Pretty baby all mixed up….

Follow-up to my entry on mixed-race people in fashion & entertainment, I noticed today that the this year’s winner of “Cutest Baby” for BabyTalk magazine was a girl with bright blue eyes, frizzy brown hair and tawny skin. It seems highly likely that the baby was of mixed African and European heritage. They showed the four runner ups, and three of them pretty much conformed to the “P & G” look, while another was a little Gujarati kid (his last name was “Desai”). They culled these kids from 100,000 pictures submitted.

P.S. no, I’m not a regular reader of BabyTalk, but note-to-self, I did notice the cover picture more since it was a somewhat-“black”-looking-baby with blue eyes instead of the typical “P & G” infant. Next up: genetically engineered kids with pink hair, they’ll make a cute accessory for a yuppy of circa 2030.

Posted by razib at 05:31 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

My lucky number is pi

An interesting article on irrationality, inter alia. “In short, the evolutionary design features of the human brain may well hold the key to our penchant for logic as well as illogic.”

Consider the following problems:

Problem 1:

“Imagine that you are confronted with four cards. Each has a letter of the alphabet on one side and a number on the other. You are also told this rule: If there is a vowel on one side, there must be an even number on the other. Your job is to determine which (if any) of the cards must be turned over in order to determine whether the rule is being followed. However, you must only turn over those cards that require turning over. Let’s say that the four cards are as follows:

T 6 E 9

Which ones should you turn over?

Problem 2:

You are a bartender at a nightclub where the legal drinking age is 21. Your job is to make sure that this rule is followed: People younger than 21 must not be drinking alcohol. Toward that end, you can ask individuals their age, or check what they are drinking, but you are required not to be any more intrusive than is absolutely necessary. You are confronted with four different situations, as shown below. In which case (if any) should you ask a patron his or her age, or find out what beverage is being consumed?

#1 -Drinking Water
#2 -Over 21
#3 -Drinking Beer
#4 -Under 21

Did you find one problem easier than the other? Answers and speculation within.


Problem 1:

Most people realize that they don’t have to inspect the other side of card T. However, a large proportion respond that the 6 should be inspected. They are wrong: The rule says that if one side is a vowel, the other must be an even number, but nothing about whether an even number must be accompanied by a vowel. (The side opposite a 6 could be a vowel or a consonant; either way, the rule is not violated.) Most people also agree that the E must be turned over, since if the other side is not an even number, the rule would be violated. But many people do not realize that the 9 must also be inspected: If its flip side is a vowel, then the rule is violated. So, the correct answer to the above Wason Test is that T and 6 should not be turned over, but E and 9 should be. Fewer than 20 percent of respondents get it right.

Problem 2:

Nearly everyone finds this problem easy. You needn’t check the age of person 1, the water drinker. Similarly, there is no reason to examine the beverage of person 2, who is over 21. But obviously, you had better check the age of person 3, who is drinking beer, just as you need to check the beverage of person 4, who is underage. The point is that this problem set, which is nearly always answered correctly, is logically identical to the earlier set, the one that causes considerable head scratching, not to mention incorrect answers.

Why is the second problem set so easy, and the first so difficult? This question has been intensively studied by the evolutionary psychologist Leda Cosmides. Her answer is that the key isn’t logic itself — after all, the two problems are logically equivalent — but how they are positioned in a world of social and biological reality. Thus, whereas the first is a matter of pure reason, disconnected from reality, the second plays into issues of truth telling and the detection of social cheaters. The human mind, Cosmides points out, is not adapted to solve rarified problems of logic, but is quite refined and powerful when it comes to dealing with matters of cheating and deception. In short, our rationality is bounded by what our brains were constructed — that is, evolved — to do. “

Posted by martin at 10:24 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

What's in a century?

From a site on “group cohesion”:

As regards optimum group size, Fukuyama (1999 : 213) suggests that it cannot reasonably exceed fifty to one hundred members, since the various biological mechanisms for detecting ‘free-riders’ in groups were developed in our evolutionary past in hunter-gatherer societies, which must have been around that size. …

Now, a site on Roman legions:

8 men=1 contubernium (mess unit/tentful), probably led by a file leader
10 contubernia=1 centuria (century), commanded by the centurion
6 centuriae=1 cohors (cohort), probably commanded by its senior centurion
10 cohortes=1 legio (legion), commanded by the legatus

So that’s a little under 100 men per century. Please note that the centurions were usually the senior officers promoted from the ranks, and a general’s relations with the centurions is what determined his hold over his legion.

Now here is the organization of the Mongol army:

The organization of the army was based on the decimal system. The largest unit was the tjumen, which was made up of 10.000 troops. A large army used to consist of three tjumens (Plural form t’ma in Mongolian), one consisting of infantry troops who were to perform close combat, the two others were meant to encircle the opponent from both sides. Each tjumen consisted of ten regiments, each of 1.000 troops. The 1.000 strong unit was called a mingghan. Each of these regiments consisted of ten squadrons of 100 troops, called jaghun, each of which was divided into ten units of ten, called arban. There was also an elite tjumen, an imperial guard which was composed of specially trained and selected troops. As for the command structure, the ten soldiers of each arban elected their commander by majority vote, and all of the ten commanders of the ten arbans of a tjumen elected the commander of a jaghunby the same procedure. Above that level, the khan personally appointed the commanders of each tjumen and mingghan. This appointment was made on criteria of ability, not age or social origin.

I note that above the level of what would be a centurion in the Roman system, the khan personally appointed the officer. This is similar to the Roman system where officers higher than centurions were generally not promoted from the ranks but had more political and social status.

Posted by razib at 03:43 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

The Future of People

Today’s survey: In the next 100 years, will people be more intelligent, or less intelligent?

A few weeks ago I posed a series of “order of magnitude” thought experiments about the future of people.  I didn’t get much response, probably because they were thought experiments, and not multiple-choice surveys where people could just click to vote.  Also asking people to think rationally between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always a challenge 🙂

But let’s consider them together.  They all have the following schema: What if x?  Would things be better for you, or worse?  Choices for x included:

What if the world had {2X, 4X, 10X} more people in it?What if everyone made {2X, 4X, 10X} more money?What if everyone was {2X, 4X} bigger?What if everyone was {10%, 20%} smarter?

What’s interesting about these questions is that although there were posed hypothetically, there are definite trends.  From the recent past (say 100 years) through today, the following are unequivocally true:

The world has far more people in it (about 8X in the last 100 years).  The trend is that in the next 100 years, this growth will continue but at a slower pace.The world is far more productive (about 4X in the last 100 years).  The trend is that in the next 100 years, this growth will continue and perhaps even accelerate. People are much larger (about 30% by weight and 20% by height, in the last 100 years).  The trend is that in the next 100 years, this growth will continue but at a slower pace.

The last question is less clear; have people become {less intelligent, more intelligent} in the last 100 years?  An open question, I would say; the Flynn effect indicates “more intelligent”, while population analysis suggests “less intelligent”.  And in the next 100 years, will the trend be up, or down?

You know what I think, but what do you think? 

Here’s today’s survey:

In the next 100 years, will people be more intelligent, or less intelligent?

(The survey is on my blog because I don’t know how to host one on GNXP 🙂

Posted by ole at 11:09 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

The Men with Guns

In the year 107 BCE the Roman general Gauis Marius began to recruit soldiers into the legions from the "head count" (urban poor) of Rome. Prior to this point the rankers in the legions had been propertied farmers, but due to military catastrophes and the resultant deficits in manpower from this class, property qualifications were waived in the interests of expediency. The new soldiers were men without means who had to be provided for in a more direct fashion by their generals, whether that be in the basics of their arms or long term land distributions. Within two generations Republican Rome was in shambles, and many point to this act by Marius as one of the main catalysts.

When the stakeholders in Roman society fought for their land and their families, there was a counterbalance to the charisma of their generals. Not being dependent on these egotistical men, it would have been beyond the pale of conception that the legions would march against Rome herself in the interests of the army. The army was Rome, and Rome was the army. This point changed in a not so subtle way after 100 BCE, as the Roman armies became stocked by the dispossessed who had little stake in the status quo. The logical end point of the separation between stakeholders and the soldiers who defended them can be seen in the late Roman Empire, at this point, the soldiers of the legions were usually Germans who were led by nominally civilized German generals.

In 1450 the general who led the armies of the Italian city of Milan took power from a Republican government. This was the age of the condottiere, a time when mercenary troupes dominated much of Europe. The Catalan Company can be thought of as an exemplary model for these moving cities of armed men. This was an age of religious wars, and the powerful men who led the soldiers who fought for the glory of gold achieved their apotheosis in the person of Albrecht Wallenstein, officially a hireling and vassal of the Holy Roman Emperor, but a wolf who in many ways overshadowed the Catholic emperor and the Protestant princes who fought him.

This age of mercenary soldiers has been washed away from historical memory by the rise of enormous conscript armies in the service of the industrial state during the 19th century. Coalescence of the nation-state over the past 200 years make the fact that non-citizens can enlist in the United States military surprising to many Americans. The genuine patriotism espoused by many American soldiers makes it easy to forget our military is an enormous professional force. The fact that the United States has demobilized large armed forces several times in its history after the end of military hostilities is a testament to the caution that our political class has often had towards militarization. Since many of the earlier leaders had classical educations, they must surely known of the Roman precedent.

The American military is fast becoming a society apart. Granted, the enlisted men have a high turnover rate, but they tend to come from specific elements of society, more toward the lower socioeconomic end of the ladder, and concentrated among the white Scots-Irish and blacks among our many ethnic groups. It seems likely that the officer corps is now mostly Republican, and some surveys assert that it is 80% Republican.

This moves me to note another point: General Wes Clark was praised by many on the Left for the following statement: "but people who like assault weapons should join the United States Army, we have them." The particular context was the assault weapons ban. Moving away from any position point on this topic, I would like to note that those on the Left often seem to think that only the military should have lethal weapons. On the other hand, I highly doubt that many of those who praised Clark’s suggestion for those who liked lethal weapons to join the military would be pleased if any of those they knew actually joined the military! Those who want to disarm this society in my personal experience have a range of feelings toward soldiers that range from confusion to hatred, wich contempt, condescension and simple distaste falling somewhere in the middle. It seems ironic that they should so trust a caste of people who they have little sympathy or empathy for to husband the precious resource of lethal killing power.

I think those those who read the Washington Monthly article G.I. Woe should keep in mind the confused (and sometimes not-so-confused) attitude of the Left toward the military in mind. One of the main critiques that the author makes against the current system of military organization is that it treats soldiers as interchangeable and does not allow for group cohesion. Here is a choice quote:

"When you get down to the unit level, what it means is that for the most part, the formations you are deploying on any given day consist of strangers," says Col. Douglas A. Macgregor, a research fellow at the National Defense University and author of Breaking the Phalanx, a bible for military reform advocates.

From the point of military efficiency, this criticism does make a lot of sense. But keep in mind that group cohesion can cause problems. Roman legions had a common standard, a totem, worshipped gods of the legion together, and often paid into common burial accounts. It became in far-off-lands the closest thing that men had to a family (and in the early days those who enlisted were prevented from officially marrying). The legions revelled in their history, which often they stretched back centuries. These units were in effect small mobile communities united by bonds of common feeling. They were not strangers. But as noted above, these legions often owed personal loyalty to their generals. In the chaotic transitions between dynasties, the legions of the Rhine, or the Danube or Syria would often march together to forward their claimant to the purple, knowing that the new emperor would reward them if he was one of their own. The Praetorian Guard (the emperor’s elite personal soldiers) even auctioned the emperorship at one point.

So, a thought experiment, what if American soldiers became attached to their division, and drilled and deployed with the same comrades year after year? I think it is highly plausible that a generally diffused patriotism could be supplemented by a feeling of divisional unity, family, and if officers were assigned to one division over their whole career, the bonds between them and the enlistees would grow even closer.

In sum, you have a professional military which espouses values somewhat at variance with the population at large because of selection bias. You also have an anti-military intellgensia arguing for a strict monopoly of lethal force to be given over to a culture and organization that they have little understanding of, and to some extent loath, feelings that are often reciprocated by the military. Additionally, parts of the intellgensia (those that detest the military the least, granted), are arguing for an increase of group cohesion in the interests of utilitarian outcome.

All this suggests to me that a decline in classical education is having a negative impact on our policy analyzing elite. The model that the Founders used, Republican Rome, give a clear indication of what might come about if all the variables are in place[1]. Examples in contemporary times abound, for instance our ally in the War On Terror, Pakistan, wh
ere the military does exist as a separate, and dominant, subculture within the nation.

To my liberal friends, I often say: You want gun control, you want only the military to have guns, a military that is often illiberal and reactionary in its first impulses. Do you really trust these people?

fn1. If you want to get multicultural, just point to the Samurai monopoly on wearing swords during the Tokugawa Era, or the Muslim near exclusive rights (officially) to join the armies of the Mughals (in addition to some Hindu Rajputs, who were a martial caste themselves). Small minorities, separate from the majority, rule easily when they can monopolize weaponry.

Update: Matthew Yglesias points to this article at the Washington Monthly that is pro-draft. Please note, I am not espousing any policy solutions like the draft. I am though suggesting that we need to be less complacent about the continuance of America’s democratic republic. I think many Americans view our governmental system, and the status quo, as having reached fixation, something I’m skeptical of….

Posted by razib at 03:00 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

A mixed bag in fashion….

Mixed race is hot says an article in The New York Times. They assert that the “P & G” look (blonde & blue-eyed) is in decline. Numbers? I’m all willing to believe this, but how hard can it be to do a survey of the top selling fashion/women’s magazines and check out the the phenotypic trends? This highlights a disturbing pattern: high school essay style at The New York Times.

1) Make up a thesis, any thesis
2) Get as much anecdotal data as possible
3) Ignore data sets that can’t be massaged by interview (eg; the racial make-up of the models on the covers of magazines like Vogue or Cosmopolitan over the past 12 months)
4) Watch your article become one of the most popular online

Well, it was in Fashion & Style, where style == substance….

Posted by razib at 04:21 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

In honor of David B. – IQ & religion (by country)

Waiting for Christmas Eve deliveries at my girlfriend’s office, kind of bored, so I decided to plot IQ vs. “religion important” (data taken from Lynn & Vanhanen & the Pew survey). I got a correlation of -0.886. I converted the excel to HTML below.

Original excel file + chart is here


Correlation between two values


% who say religion important (Pew survey)

IQ (from Lynn & Vanhanen)






















Czech Republic












Great Britain


















Ivory Coast







































South Africa



South Korea



























Posted by razib at 01:33 PM

Posted in Uncategorized


Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc. to all.

One common saying around this time is “Jesus is the reason for the season.” People who assert this might benefit from exploring the historical origin of Christmas to see that it is more complex than that (the site linked is by the way evangelical Christian-there are traditional Roman Catholics who defend a non-pagan explicitly Christian origin for dating December 25th, but they seem to be in the minority). Interestingly (and unsurprisingly), the pan-pagan consumerist festival is what is really being exported to places like China (despite its Christian minority) and Japan (where it is an entrenched holiday without any religious associations).

Posted by razib at 11:31 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

Immigration "Reform"

The headline says Immigration Reform on Bush Agenda. Hope? Could godless be right? Is the wind shifting….

OK, first paragraph:

President Bush plans to kick off his reelection year by proposing a program that would make it easier for immigrants to work legally in the United States, in what would constitute the most significant changes to immigration law in 18 years, Republican officials said yesterday.

The rest of the article seems to describe a guest worker program. I guess Europe is always ahead of the times…..

Posted by razib at 11:43 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

What is the reason for the season?

Many Christians today bemoan the debasement of the true meaning of Christmas. They remind others what the real reason for the season is quite often. But is the birth of Christ the reason Christians celebrate this holiday?

Actually, as some of you may know, the most common consensus is that Christmas was a conversion of the pagan holiday of Natalis Invictus, the birthday of the Invincible Sun (the link is from the evangelical magazine Christianity Today-I find Catholic attempts to defend a specifically Christian origin for Christmas unconvincing, though even if they are correct it seems it was a minor Christian holiday set next to Easter). For this reason, I find secular challenges to Christmas based on its religious meaning weak, as Christmas is obviously a holiday that can be re-appropriated with ease. Example? In Japan Christmas is more explicitly commercial.

Posted by razib at 10:58 AM Comments

Posted in Uncategorized