.

If we want most of Africa to step back onto the path of progress-toward-modernity, we need to speak it loud and proud as Jonah Goldberg did years ago, recolonize and take up the “White Man’s Burden”! In lieu of indigenous social & political structures, modern nations must provide them so that the native genius can be fully expressed and incubated, just as a secular modern elite was born from the British Raj to lead an independent India that stumbles unsurely but steadily along the path-of-progress. Civilized nations must feed, clothe and educate African elites and erase from their minds a tribal mentality. Eventually, these elites will revolt against colonialism and establish their own independent political structures, but that’s the whole point….

Oh yes, you say this has been tried before, but unfortunately it was aborted. Remember that most of Africa was untouched by European colonialism until the turn of the 19th century, while India had at least the benefits of 50 extra years, as well as a receptive indigenous elite which was already literate. The “colonial elites” of Africa were often semi-educated like Patrice Lumumba or illiterate like Idi Amin.

Of course, I don’t favor recolonization personally, but that’s probably the appropriate course of treatment if you want to cure the infection….

Online course/textbook

Since even a used edition of Hartl & Clark’s Principles of Population Genetics is kind pricey for some, I found this site titled Wyman Nyquist’s Notes on Statistical Genetics, with a focus on Animal and Plant Breeding, basically a compilation of course notes & PDFed portions of a text-book. Haven’t read it, but the contents look useful if you want to dig deeper into the field of quantitative population genetics. For a soft-landing intro see my post “quantitative genetics”.

Only blacks can teach black history?

This article about a protest over a white teacher possibly teaching black history in the Cleveland area is pretty high in blogdex, so there’s a large amount of commentary out there if you want to look. I find it pretty freaky, I do understand that a black teacher probably has some insights into black history that a white teacher could not give, but the reaction is highly disproportionate to the problem in my opinion. This echoes something I saw on CSPAN a month ago, where Diane Ravitch was promoting her new book The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn, and a black woman rose up and rambled for about 10 minutes how blacks should teach black history and women should teach about sufferage and so forth. Ravitch ignored the ramble and replied orthogonally to the question/assertion. Whites, especially liberals, tend not to hold the same standard of stupidity to minorities that they would their own group, mostly especially with blacks. If a white woman had gone on in a rant about this subject Ravitch would certainly have taken a time out and pointed out that this sort of preoccupation with identity over the core area being studied is part of what leads to political pressure on textbook makers in the first place. It is also a sympton of what I see most well developed in black Americans, but also starting to infuse the thinking of other minorities & women, a preoccupation with your own group to the extent that there seems a neglect of broader learning because it is unnatural and uninteresting. John McWhorter, a black man, has been one of the few to publically comment on this topic, both in Losing the Race and in Authentically Black. McWhorter recalls how some of his black linguistics buddies in grad school teased him for picking a topic relating to Russian dialects to do a presentation on, when he should have perhaps focused on Carribean pidgins or something “more appropriate.” He also criticizes well educated blacks like Randall Robinson who have contempt for classical learning that they consider “Eurocentric” but offer little in the way of alternatives [1].

More broadly interpreted, this gets to a topic that serves as part of Bernard Lewis’ overall thesis expressed in What Went Wrong and The Crisis of Islam, the lack of curiousity about other cultures and exoganous knowledge that seems prevelant in some areas of the world. Whether Lewis is right or wrong about Islamic culture, the broader question is important, and the assumptions that underlay it merit attention. Many non-white elites have traditionally looked to Europe after its post 18th century domination of the world as a model, intellectually and historically, schooled in the classics and well informed of the methodologies that took European the nations to the commanding heights in science and government. This does not mean a neglect of one’s own culture-Hindu barristers remained Hindu, Lee Kwan Yew might have been from an Anglophile family, but he remained committed to Confucian values and eventually schooled himself in Mandarin, while the elites of Latin America could both look to Europe for inspiration but maintain their own literary and artistic culture. Conversely Europeans have traditionally evinced a deep interest in the cultures that they surpassed and conquered, it was a European that discovered the relationship between Sanskrit and Latin & Greek, it was the West that rediscovered the ancient Near Eastern anquities lost to the memories of history, the examples are endless. Much of what we know about the breadth and depth of non-European cultures is because of Europeans.

Yet in recent years the rise of identity politics has infused a certain political aspect to much of learning & scholarship, especially outside the natural sciences. Emergent fields like Women’s Studies, Black Studies, Asian Studies, and so forth exist more to facilitate political movements and self-esteem than forward knowledge and understanding apart from personal considerations. This has important ramifications on the individual level-as some radical feminists & racialists assert that science is “patriarchal Western masculine thinking” and that those who are not white men who participate in the field are somehow sell-outs. These movements also tend to discourage “oppressed” groups from entering something that they view as Other and the domain of white men. On a milder level, I am regularly asked why I am interested in a variety of topics, how do I know so much about Roman history, Jewish history, Chinese history, etc.? There is no surprise at my scientific knowledge because there is a stereotype that South Asians are good at that in the United States, but my non-scientific background seems confusing to many, who assume that I would not have any interest in things outside my “culture’s background.” Of course, there is rich irony in this because most assume that I am of Hindu culture based on my physical appearence, when in fact I am from a family that has a strong Muslim identity (my paternal grandfather financed the building of and ran the local mosque in his home town and I was raised to believe that Hindus were snake-worshipping pagans).

I am not saying that background does not matter in any way on the choices one makes when one seeks knowledge, I suspect that as the years pass, more South Asian students will be interested in Indian mysticism than Korean students, and so forth. Race, culture, upbringing, matter, but on an individual level, it is not really that exceptional to transcend one’s own experience and knowledge and seek out that which is different and exotic. While I assert that there is much about our biological makeup that is essential and immutable, culture is clearly predominantly voluntary at the root, no matter that parental values correlate strongly with those of their children. One is not tied to the culture of one’s birth, moored permentantly in the same familiar waters through some law of physics, rather it is more the inertia of happenstance and the comfort of that which is the same. It is a great irony that those very individuals that might assert the malleability of human nature and reject any role for biology are the ones who are ghettoizing the quest for knowledge and forwarding the narrow idea that you should know only what you are and only you can know about yourself.

[1] In “Authentically Black” McWhorter has a delicious take down of Robinson’s uninformed opinion that black students should learn Swahili rather than French or German. McWhorter responds, rightly, that the West Africans that are the ancestors of most black Americans knew nothing of Swahili and were more likely to hear a European pidgin along the coast then they were Swahili, an East African language. McWhorter then constructively suggests that Wolof is a good candidate if Robinson et al. want to be more authentic. Of course, it is clear that Robinson et al. didn’t do their homework and only want to score anti-Eurocentrics points-not be more authentically “African,” an identity McWhorter reminds readers is mostly American, as Africans are Ibos, Kikiyu and Zulu first and foremost.

Update from Godless:

An old post seems appropriate at this time.

Validity of Studying Black Topics

I want to respond to the second of his three points on McWhorter. In response to my condescending attitude toward black studies, he says:

This is a load of bollocks. Blacks are part of our society, which means that black history is our history, no matter what our ethnicity. That doesn’t mean that we should fall silent before obvious lunacies like Afrocentrism, but at the same time one can no more dismiss a conscientious historian or linguist whose expertise is in the African diaspora than one whose expertise is in French or ancient Greece.

In theory, he is quite correct. The study of the history of Africa or of African Americans is no less defensible than the study of the history of Europe. And truth be told, Ethnic Studies majors and English majors are virtually indistinguishable nowadays in terms of content in the modern university. Virtually every humanities course includes a discussion of “race, gender, and class” from a hopelessly PC perspective. Look at the Stanford course syllabi for yourself if you find this unbelievable.

I suppose, then, that my objection is to the humanities in general – or to what they’ve become. I consider Stanley Fish and Estelle Freedman to be just as bad as Cornel West. The only thing that sets ethnic studies and feminist studies below the rest is that they can cry “racism” or “sexism” whenever they’re under attack by those who know their work to be rubbish. Thus black scholars in African-American studies are held to an even lower standard than Stanley Fish. While postmodernists are open to criticism from the mainstream, ethnic studies professors are simply invulnerable. The Cornel West affair is, obviously, a case in point.

The invulnerability from criticism leads in practice to a complete lack of standards. It is for this reason that ethnic studies – and not just black studies – is worthy of singular disdain.

Atlas of the Brain

Just listened to an interview about the “Atlas of the Brain” on THE WORLD on PRI. Check out the atlas’ website. You can listen to the full interview here. GNXP readers can pick up a mild HBD angle at around 2 minutes & 40 seconds, when the interviewer asks about the contrasts in the multi-nation survey, Dr. John Maziotta responds that there are “…differences between Asian brains and European brains…brains in Asian populations tend to be spherical…European brains tend to be more elongated…this must be some aspect of evolution and how the genetics of the brain determine its shape and structure….” My initial thought was that Europeans are more dolichocephalic and Asians are more bachycephalic, long-headed vs. short-headed, but this seems like too simple of an answer. Note how even “liberal” mainstream commentators express interest in differences no matter the party-line that race is a sociological construct.

Posted by razib at 02:46 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

More whales-it's in the genes

One thing I always find sketchy about ecology are the population estimates for various species which can’t be tracked easily (under the sea, in the forests, etc.). In the end, I agree that there have be some aproximations, and they might be the best numbers we can come up with at any given time, but when those numbers are brandished in public policy discussions as definitive and established I get a bit nervous. In any case, I found this news reported in Scientific American very interesting, because it indicates that past estimates of baleen whale populations (on the order of 50,000 or so) prior to their decimation might be wrong, insofar as they do not suffice to account for the genetic diversity found in present whale populations. In fact, the estimates of wild whale populations prior to the 19th & 20th century drives toward extinction might be off by an order of magnitude, think 500,000 rather than 50,000. Still, this is an estimate, but genes have no great reason to lie or be biased in any way. Of course the best solution is to come to the same number from various vantage points. Finally, I am a bit curious as to possible ramifications this might have on our conception of the marine ecology as a whole, as some ecologists assert that penguins and other krill consuming species have benifited from the decline in whale populations. An examination of penguin DNA should indicate a rapid population expansion in the recent past. One implication of this sort of thinking is that the ecosystem has perhaps requilibrated (a higher portion of the biomass being penguins rather than baleen whales) and humpbacks and their cousins have too much avian competition to reach their old numbers again.
Here are more stories on this issue (not much more red meat than what you’d find in Scientific American though).