Pitcairn follies

I was intrigued by reports in the Press on the start of a trial of several Pitcairn islanders on charges relating to underage sex. The islanders themselves insist that sex with girls from the age of 12 upwards (with their consent) has traditionally been accepted on the island. So I was curious to know what laws they are being charged under.

I found the following learned legal article (pdf) which discusses the subject at length, but doesn’t give a clear answer. What is clear is that there is a culture clash between modern political correctness and a much older set of values. At the time when Pitcairn became a British colony (after its occupation by Fletcher Christian and his companions), under English Common Law the age of consent was 12, and the Pitcairners have been proceeding on that basis ever since. In Britain the age of consent was raised by statute in stages to its present level of 16, but was this ever applied to Pitcairn, and if so did anyone ever tell the Pitcairners? And what if the Pitcairners were now to declare independence and open up a hotel for international sex tourists? A moral conundrum for Saint Tony Blair!

Posted by David B at 04:06 AM

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A Modest Proposal: Y not?

Razib is the muse that inspired this, with his “Islam should be gelded” remark. Blame him. 🙂

David B has a discussion of Sykes’ book, here, from a year ago. Sykes projects the end of the Y-chromosome in 50,000 generations or approx 120,000 years. David and the gnxpers disagree with him in the comments, and so do I, for different reasons. What about Otzi, the Iceman?

I visited Otzi once in his personal museum in Bolzano, Italy. He lies in state, in a great cryogenic coffin, with a small slab of thick glass for viewing stuck into the side. He is very short. The most interesting thingto me about him was his genotype, though. Otzi had 1/3 more active loci on his Y-chromosome than modern man! In four thousand years, the Y has lost one third of its active loci. How has that happened so fast?

So, here’s my Modest Proposal:

I always thought parthenogenesis was just so kewl. There had to be a better use for it than making clone turkeys and self-starting frog egg cleavage stages. Why not use it to build a race of amazons? I mean, since we’re headed there anyways?

At work one of my [guy] colleagues went on a rant about tv-violence, and how it would make rapists and robbers show up at his door. I said, the problem is more basic than that– why not just get rid of the aggression in the form of the Y-chromosome? He was not amused. Neither were my brothers, but my dad, a surgeon, agreed that the only things carried on the Y-chromosome are the delivery vehicle and aggression. Well we can do the delivery vehicle (in vitro), and we can ensure the genetic variabilty of the species by ovum recombination, and the mammalian dna imprinting problem has been solved, so, Y-not?

Think of the benefits! Instant population control, birth control, no unwanted pregnancies. Huge reduction in violent crime, global warfare and conflicts, oppression of women, and sex crimes! Islamic fundamentalism would quickly run out of steam! No more sexual harassment training! Toilet seats can be made in one piece!

It’s not like anyone would have to be killed, XY beings would just be “fixed”. In a couple of generations all the world would be equal, reduced to XX. So, what do you gnxpers think of my modest proposal? Would Jonathan Swift be amused?

Posted by jinnderella at 10:52 AM

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Dissin' Dawkins

Richard Dawkins’ latest column on race makes some decent points regarding racial classification, makes a few, perhaps surprisingly “conservative”, political suggestions, is ambiguous on the topic of racial differences, and makes a few irrelevant and probably wrong points (the average “man on the street” could probably not, contra Dawkins, tell apart random samples of sub-Saharan Africans and Papuans, although this is meaningless). One thing this column did not mention, however, and I’m not sure why it should have, was the meaning of racial prejudice in modern human societies. If it’s a sin of omission to not talk about possible race differences or the origin of racism in every possible public discussion of race then I imagine Dawkins is a sinner. This is certainly the feeling I got reading Steve Sailer’s Vdare comments on Dawkins’ article, in which Dawkins is accused of political bias, political correctness, and apparently even scientific betrayal!

Dawkins’ essay shows that even being Numero Uno doesn’t make you aclear thinker about a scientific topic-if you allow your politicalprejudices to murk things up.

. . .

Why do people care so much about who is related to whom? Because, as Hamilton’s logic showed, that’s toward whom they are more nepotistic (i.e., altruistic). In turn, ethnocentrism, nationalism, and racism are essentially the inevitable flip side of nepotism. If people discriminate in favor of their relatives, they are going to discriminate against their non-relatives. By refusing to think about this because it’s politically incorrect, Dawkins is betraying the great Hamilton’s legacy.
If by “refusing to think about” Steve literally means Dawkins has ignored this subject in his writings then he is, without doubt, incorrect (as will be demonstrated below) and should probably retract these harsh words. But if by “refusing to think about” Steve simply means that Dawkins just doesn’t agree with/promote the exact same evolutionary theories of racism that Steve Sailer does, then he is being utterly over-zealous. Dawkins has rejected some ideas about kin selection that Sailer seems to support, but if smears such as “political correctness” and “political prejudice” mean anything at all, I think Steve has an obligation to respond to the precise criticisms made by Dawkins rather then pretending that they don’t exist (or even worse, not knowing that they do).

I will expand on this but first of all has Dawkins really – literally – “refused to think about” how kin selection may help explain racism? Consider these words straight from :

Blood-feuds and inter-clan warfare are easily interpretable in termsof Hamilton’s genetic theory”

. . .

“If animals had a tendency to behave altruistically towards individuals who physically resembled them, they might indirectly be doing their kin a bit of good. Much would depend on details of the species concerned. Such a rule would, in any case, only lead to `right’ decisions in a statistical sense. If conditions changed, for example if a species started living in much larger groups, it could lead to wrong decisions. Conceivably, racial prejudice could be interpreted as an irrational generalization of a kin-selected tendency to identify with individuals physically resembling oneself, and to be nasty to individuals different in appearance”.

pgs. 99-100

So Dawkins clearly does think about these topics and they haven’t really been ignored because of ‘political correctness’ or any other reason. This leaves only the second option, that Steve thinks Dawkins is being unscientific by not adequately promoting something, something allegedly proven by William Hamilton, but what is it? From Sailer’s same article:

Unfortunately, Dawkins still doesn’t want to understand the human implications of what Hamilton was driving at with his theory of kin selection: that humans naturally tend to discriminate in favor of relatives, and a racial group is simply a partly inbred extended family. (See my essay “It’s All Relative” for a full explanation.)

Ah, so human racism is modeled by Hamilton’s theory of kin selection, and Dawkins is denying (we’ve already debunked ignoring) this fact because he is a coward? But does Hamilton’s theory of kin selection really tell us about how an Asian and an African should react to eachother? Dawkins, as well as many other names you have probably heard of, has commented on this interpretation of Hamilton, and I’ll present their comments later, first though a quick summary of “Ethnic Nepotism” the first major application of kin selection to human race relations.

Sociologist Pierre L. van den Berghe’s book was an early and note-worthy attempt to describe ethnicity through a biological paradigm, mainly by putting it in the context of an extended family. While ‘ethnicity’ is usually defined by the property of “metaphoric or fictive kinship” between people of a shared cultural group, van den Berghe noted that the endogamy of shared cultural groups would to some extent create real genetic patterns of kinship overlapping and correlating with the fictive sentiments. Steve Sailer’s later description of a racial group as “an extended family that is inbred to some degree” owes much to this earlier description by van den Berghe of an ethnic group as a sort of greatly extended family. Van den Berghe’s next idea was the application of Hamilton’s kin selection – the selection pressure for altruistic behavior in animals towards close relatives – to this idea of ethnic groups as families to form a biological theory of ethnocentrism. Van den Berghe argued that the strength of evolved altruism in man and animals depended on the coefficient of relatedness, with altruistic behavior more likely directed towards kin than towards non-kin and towards close kin than towards distant kin. Since ethnic group members are, on average, more genetically related to co-ethnics than they are to members of other ethnic groups, and since the strength of altruistic behavior is determined by the coefficient of relatedness, ethnocentrism is a predictable outcome of kin selection. Ethnic group members should be expected to exhibit more altruism to fellow ethnics than to members of other ethnic groups because they share more genes with co-ethnics than with out-ethnics. Van den Berghe called this behavioral impulse “ethnic nepotism”. It can also be called “extended kin selection”.

The largest problem with Pierre van den Berghe’s theory of ethnic nepotism is that it is fundamentally in contradiction with kin selection, and I would consider it a mistaken argument for group selection. For this reason you can be sure that Richard Dawkins has challenged this idea. Not only that, but we can also be sure that he has not challenged this idea because it is “politically incorrect”. How? Because the context in which these ideas were challenged by Dawkins were made before race was ever associated with them. The major fallacy of van den Berghe’s theory was first made by anthropologist Simon Washb
urn, not a supporter of sociobiology but a critic of kin selection, and not in the context of race or ethnocentrism, but of species-wide/inter-species altruism. Washburn in 1978 that kin selection didn’t make sense because “Individuals whom Sociobiologists consider unrelated in fact share more than 99% of their genes” therefore if shared genes were really the reason for altruism then all humans would be altruistic to each other, and probably to the great apes as well . . . and for that matter – as Margo Wilson and Martin Daly have wryly commented – selection would have also favored altruism towards monkeys over dogs and mosquitoes over marigolds. In Richard Dawkins 1979 paper Twelve Misunderstandings of Kin Selection this earns the illustrious position of number 5 and is named as follows: “an animal is expected to dole out to each relative an amount of altruism proportional to the coefficient of relatedness”, precisely van den Berghe’s mistake, and lives on under the title of “Washburn’s Fallacy”. Washburn’s Fallacy is when the r variable in William Hamilton’s theoretical equation is misunderstood as ”the probability or proportion of genes shared in common between two individuals.” As J. Maynard Smith clarified in his original definition of the term though, kin selection can only account for altruism toward close kin, that is kin selection operates not by an absolute percentage of shared genes but as a probability of sharing the same genes from the same recent ancestor. We’re entering the domain of the same problems faced by Wynne-Edwards – genes in animals that spread their nepotistic altruism thin down to the ninth and twelfth cousin would be over-run by genes that just had animals give all their favors to immediate off-spring. Dawkins clarifies in how the driving force in kin selection is not overall genetic similarity but :

“Kin selection is emphatically not a special case of group selection . . . If an altruistic animal has a cake to give to relatives, there is no reason at all for it to give every relative a slice, the size of the slices being determined by the closeness of relatedness. Indeed this would lead to absurdity since all members of the species, not to mention other species, are at least distant relatives who could therefore each claim a carefully measured crumb! To the contrary, if there is a close relative in the vicinity, there is no reason to give a distant relative any cake at all Subject to other complications like laws of diminishing returns, the whole cake should be given to the closest relative available.”

Pg. 290

To quote myself from a debate with a White Nationalist on another forum who claimed using this same model that “The theory of kin selection . . .demonstrates that ethnocentrism is obviously an adaptive trait”:

Kin selection is the mechanism through which altruism towards close relatives evolves. As Dawkins points out, kin selection is not a mechanism for some infinite behavior of expanding genetic favoritism, (which would actually contradict the possible benefit of close relatives and therefore nullify any kin selection!) for the reasons addressed in the cake problem, and thus [this model] couldn’t be adaptive. Ethnocentrism may be adaptive, but the theory used to describe how can’t be kin selection. Feel free to explain a new process, even one with similarities to kin selection, by which conflict with relatives of an arbitrary distance could have been selected for. Please keep in mind while doing so the conditions of the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness

Although Dawkins presented these arguments divorced from any reference to the ethnocentrism theories, later he did apply them to this subject after Stephen Rose and some neo-nazis claimed kin selection supported racist ideas (Dawkins, R. “Selfish genes in race and politics.” Nature 289: 528). But you’ll note that both interpretations of Sailer’s statement – that Dawkins refuses to think of the race related implications of kin selection because he’s too politically correct – are wrong. First, I have shown at least two different places where Dawkins has demonstrably thought about how kin selection might apply to human race relations (and I by no means have dug very deep), so this statement must be retracted. But if the point of the statement was that Dawkins hasn’t really thought about the implications (i.e. accepted “Washburn’s Fallacy”), than this is ludicrous. Why is a scientist obligated to accept/promote a theory which he has presented satisfactory arguments against? Further, the idea that Dawkins rejects these theories of ethnocentrism simply because they are too ‘politically incorrect’ seems to be contradicted by the fact that he rejected their theoretical foundation (a bastardized version of kin selection) before it was ever clearly linked to race, or touchy social subjects, in any way.

“Political Correctness” is of course the obvious accusation because the camps of people who represent the two sides of this idea split almost cleanly down the line of those, well, politically correct* evolutionary psychologists who have dedicated themselves to human similarities and who are mostly politically liberal and those stridently politically incorrect psychologists who dedicate their research to racial differences and are right-wing in their political dedications. The most clear example of this is well-known evo psych author Robert Wright’s Slate article, where he re-christens Washburn’s Fallacy as “the National Review Fallacy” after Richard Lynn’s negative National Review review of The Moral Animal (Lynn, like Sailer, criticizes Wright for omitting discussion of this theory).

Other familiar evolutionary psychologists such as Margo Wilson and Martin Daly and John Tooby have commented on this theory squaring off with familiar (infamous?) names from the racial differences camp such as Lynn’s IQ and the Wealth of Nations co-author Tatu Vanhanen, the above mentioned Kevin Macdonald, Phillipe Rushton, and ethno-state advocate **.

“Political correctness” is the easy reason to give for Dawkins position because it precludes the need for argument and refutation, simply by associating it with a perceived camp that has allegedly fudged the numbers more times in the past (as I admit some evolutionary psychologists have done on the unpopular subject of race). But, as usual, you will not find the correct answer simply by knowing the color of the other team’s shirt.

I plan on making a follow-up post or two on this. If not with further comment on ethnocentrism then on further comments which have been made about atheism.

Update: Interested readers should check-out Ingo Brigandt’s The Homeopathy of Kin Selection for a fuller critique of Ethnic Nepotism.

For Steve Sailer’s response, complete with Hamilton quotations, look in the comment box below, or read his new column: Where Dawkins Fears To Tread: Ethnic Nepotism And The Reality Of Race.

*Surely this isn’t purely invective, after all it is widely accepted that the shift from Sociobiology to the more family-friendly Evolutionary Psychology was a make-over of sorts for the beleaguered discipline. documents how even E.O. Wilson seemed to become a persona non grata around those parts (see page 363): offending an entire HBES conference by committing the (evo psych over-promoted) “naturalistic fallacy” by suggesting that empirical discoveries about human nature might (Gasp. Faint.) have applicable uses in human political arrangements! Similarly, John Tooby’s Slate suggestion that Kevin MacDonald wasn’t really an evolutionary psychologist after his Trilogy on Judaism (despite the fact he was the HBES secretary!), and his less-racist-than-thou comment that Stephen Jay Gould’s views on group selection were “alarming”, shows that image management truly is a priority to the mandarins of the repackaged discipline.

**Of course the names don’t always fall into predictable camps: famous sociobiologist David Barash, who emotionally called Rushton’s Race, Evolution, and Behavior a “piece of shit” in his Animal Behavior review of the book, seemed to support this theory of ethnocentrism in an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Van den Berghe, I should also note, is a vanilla academic liberal, as is E.O. Wilson who also appears warm to van den Berghe’s ideas. I can find no convincing statements from Hamilton showing he supported this idea.

Ethnic Genetic Interests: Part 2
Ethnic Genetic Interests
Interracial Marriage: Salter’s fallacy
Limits to Hamiltons Rule
On Genetic Interests
Green Beard and Ethnic Nepotism

Posted by Jason Malloy at 12:09 PM

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Nice quote

From Steve Jones’s column in today’s Daily Telegraph:

Men are bigger than women. That imbalance is widespread in nature, but has plenty of exceptions. I often quote the male angler-fish, which is reduced to a mere sack of guts and genitals stuck to the backside of his partner. And, I add, to annoy the men’s movement (it always works), what more could any man want?

Posted by David B at 03:19 AM

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Rawls on global justice

In my recent post on Rawls I mentioned in passing that his famous book A Theory of Justice didn’t say much about territory and boundaries, and it wasn’t clear whether he intended the redistribution of wealth and income required by his principles of ‘justice’ to be carried out on a global scale.

In writing this I had forgotten that Rawls dealt with this subject in a subsequent book, The Law of Peoples. In this book Rawls takes a rather traditional view of states as self-contained and independent moral agents. He makes it clear that he does not expect the duty of economic redistribution to extend across international borders.

I haven’t read the book, but I’m sure Rawls had some typically ingenious arguments for rejecting redistribution across borders while insisting on redistribution within them! And how very convenient this is for an ‘egalitarian’ in a wealthy country!

Posted by David B at 03:51 AM

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The Land of the Elves

I’m astounded by this small article about the beliefs of Icelanders;

Surveys show that despite their obsession with modern technology, as many as 80% of Icelanders believe in the existence of elves. Even today, roads have been rerouted and building plans redesigned or abandoned to avoid disturbing rocks where elves are said to live.

Longer article

“During the building of this network of high roads the roads administration called in a medium to negotiate with irate elves who had objected to the plans,” says our four wheel drive fountain-of-all-Icelandic-knowledge guide, who has lived in Iceland all his life largely thanks to his love of nature.

Apparently the perturbed pixies threatened to sabotage the project. The medium convened two séances, which led to a compromise: bureaucrats eschewed explosives and the elves withdrew their opposition.

And here people thought Fundamentalist Christians Faith prayer was wacky.

Ok, this might help explain things

The nightlife doesn’t kick off till 11pm and nobody goes home before 5am. For an idyllic, historic fishing town Reykjavik rocks. We had frequented a clutch of mobbed bars and pubs, which pass for the pre-club scene warm up. Through one door we sampled the cockle-warming 40% proof Icelandic schnapps. But thankfully passed on the spicy vodka shots before heading off to Nelly’s Bar to see if Icelandic hospitality was as good as they say. We weren’t disappointed. Posted by scottm at 04:47 AM

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Celebrities for Bush!

All those who say that all celebrities are all a bunch of left-wing nutballs, check out this list that I’ve compiled over the past few months.

Trace Adkins
Kirstie Alley
Stephen Baldwin
Clint Black
Pat Boone
Lara Flynn Boyle
Kix Brooks
Ben Browder
Jerry Bruckheimer
Chris Cagle
Kirk Cameron
Drew Carey
Emma Caulfield
Lionel Chetwynd
Alice Cooper
Kevin Costner
Robert Davi
John Rhys Davies
Bo Derek
Shannon Doherty
Jerry Doyle
Ronnie Dunn
Robert Duvall
Sara Evans
Vincent Gallo
Andy Garcia
Jennifer Garner
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Mel Gibson
Kelsey Grammar
Lee Greenwood
Angie Harmon
Elisabeth Hasselbeck
Patricia Heaton
Charlton Heston
Dennis Hopper
Rachel Hunter
Dwayne Johnson
LL Cool J
Particia Keaton
Toby Keith
Heather Locklear
Reba MacEntire
Steve Marmel
John Milius
Dennis Miller
John Michael Montgomery
Chuck Norris
Ted Nugent
Gary Oldman
Laura Prepon
Jason Priestley
Freddie Prinze, Jr.
Ivan Reitman
Kid Rock
Pat Sajak
Adam Sandler
Ricky Schroder
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Tom Selleck
Ron Silver
Jessica Simpson
Michael W. Smith
Gary Sinise
Britney Spears
Sylvester Stallone
Ben Stein
Connie Stevens
George Strait
Fred Thompson
Aaron Tippin
John Travolta
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Bruce Willis
James Woods
Tiger Woods

Care to add any? Also, if I’m wrong on a few, I apologize. Let me know.


A few mistakes to correct (thanks commenters!). I have removed Gary Cooper (he’s dead and I have no idea how he got on there), Rob Lowe (he’s only a Democrat who supported the Iraq invasion, although not necessarily Bush), Brad Pitt (same as Lowe), and Trey Parker and Matt Stone (since they have not come out officially for Bush and are hardcore libertarians, saying “We hate conservatives, but we really f*cking hate liberals.”)

I have also added Ben Browder, Adam Sandler, Stephen Baldwin, and Freddie Prinze, Jr.

To clarify, John Travolta is an air and space fanatic (hooah!), and did state that if Bush realigns NASA to go back to the moon and to Mars, it would count as a vote. That is why he is on this list.

As for the various female celebrities, particularly the models, they are on the list either because they have made pro-Bush statements or have appeared doing pro-Bush activities.

Also, issues have been raised concerning the musicians on this list. I should not have added them since they are not traditional celebrities, but I will keep them on the list anyways for future reference.

And, of course, this list is by no means conclusive and probably a few up there should not still be on the list. If you find any, please let us know by posting a comment in the Open Thread on the top right corner of the Gene Expression homepage.

Update 2:
I have added Reba MacEntire and Robert Davi.

Update 3:
I have added Richard Petty, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Ricky Schroder, Connie Stevens, Kirk Cameron, Pat Boone, and Andy Garcia. I will cease updating this at this point, considering that a much longer and extensive list is located at Wikipedia.

Posted by Arcane at 05:46 PM

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Japanese Ghosts

Lately, I’ve been delving into different cultures mythologies (see my earlier post on Icelandic elves) and have become fixated on Japanese ghost stories. Two things I have noticed about these stories is there is a large lower/upper class pathos expressed within them and, in comparison to western ghosts that are just “going through the motions of the life they do not know they have lost”, Japanese ghosts are down-right malevolent (with a capital ‘M’).

These are more ‘creatures’ than ‘apparitions’ more like the vampires or werewolves of European mythology. Witness the ‘girl with the long dark hair’ mythology used in two modern movies; Ringu and The Grudge (warning, if you’re not into scary stories do not go to the grudge site, it features a ‘game’ that is probably the scariest things I have ever seen) In these movies the subtle social commentary about upper/lower classes has been morphed into modern pathos’ about; the modern vs. the traditional (ringu) and the parent vs. the child (The grudge)

UPDATE Thrasymachus

I’ll recommend tales from Konjaku monogatarishu and Uji shui monogatari for some good Japanese mythology.

I highly recommend the works of Lafcadio Hearn, who collected numerous Japanese Ghost Stories and Fairly Tales around 1900. They are all out of copyright and available online. The Atlantic Monthly recently had a presentation of his old non-fiction articles online as well, though I’m not sure if there is still a link available.

Posted by scottm at 07:08 PM

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