Merit-based employment

This article suggests that firing poor-performing employees may improve work quality.

“A study publishing in the latest issue of Personnel Psychology finds that forced distribution ratings systems (FDRS), where a predetermined percentage of low-performing employees is fired every year, can be an effective way to improve a company’s workforce.”

I’m amazed anyone could get funding for this research. So un-PC.

(This was a computer simulation and the short review doesn’t say whether they validated their model by matching model predictions to historical performance of real organizations.)

Employment regulations that prevent firing non-performing employees might significantly hurt a firm’s long-term competitiveness. (Or, in the case of Germany, a nation’s competitiveness.) Anti-discrimination laws whether for race, gender, or age could have large costs.

Posted by fly at 02:05 PM

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Taste & behavior genetics

As regular blog readers know I am something of a chili pepper addict. I have previously mentioned the genetics of taste, particularly in relation to phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) sensitivity, which correlates strongly with a variety of responses to bitter, salt and sweet sensations (you probably tasted a piece of paper in high school biology which had some PTC on it, the reaction for tasters was reflexive revulsion, while non-tasters didn’t understand what the fuss was about). The key is some people tend to be hypersensitive to bitter tastes, others less so, and a minority of people relatively insensitive.

My interest in this topic was prompted by the fact that I am both a PTC non-taster and rather adept at consuming large quantities of chili. Capsaicin, the active ingredient in pepper that gives it the “fire” taste, selectively effects mammals but not birds. In an evolutionary context this promoted wider dispersal of the pepper seeds. Therefore it is surprising that some humans seek out the taste of capsaicin (though it does have anti-bacterial properties). In any case, while in college I noted there was some evidence that there was a relationship between PTC insensitivity and capsaicin insensitivity. Additionally, I noted that South Asia had a high number of PTC non-tasters, so I inferred that South Asia had a genotypic predisposition to adding chili pepper to its suite of condiments (it is a New World import despite its modern ubiquity in much of Asia). Digging around did not show any startling interpopulational patterns, though there is a lot more to PTC than just capsaicin.

So, I was interested when I noted two articles related to PTC (and its cousin PROP) had been published. The molecular basis of individual differences in phenylthiocarbamide and propylthiouracil bitterness perception connects the dots between the phenotype and the genotype. Crucial, but not too sexy. On the other hand, Genetic and environmental determinants of bitter perception and sweet preferences is one of those papers where the abstract gives much of the game away. Some conclusions:

Taste sensitivity is likely mediated by environment. Children showed a stronger genotype-taste discernment correlation than adults. This should not surprise anyone, we all know we can “acquire” tastes. My spice tolerance has ratcheted up greatly since childhood, while many people get over the bitterness of beer.
Children with genotypes that predisposed them to taste sensitivity were the most likely to prefer sweet drinks. This pattern was not found in adults.
Race was a significant variable as black children reported far greater preference for high levels of sugar in their cereal. This indicates a strong cultural factor, but, I recall that much of West Africa had a low frequency of the insensitivity that is correlated with lack of craving for sugar, so you might be seeing a gene-environment correlation here as differences in genotypic distribution have had a multiplier effect in shaping cultural culinary habits (though spice is common in black American and apparently much of West African cuisine, so we shouldn’t make much of the high number of PTC/PROP tasters in West Africa).
When mother and child differed in their taste sensitivity it affected their interaction. In particular, taste insensitive mothers perceived taste sensitive children (they are focusing on one locus and two allelic variants in a standard homozygote-heterozygote model with additive effects) as being more “emotional” than taste insensitive children. This is important, because it is likely a hint that small, seemingly trivial, genotypic differences can leave a wider footprint on the extended phenotype of a child and parent.

Previously I focused on intergroup differences on this locus (a table of frequencies if you are curious), but I am now curious as to further study in more convential behavior genetic modes.

Related: Natural Selection and Molecular Evolution in PTC, a Bitter-Taste Receptor Gene, PTC taste, balancing selection?, PTC, part II and Genetics of taste.

Posted by razib at 12:02 AM

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Technical difficulties….

Some of you have been noticing various apache errors (404 in particular). Over the past week I’ve been blocking files and directories on this site because we came VERY close to our bandwidth limit. Actually, we exceeded it, but the webhost doesn’t seem to count the last 6 hours against us (that is, it checks every 6 ours and if we exceed it will block the site, but since we exceeded bandwidth in the last 6 hours of February on the machine’s clock it wasn’t a problem). I actually had to buy extra bandwidth.

Anyway, for some reason over the past few months our bandwidth demands have outrun our traffic by a bunch. I suspect it was the spate of PDFs we were offering early last month, but, it might also be google queries accessing the large archive files more frequently as they became more numerous. I have blocked off access to many of the PDFs. My plan is to eventually shift them over to the “gnxpfiles” group and update the links.

For those with accounts on GNXP I strongly suggest you cut down on the posting of pictures that reference the file from within the website, and use “gnxpfiles” to store PDFs. On a note of manners, I also am asking that you not steal bandwidth from small websites, though I don’t care if you do it from a source which wouldn’t notice the hit.

On a further note, you might have noted also that I have really constrained the number of entries that show on the front page, reducing the range down to only the past 3 days. I know some of you think this is short, and I initially did it because I wanted to have a cheap way of reducing the bandwidth over the past week, but I actually like it as it keeps old discussions from getting out of hand. If you really want to continue a discussion with someone I suggest e-mail, or looking up the entry using the search function.

Addendum: OK, I’ve moved the front page to 5 days. That should be long enough for discussions to run out of steam….

Posted by razib at 04:41 PM

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Switching typologies….

Cross-post of my recent entry over at Dean Nation below….

Toward a reality based foreign policy

A few weeks ago I came across as something of a petulant nitpicker when it came to the equivalence of the “Shia” of Iraq and the “Shia” of Iran and the possible implications of this in the development of our foreign policy. I noted in the comments that both sides of the political aisle tended to look at international issues through an extremely ideological lens. I think part of this is because few people make an effort to master the basic facts that are at issue, but plug in prefab values into their analogical equations.

Let me be explicit about what I mean.

Some people assume that Shia in Iraq ~ Shia in Iran.
Iran is a “fundamentalist theocracy.”
Ergo, the probability is that Shia ascendency in Iraq will, by analogy, lead to “fundamentalist theocracy” in Iraq.

This is very convenient for those who wish to undermine the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq, so of course such people are not going to check their premises since the analogical equation spits out results that fit their expectations. I am going to submit that some of the premises, very far upstream, are faulty, or at least that their validity must be mitiated by large error bars.

In what follows, I will argue the following: when it comes to the context of international foreign policy models the term “Shia” becomes rather close to useless in terms of its predictive utility.

Though I have been skeptical of making analogies between Christianity and Islam to impart to non-Muslims (I myself am of Muslim background though a self-professed atheist) the flavor of sectarian divisions in Islam in the past, I will now try to offer one that I think is more helpful in the light of our previous discussion. In the “Standard Model” the Shia are made equivalent Catholics and the Sunni to Protestants. The reason being primarily that the Shia tend to be far more “clerical” in orientation while the Sunnis tend to be more “individualistic.” This analogy is not totally misleading, and does yield some valid associations. But, I think a more valid analogy is as follows: the Sunnis are like Catholics and the Shia are like Protestants.

But I will not leave you with the bald assertion as there are many loose ends and vague implicit assumptions that will not impart to you the gist of what I am trying to say. So, I will illustrate with example.

When I was in college I had a roommate from Singapore who was of Roman Catholic background. He told me that once his father had stumbled into an Anglican cathedral and not realized that it was not a Catholic service until about halfway through. On the other hand, one would likely gather from the general tone of a Baptist service that it was not Roman Catholic in any way. My point is there is an enormous internal variation within Protestantism. What unites Protestants is that they are not Roman Catholic, with the priority being on Roman, because substantively the difference between High Church Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism is minimal, the main point of distinction being that the former rejects the Pope in Rome.

This internal variation within Protestantism has had historical consequences, for example, during the Elizabethian period many of the queen’s radical Protestant courtiers were angered by her relative caution and uninterest in defending the interests of the anti-Catholic sects on the continent. Some of this might have had to do with the fact that Elizabeth perceived in radical Protestantism something profoundly alien and subversive. Her successors, the Stuart monarchs, made a slow but uninterrupted shift from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism in the next century because of their perception that the latter was more amenable to absolute monarchy than the former, and during much of the period when they were Anglicans they persecuted radical Protestants with more verve and persistance than they did Roman Catholics (in fact, they wed Roman Catholic princesses). Similarly within Germany the conflict between Calvinists and Lutherans was often nearly as great as between Protestants and Catholics. And it was in Calvinist countries that the most radical Protestant groups, for example, Baptists, were most thoroughly persecuted. The overall point is though from a Roman Catholic perspective they were all “Protestants,” there was so much internal variation that the utility of the term could only go so far.

I think that this reality is translatable to the Muslim world. The Sunni faction is relatively uniform in that there are four broad schools of shariah which recognize each other as valid. They developed together in a broad consensus in the light of history and through state support over a thousand years. The Shia on the other hand, the supporters of Ali, have generally been dissidents and existed on the margins. As such, they are characterized by a great level of internal difference and sectarian faction (rather like Protestants).

For example, after I read Mullahs on the Mainframe, an ethnography of Aziz’s religious group, the Daudi Bohra Ismaili Muslims, I realized how much salience the Catholic analogy must hold for him, for I had never realized exactly how relevant and powerful the religious leaders of the Ismaili community were on a day to day basis. Some Catholics have a saying, “Protestants believe in the Bible, we believe in the Church.” To paraphrase, while Sunnis put their faith in the Koran and Hadiths, Aziz’s group seems to invest as much reverence upon the guidence of their “dai” (their religious leader). I do not believe this is nearly as true for other Shia groups. To me, it seems that the Ismailis are one antipode of the spectrum of what it means to be Shia, in some ways they are perhaps the exemplars of Shiism in its hierarchal tendencies.

The Ithna Ashari, the majority of the world’s Shia, who are centered around Qom in Iran and include the Shia of Lebanon, Iraq and much of the Gulf countries, certainly are more centrally organized and led than many Sunni groups. Nevertheless, they do not seem to evince the same tight focus that the Ismaili do (if the Ismailis are Roman Catholics, perhaps the Ithna Ashari are Anglo-Catholics). This is even less true of other “Shia” groups like the Zaydi of Yemen (who are very close to the Sunnis in practice), or the Alevis and Alawites of Turkey and Syria.

I put quotes around Shia purposely in the case of these last, particularly the Alevis and Alawites. If you read about the Alawites, though they have been declared Ithna Ashari by clerics in that camp, you are struck by their relative heterodoxy. Like their cousins in Turkey, the Alevis, they do not practice the conventional 5 pillars of Islam because they consider them “symbols.” The Alawites also celebrate Christmas and Nawruz, the Persian New Year, which the clerics in Iran have been campaigning against because of its un-Islamic origins. I have also read that, like the Alevis, the Alawites include alcohol in some of their secret rituals. Nevertheless, in the 1970s Ithna Ashari clerics declared that the Alawites were orthodox Muslims of their sect. Why? One might consider that at this point the Alawites, in the person of Hafez Assad, had ascended to power in Syria, and Syria was a crucial geopolitical consideration which the Ithna Ashari Shia of Lebanon and Iran had to take into account. Nevertheless, I doubt that the Alawite ruling class of Syria is warmed by the rise of a Shia state in neighboring Iraq.

I digress into such minutiae to hammer home the possibily that the term “Shi
a” in analogical equations that one constructs might be a very fuzzy variable indeed. Syria is technically a Shia ruled state, but it is a secular Baath nationalist one, and so religiously tolerant that the Christians from Iraq are emigrating to Damascus! Why do people fear theocracy in Iraq even though Syria is ruled by a Shia ruling class? Obviously, circumstances in the specifics differ, the Shia of Iraq have closer connections to Iran, are unambiguously Ithna Ashari, and they are a majority as opposed to a minority like the Alawites. But taking these specifics into consideration, one should then move further, and evaluate whether the analogy between Iraqi and Iranian Shia might be imperfect as well. I have detailed in the previous post that the Akbari faction tends to be much more powerful in Iraq than in Iran, where the Usuli are dominant. Akbari interpretation of Ithna Ashari religious thought is more conservative in that clerics tend to play less important roles in political life. This is something that is quite clearly relevant in the case of Iraq.

I will close out this post by suggesting that if you are to hold that your opinions, projections and evaluations are based on empirical considerations, a thorough, detailed and deep knowledge of the variables must be attained before one can truly be confident of predictions. If one is basing one’s opinions on first principles drawn from political values and beliefs, certainly facts are simply colorful adornments and need not be examined in detail. But in that case you will certainly not be able to convince those who are outside your charmed political inner circle and faction rather than the best interests of your values are being served.

Posted by razib at 04:24 PM

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The allochtonen are leaving

Reading Silt 3.0 yesterday, I was interested to read an analysis of Dutch migratory statistics, entitled “Witamy!”. Specifically, he was examining the data presented in a recent article in the Dutch newspaper Trouw. His translation:

The total number of emigrants was 112,000, whereas only 90,000 people, mostly Europeans, settled in the Netherlands. […]

Turks and Moroccans were especially likely to remain in their homelands in 2004. Arrivals from those countries fell by 40%, from 11,600 in 2003 to 6,800 in 2004. The stricter rules for “marriage immigration” would seem to be a logical explanation for this drop, but the rules did not take effect until late in 2004. So their effect should not be apparent until 2005. [Demographer Jan] Latten speculates that many Turks and Moroccans stayed away because of the less welcoming climate, or because of better economic conditions in their homelands.

Only the Poles went against the trend of falling immigration. Since their country joined the European Union on 1 May 2004, they have been arriving here in greater numbers. The number of immigrants from Poland doubled last year, to nearly 5,000 people.

As for the emigration of 112,000 people, the highest total ever, the Central Bureau of Statistics has no explanation. Around half of this number are autochtonen [native Dutch people]. Some are leaving to retire abroad; others for work or study.

The other half of this number would be non-autochtonen leaving the Netherlands. Making the generous assumption that there are exactly one million Muslims in the Netherlands, my admittedly simple calculations suggest that the allochtonen population has shrunk by at least 5%, wiping out a couple of years of natural increase.

Project that trend.

Posted by randy at 07:55 PM

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Gay gene eugenics

Okay, this story has got everything. Eugenics, homosexuality, abortion, Republicans versus Democrats, even Rush Limbaugh.

A Republican lawmaker in Maine has introduced a bill to prohibit abortions based on the sexual orientation of the unborn baby.

State Rep. Brian Duprey wants the Legislature to forbid a woman from ending a pregnancy because the fetus is homosexual.

He said the bill looks into the future in case scientists find what he described as a “homosexual gene.”

Posted by Thrasymachus at 02:02 PM

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Written Language

I saw razib’s note on Zimmer’s article, and it gave me a couple ideas which I posted at my site. GNXPers might be interested, so I’m reposting here. The advantage of discussing written language instead of spoken language is that it by definition moves us up into historical time periods instead of prehistoric.

If you took a monkey’s brain, and without any structural changes, blew it up to three times its size, would it have the capacity for language? Carl Zimmer discusses whether language is a product of natural selection or whether it sprung up spontaneously once the capacity came into existence. Zimmer’s article is open-ended, but he claims that a part II is in the works which will deliver some conclusions.

I’ll just note two points:

Proving that certain recent genes are necessary for spoken language doesn’t help much in this argument because there is a good chance that early language was gesture based.Proving that rudimentary languages are advantageous to survival does not disprove the ‘almost everything for language was already there’ hypothesis, it only contradicts a certain piece of supporting evidence for it.

How much language, gesture based or verbal, would a monkey be capable of if its brain were three times larger? I have the feeling that we’re a long way from answering that, although I’m interested in Zimmer’s part II.

There is a related question, however, and this one may be a bit easier to approach.

Could our ancestors of 100,000 years ago have learned written language if it was in existence at that time? In other words, are evolutionary adaptations necessary for a brain that is capable of spoken language to comprehend visual symbols? Why didn’t written language spring up as soon as spoken language did? Did the written word have to wain on an inventor, or did it have to wait on natural selection?

I would judge the evidence to be in favor of an ‘almost everything’ theory of written language. Our ancestors would probably have been capable of learning to write if they had been given a chance. The fact that written language is nearly cotemporaneous (evolutionarily speaking) with the arrival of cities and agriculture, suggests that the conditions were ripe for invention. And, more tellingly, there seem to be no groups of humans today incapable of written language.

On the other hand, there may well be a cut-off IQ for the capacity of literacy, and it would be interesting to ask at what point in our evolutionary history a reasonable fraction of the population reached that IQ.

This leads to other interesting questions. Were the first modern humans capable of cities and agriculture? Did that wait on invention of technique or upon natural selection? Presumably it is a specific social type that can live in close proximity with lots of other people, after all. Did the first alphabetic scripts wait upon invention or natural selection? The Japanese, for example, had one for a short time, but gave it up for an ideographic script. Native Japanese dislike having to read texts written completely in their alphabetic versions (hiragana or katakana), and prefer the ideographic style instead. On the other hand Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, and so forth seem to have no trouble learning and using the alphabetic scripts of other languages.

Posted by Thrasymachus at 09:02 AM

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Crime and Punishment

I linked recently to a Sunday Times article by Rod Liddle. His main point was that

There are some things that you can say and there are some things that you can’t say. Paradoxically, they are sometimes the same things.

For example, you can’t say that black people commit more crimes, but, using the same facts, you can say that they are victimised by the criminal justice system. And you can’t say that young black males are, for whatever reason, not academically able, but, using the same facts, you can say that the school system is failing them.

The article wasn’t great science, or even great journalism, but I thought it amusingly illustrated the absurdities of current bien-pensant discourse. So I was interested to see that a recent Crooked Timber post contained a diatribe against Liddle. It wasn’t specifically aimed at this article, but it linked to a blog by Matthew Turner, which ’ably exposed’ Liddle’s article. So I naturally checked out Turner’s blog, partly to see what he says about Liddle, but also to find out what the guys at Crooked Timber reckon is an ‘able exposure’….

So here’s what Turner says about the article:

His [Liddle’s] Sunday Times column yesterday… is probably best left to fester in its own idiocy. Nevertheless it’s amusing to note how it begins,

For example, did you know that black and Asian women commit far more crime than their white counterparts? Almost one third of the total female British prison population is drawn from black and Asian communities.

Because one-third is obviously far more than two-thirds. No, hang on, it’s not is it?

And that’s the ‘able exposure’, in full. Well, there’s glory for you – in Humpty Dumpty’s sense.

Needless to say, Liddle wasn’t suggesting that black and Asian women commit the majority of crimes, just that they are disproportionately represented among criminals. In his own words, they have ‘an apparently greater propensity… to commit crime‘. And he went on to give some figures:

Black and Asian women make up 8% of the general population and 29% of the female prison population…

Did Turner not read the rest of the column? Or did he read it and decide to misrepresent it? Dishonest, or just an idiot?

The source of the 29% statistic, as Liddle makes clear, is the impeccably liberal organisation the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for ’women’s rights’. But that doesn’t mean it is correct, so I did some checking. As so often happens, the facts turn out to be more complicated.

First, the Fawcett Society probably got the statistic from a Home Office summary of prison statistics for 2002, which states that ’ethnic minorities make up 22% of the male prison population and 29% of the female population‘. So far so good.

But on looking at the full report on Prison Statistics in England and Wales for 2002 (apparently the latest available on the Home Office website – see here for a copy as a 2Mb pdf file) things get murkier. The report gives an ethnic breakdown of women prisoners into four categories: White, Black, South Asian, and ‘Chinese and other’. In the text (para 6.1) the proportions of women prisoners are given as Black 24%, South Asian 1%, and ‘Chinese and other’ 5%, leaving by implication 70% for Whites. However, more accurate figures are given in Table 6.1, from which I calculate the proportions (to one decimal place) as White 70.6%, Black 23.9%, South Asian 0.9%, and ‘Chinese and other’ 4.7%.

One complication is that a very high proportion of women in prison are there for drug offences. Among Black women it is especially high, at 75% (para 6.12). The Courts are reluctant to jail women, especially mothers, for crimes like petty theft and assault. The figures for women prisoners therefore give an unrepresentative picture of women’s crime in general.

A second major point is that a substantial proportion of women prisoners are visitors to the UK, notably Caribbean drug mules arrested on entering the country. If the aim is to examine the criminal propensities of ethnic groups living in Britain, these ought to be excluded. Unfortunately the statistics do not provide a reliable way of doing so. The closest we can get is to exclude foreign nationals, who are separately identified for each ethnic group (Table 6.3). This undoubtedly excludes too many, as there are numerous foreign nationals living permanently in the UK. However, for what it is worth, I have calculated the number of British nationals in the different ethnic groups as a proportion of all British nationals among female prisoners (that is, excluding foreign nationals from both numerator and denominator). This gives the proportions (to one decimal place) as White 84.4%, Black 11.8%, S. Asian 0.7%, and ‘Chinese and other’ 3.3%. Note that the ‘Black’ share is dramatically reduced – in fact, halved – though as already noted, the adjusted figure will underestimate the true proportion among those living permanently in Britain.

Of course the raw proportions mean little unless they can be compared with proportions of different ethnic groups in the general population. Rod Liddle quotes a figure of 8% for Black and Asian women in the general population, which is about right for the overall proportion of non-whites, of all ages, in the population of Britain in the 2001 Census. However, this is not the most appropriate comparative figure, first because it is a figure for Britain (England, Wales and Scotland), and we want a figure confined to England and Wales to compare with the prison figures. More important, we really need a figure for the age groups most likely to be in prison. The ’all ages’ figures are likely to be substantially misleading, because the proportions of various ethnic groups in the population vary with age.

I suggest that the most appropriate age group for comparison is roughly age 16 to 35. I have extracted figures for women of ages 16 to 34 inclusive from the 2001 Census report (Table S101). On this basis I calculate the percentages of different ethnic groups in England and Wales as:

White___All non-white___Black___Mixed____S. Asian___Chinese or other

87.9_______12.1________3.0_____1.5______6.1_______1.5

It will be seen that the Census, unlike the prison statistics, has a ‘Mixed’ category, which is broken down into various sub-categories (white-Caribbean, white-Asian, etc.) It is not clear how mixed-race women are covered in the prison stats, but I would guess, from the size of the ‘Chinese or other’ category, that some have gone into that group, though possibly also the prison service have lumped Arabs, Kurds, etc, into ‘Chinese or other’ rather than ’white’. This creates yet another difficulty of interpretation, and I suggest it is best to ignore both the Mixed and ‘Chinese or other’ group.

Comparing the two sources – and omitting the doubtful categories – we can summarise them as follows:

___________White___All non-white___Black____S. Asian

In Prison_____84.4_____15.6________11.8_____0.7

In general
Population____87.9_____12.1_________3.0_____6.1

What is clear, even after all allowance is made for complicating factors, is that Black women are still heavily over-represented in the prison population, but that South Asian women are heavily under-represented. I think most of us would have guessed this anyway, but it’s nice to have confirmation.

So it seems that the real crime of Rod Liddle – or rather of the Fawcett Society – is to lump together two groups whose characteristics are radically different. In fairness to Liddle, much of his article is concerned precisely with this point.

It may still fairly be said that the proportions of people in prison are not a perfect gu
ide to the number of criminals. Not all criminals are prisoners, and not all prisoners are criminals (some are detained on remand, and some convicted prisoners are innocent). And it is possible that the police and justice system operate differentially in relation to different ethnic groups. Numerous studies have been carried out in Britain to investigate possible discrimination in the justice system, with complicated and conflicting results. Some of the issues and evidence are discussed in this Home Office report. There is some evidence that black people are more likely than other groups to be convicted, and to receive longer sentences, for similar offences. This is a difficult point, as the behaviour of suspects affects their treatment, and different groups show different behaviour in police custody. As the HO report notes, when interrogated ’white suspects were far more likely to provide admissions [of guilt] (in 58% of cases) than either Asians (48%) or black people (44%)… The relatively low admission rate among black people in particular increases the chances of them entering the formal criminal justice system because those who deny their guilt are ineligible for a caution’ (page 73). Blacks were also more likely to exercise their right to remain silent when questioned (page 78). There is also evidence that in trials for serious offences blacks are less likely to plead guilty than whites (page 167), which would tend to increase their sentence if convicted, since there is a ’discount’ for pleading guilty.

It would be nice, of course, to have an accurate source of information, independent of the criminal justice system, on the numbers of crimes actually committed by different ethnic groups. Naturally, no such source exists. However, there is some evidence in the British Crime Survey, based on interviews with the general public on their experience as victims of crime. This report based on data from the 2000 Survey indicates that of those respondents who could describe the ethnic group of the offender, 5% of offenders were black, 3% were Asian, and 2% were ‘other‘ non-white. As compared with the proportions of youngish (16-34) people in the 2001 Census (see above) these show an overrepresentation of blacks and under-representation of Asians. Of course these figures mainly relate to personal assaults and robberies where the victim is able to see the offender.

Need I say – yes, I suppose I do – none of the above expresses or implies any opinion on whether differences in criminal behaviour among ethnic groups have any genetic basis.

Posted by David B at 03:50 AM

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Islam & Europe

A long article about Muslim immigrants and Europe, starting off on the Netherlands. Two points.

In the Dutch context the rural origin of many of these immigrants is emphasized.
The article states, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a petite Somali refugee who is a Liberal MP in the Dutch parliament. Herself a Muslim, she is an outspoken critic of Islam….” This makes as much sense as “Richard Dawkins, himself a Christian, is an outspoken critic of Christianity.” Dawkins is from a Christian culture and background, but by his actions and words he has given a quite clear signal that he is not a Christian. Similarly, I think the same can be said of Ali. The fact that she is a Somali does not mean that Islam is by definition a part of her identity. They should have correctly stated that she is of Muslim origin, the qualification would make it clear that religious identities are not fixed. As it is, the current implicit assumption that one is born into a culture or religion, whether that be among some European or among proponents of identity politics in the United States, is a sign of profoundly illiberal assumptions on the part of both.

Via Randall.

Posted by razib at 06:04 PM

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