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2010 March 21 Sunday
Beware Of Morally Unscrupulous Environmentalists

Greenies can't be trusted.

The Guardian newspaper picked this up recently, and it also makes an appearance in the most recent issue of Conservation magazine: people who buy green products may be, on the whole, more likely to steal and cheat when given the chance.

This claim comes by way of two researchers at the University of Toronto, who were probing a more widely known psychological phenomenon in which people who pat themselves on the back for a good deed often feel entitled to a bit of selfishness later on.

Imagine a guy buying a Toyota Prius as a way to convince himself it is okay to kill his wife. Or a married woman will buy a refrigerator with an Energy Star EPA rating to help her justify starting to cheat on her husband. And trash recycling? How much tax fraud and plagiarism have those green trash cans caused?

By Randall Parker    2010 March 21 10:24 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2009 December 19 Saturday
Happiest States: Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee, Arizona

What makes for happy places?

New research by the UK's University of Warwick and Hamilton College in the US into the happiness levels of a million individual US citizens have revealed their personal happiness levels closely correlate with earlier research that ranked the quality of life available in the US's 50 states plus the District of Columbia. This research provides a unique external validation of people's self reported levels of happiness and will be of great value to future economic and clinical research in this field.

The new research published in the journal Science on 17th December 2009 is by Professor Andrew Oswald of the UK's University of Warwick and Stephen Wu of Hamilton College in the US.

The researchers examined a 2005- 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System random sample of 1.3 million United States citizens in which Life-satisfaction in each U.S. state is measured. This provided a league table of happiness by US State reproduced below.

One pattern: sunnier places are happier. But one can find exceptions: Darker winter Alaska and Maine are happier. Sunny California is near the bottom of the happiness ranks. California's glory days were ruined by too much population growth and too much immigration. It is now a high tax, high living cost, crowded, and decaying state with low social capital. Also, Republican-leaning states are happier than Democratic-leaning states. Though again there are exceptions. Also, states with lower costs of living are happier. Yet Hawaii is in 1st place.

Andrew Oswald/ Wu ranking of happiness levels by US State

  1. Louisiana
  2. Hawaii
  3. Florida
  4. Tennessee
  5. Arizona
  6. Mississippi
  7. Montana
  8. South Carolina
  9. Alabama
  10. Maine
  11. Alaska
  12. North Carolina
  13. Wyoming
  14. Idaho
  15. South Dakota
  16. Texas
  17. Arkansas
  18. Vermont
  19. Georgia
  20. Oklahoma
  21. Colorado
  22. Delaware
  23. Utah
  24. New Mexico
  25. North Dakota
  26. Minnesota
  27. New Hampshire
  28. Virginia
  29. Wisconsin
  30. Oregon
  31. Iowa
  32. Kansas
  33. Nebraska
  34. West Virginia
  35. Kentucky
  36. Washington
  37. District of Columbia
  38. Missouri
  39. Nevada
  40. Maryland
  41. Pennsylvania
  42. Rhode Island
  43. Massachusetts
  44. Ohio
  45. Illinois
  46. California
  47. Indiana
  48. Michigan
  49. New Jersey
  50. Connecticut
  51. New York

I'd really like to see a map that breaks happiness down by county. How do rural, suburban, and city life compare? How much does crime lower happiness? How does happiness track by race or IQ or income?

By Randall Parker    2009 December 19 04:06 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2009 October 08 Thursday
Feminists Who Go Crazy For Don Draper

It has taken years for me to come to terms with the full extent to which people claim to hold beliefs and desires that are in conflict with their real behavior and true selves. This isn't just a case of people lying for their economic advancement or to avoid punishment. This phenomenon shows up in supposed experts on human nature and those who pose as moral leaders demanding that we live according to a moral code that they promote. Most notably you can't take self-proclaimed feminists at face value. Writing for Newsweek Katie Baker tries to explain why feminist women pine for Jon Hamm who plays the sexist alpha character Don Draper in Mad Men. Women fall for guys whose values the women claim to detest.

Why are we so wild for Draper? By any measure, the character's a cad. He constantly cheats on his wife. He skips town for weeks and won't write or call. He doesn't talk much, and anesthetizes any feelings with copious amounts of booze. He's an enigma, a locked box of a man who resists, maddeningly, easy explanation. And yet he excites an attraction among women—particularly ones my age, women in their late '20s and '30s who were born after the era that Mad Men portrays—that seems unmatched by any leading man on television today, with the possible exception of Lost's con artist, Saywer (another strapping scoundrel with a deeply troubled soul). We describe our obsession in words that, like the show itself, are somewhat retro. "He is a straight-up man. He makes me feel like a woman via the TV." "He's a throwback to a time when men were men. "It's the thickness of his body." "Shoulders to cry on and a jaw that causes women to swoon."

So get this: Women who encourage men to act like all sensitive and unmasculine aren't really serious. Given a sufficiently alpha male suddenly the claimed rules, ideals, and expectations about men do not apply. Look around. Double standards are the norm.

So what is feminism all about. Roissy sees feminist as a test for men to filter out the guys who are foolish enough to take it at face value. There's some truth in this theory.

I propose, as an extension to this theory, that the absurdity of mid-20th to early 21st century feminism and all its adjuncts are better understood as progressively sophisticated emergent sexual selection strategies which act as social obstacles to filter out men who aren’t able to successfully navigate them. In essence, feminism is an advanced biocomputational Turing test; a giant social subcommunication roadblock devised and embraced by women and, at least in principle if not in practice, by alpha males intended to ensure the continuation of the hypergamous weeding out of lesser men who don’t possess the savvy to play by ever-shifting sexual market rules. Feminism is only superficially about female equality; at its core it is a ginanomicon of secrets to which only socially adroit men are privy.

What I wonder: Do our intellectuals promote more lie-myths than intellectuals did in previous eras? Or is the same amount of lying going on but with changing objectives?

Some people are sincere but self-deceived. Their emotions make them irrational in ways that they do not want to notice. The most earnestly sincere ones are the worst because their sincerity makes them more believable. To kids growing up the sincerity can be harmfully deceiving.

Update: I doubt that feminism was developed in order for women to test men. However, the rhetoric of feminism has effectively become a test of men. Do you believe it? In very important ways many self-styled feminists behave contrary to their stated feminist beliefs - especially when choosing mates. If you take what women say at face value then you won't do as well with women as you will do if you also take into consideration their instinctive drives.

In the comments of Roissy's post a commenter named Canada Dry gets to the heart of the matter.

A huge part of the PUA community are guys that exist in that above average to barely subgenius spectrum (many of us are nerds) that have acknowledged that their intelligence is not important to women in sexual selection, and that it is actually an active hindrance in getting laid. Engaging women intellectually is a losing strategy. Displaying ‘intelligence’ is simply a (shitty) DHV and has nothing to do with actually being ‘intelligent’ (social ‘intelligence’ and quick wit are not intelligence of any kind; everyone probably knows someone that is witty but also as dumb as a rock. Those two things commonly hand in hand actually). Displaying value (ie resourcefulness) by grabbing a women by her hind-brain by winning in a battle of conflicting realities and proving intelligence by engaging her on an intellectual plain are not at all the same thing.

If you are engaging anyone on an intellectual level, you are engaging a part of their brain that has really nothing at all to do with sex. To use that part of their brain they have to temporarily sequester their sexual motivators. No one is getting hot and bothered while doing a math-proof, men or women. To get sex you need to shut down the thinking mind and ‘think’ with the hind-brain. Being smart (and actively using your intelligence) and getting laid are literally at odds with each other. A truly massive part of Game is about shutting down internal dialog. The smarter you are, the harder this is to do. Inner calm is a learned skill for smart people, and a natural state of being for the stupid. Stupid wins in sexual selection because their state of mind is ripe for sex.

Women do not like smart men. They backward rationalize the men they select as being ’smart’. In truth they like ‘resourceful’ men, which is a totally nebulous concept. ‘Resourcefulness’ often just means a man that is pretty much literally thinking with his dick. Displaying value =/= being intelligent.

Now, some genetic outlier women have preferences that run toward general smartness. But guys who are leaders, good salesmen, and talented in handling other people do far better with women than geeky smart guys.

By Randall Parker    2009 October 08 11:38 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (64)
2009 August 23 Sunday
Self Delusion By War Supporters Over Saddam And 9/11

Contrary to assertions by leftists that George W. Bush created the illusion that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 supporters of Bush's invasion of Iraq who decided Saddam was linked to the 9/11 attack did so of their own volition in order to avoid reaching the conclusion that the war was a huge mistake.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In a study published in the most recent issue of the journal Sociological Inquiry, sociologists from four major research institutions focus on one of the most curious aspects of the 2004 presidential election: the strength and resilience of the belief among many Americans that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Although this belief influenced the 2004 election, they claim it did not result from pro-Bush propaganda, but from an urgent need by many Americans to seek justification for a war already in progress.

The findings may illuminate reasons why some people form false beliefs about the pros and cons of health-care reform or regarding President Obama's citizenship, for example.

The study, "There Must Be a Reason: Osama, Saddam and Inferred Justification" calls such unsubstantiated beliefs "a serious challenge to democratic theory and practice" and considers how and why it was maintained by so many voters for so long in the absence of supporting evidence.

No need for propaganda. Just get people convinced to support something and once they've crossed an intellectual Rubicon they'll actively develop explanations that support their decision. This doesn't just apply to Republicans who continued to support the Iraq war. One can see this mechanism at work in many things. People on the Left continue to support increased spending as a way to improve educational outcomes because they are invested in the idea that education has to be the solution. If it isn' then they have to reexamine assumptions that they do not want to look at.

Motivated reasoning. Avoid it.

Co-author Steven Hoffman, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo, says, "Our data shows substantial support for a cognitive theory known as 'motivated reasoning,' which suggests that rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.

"In fact," he says, "for the most part people completely ignore contrary information.

"The study demonstrates voters' ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information," he explains.

Got any beliefs you are too attached to?

While numerous scholars have blamed a campaign of false information and innuendo from the Bush administration, this study argues that the primary cause of misperception in the 9/11-Saddam Hussein case was not the presence or absence of accurate data but a respondent's desire to believe in particular kinds of information.

"The argument here is that people get deeply attached to their beliefs," Hoffman says.

"We form emotional attachments that get wrapped up in our personal identity and sense of morality, irrespective of the facts of the matter. The problem is that this notion of 'motivated reasoning' has only been supported with experimental results in artificial settings. We decided it was time to see if it held up when you talk to actual voters in their homes, workplaces, restaurants, offices and other deliberative settings."

Hey, we couldn't have engaged in a pointless war, lost thousands of American lives, left tens of thousands more Americans physically and mentally damaged for life, and threw away trillions of dollars for nothing, could we?

This reminds me of Bryan Caplan's book The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. Yet another reason why we get bad government.

By Randall Parker    2009 August 23 05:24 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2009 June 20 Saturday
Fertility, Living Standards, Freedom, And IQ

Libertarian writer Ron Bailey thinks freedom lowers fertility. But I find that conclusion highly suspect.

There is no prosperous population in the world today that has, and has had for some time, a growth rate of zero,” Hardin declared. That’s no longer true. Japan is now experiencing a fall in its population due to reduced fertility, as are Germany, Russia, Italy, Poland and 25 other countries and territories. And there are many societies in which total fertility rates are rapidly decelerating.

Let's take a look at two intriguing lists. The first is a list of countries ranked on the 2009 Index of Economic Freedom issued by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. Then compare the economic freedom index rankings with a list of countries ranked by their total fertility rates. Of the 30 countries that are ranked as being free or mostly free, only three have fertility rates above 2.1, e.g., New Zealand at 2.11, the Bahamas at 2.13, and Bahrain at 2.53. If one adds the next 53 countries that are ranked as moderately free, one finds that only 8 out of 83 countries have fertility rates above 3. It should be noted that low fertility rates can also be found in more repressive countries as well, e.g., China at 1.77, Cuba at 1.6, Iran at 1.71, and Russia at 1.4.

In 2002, Seth Norton, a business economics professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, published a remarkably interesting study on the inverse relationship between prosperity and fertility. Norton compared fertility rates of over 100 countries with their index rankings for economic freedom and another index for the rule of law. "Fertility rate is highest for those countries that have little economic freedom and little respect for the rule of law," wrote Norton. "The relationship is a powerful one. Fertility rates are more than twice as high in countries with low levels of economic freedom and the rule of law compared to countries with high levels of those measures."

Okay number crunchers, should we take seriously this idea of freedom as the main driver of declining fertility? I can certainly see how industrialization changed the division of labor between men and women (as well as making it easier for women to raise children on their own) and how it created incentives for smaller families. But how does freedom figure in? Regular readers of human biodiversity realism blogs (see here and here and here and here and here) are probably all thinking that IQ has something to do with differences in fertility rates. But Ron Bailey's naturally not going to mention that possibility. IQ doesn't fit the libertarian script for why countries differ so much in affluence and freedom. Yet IQ plays a powerful role in determining differences between political systems and economic systems.

So how to tease out the influences of IQ, affluence, and political freedom on fertility? To the extent that political freedom enables rising living standards I can see a role for it in reducing fertility. But I see a few reasons for dismissing freedom's role. First off, the US has higher overall (2.1) and white (a href="">1.9) fertility than almost all European countries (Faroe Islands at 2.45 excepted). Yet we have more political freedom. Why doesn't our political freedom lower our fertility below that of European countries? Also, America's high degree of freedom does not prevent blacks and Hispanics from having higher fertility than whites. Plus, I do not see how America's higher freedom should cause East Asian Americans to have lower fertility than American whites - yet I'm pretty sure (but too lazy to check) that they do.

We also see incredibly low fertility in (high IQ) East Asia. Orderly and not especially liberal Japan at 1.22, South Korea at 1.2, socially engineered and highly controlled Singapore at 1.08 do not fit the freedom explanation. Nor does Cuba at 1.6.

Any reader have the later Richard Lynn data on IQ and wealth plus some freedom and fertility data in electronic form? Want to do some regressions and report on the correlations?

The future of freedom looks bleak to me. Countries with low respect for the rule of law, low IQ, low freedom, and lower living standards are making the babies. The free and well behaved portion of the world's population is shrinking as a fraction of the whole and probably even in absolute numbers. That does not bode well for the future.

Update: I think education reduces fertility in a few ways:

  • Less total time available in which to have children.
  • The number of suitable mates goes down as a woman's education and earning power rises. Fewer men have sufficient status to make suitable makes and those men have lots of lower status women to choose among.
  • Intellectual development opens up a wider range of choices for how to spend your time other than raising children.

High IQ then lowers fertility a few ways:

  • Higher IQ women get a higher return on time invested in education than lower IQ women. So higher IQ women have a bigger incentive to stay in school and delay child-rearing.
  • Once educated higher IQ women have money and career to compete with their desire to have children.
  • Smarter women can picture the whole child-raising process in greater detail. This makes them less willing to make babies. They see all the problems and downsides. They see the risks. They see the resource needs. They want to do more preparation and wait for better circumstances.

Unfortunately lower IQ people and their progeny are among the factors that make higher IQ women reluctant to reproduce. The higher IQ women want a neighborhood and the school that will insulate their children from the dumber, more impulsive, more criminal, less studious, and otherwise "bad influences". The result is a birth dearth among smarties.

By Randall Parker    2009 June 20 01:28 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (24)
2009 June 16 Tuesday
Boys Hit By Bigger Problems Than Girls

Lots of bad things happen to boys.

According to Judith Kleinfeld, boys get the raw deal. Compared with girls, American boys have lower rates of literacy, lower grades and engagement in school, higher drop-out from school, and dramatically higher rates of suicide, premature death, injuries, and arrests. Boys are also placed more often in special education. Girls on the other hand are more likely to have different problems including depression, suicidal thoughts and eating disorders.

The researcher argues that although there have been numerous federal, state, school district, and foundation programs aimed at addressing issues faced by girls, led in part by the strong feminist movement, the same cannot be said for the problems encountered by boys. In her view, they have been largely neglected.

Does it matter that girls get more attention?: Yes, in one sense: the sorts of environments that appeal to boys are denied to them on the theory that boys need taming and conditioning to embrace female values. School becomes far more boring for boys because less teaching is devoted to subjects which appeal to boys.

Why do boys have so many problems i the first place? One reason is just 1 X chromosome per cell. Recessive mutations on X chromosomes might be supressed in girls. But not so in boys. Also, boys were selected for to be more masculine and aggressive. What boys need are hobbies and school course work that appeals to boys. Military history rather than social history. Novels about adventures and exploration rather than novels about complex family relationships. Boys need guns, archerty, sports.

By Randall Parker    2009 June 16 11:07 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (8)
2009 June 03 Wednesday
Gang Members Feel Safer But Die More Often

Gang members, like most humans, make decisions that demonstrate innumeracy.

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Children who join gangs feel safer despite a greater risk of being assaulted or killed, according to federally funded research led by a Michigan State University criminologist.

The findings by MSU’s Chris Melde, which appear in the online edition of the journal Criminology, may help explain why youth continue to join street gangs despite the well-established danger.

“It’s a paradox,” said Melde, assistant professor of criminal justice. “Gang members essentially are not allowed to show fear and this can have a profound impact on adolescents. Their quest for acceptance, along with their immersion into this culture steeped in violence, may ultimately numb their reaction to violence, including their fear of victimization.”

I'm reminded of a recent post where Razib brought up the term "alief" as distinct from "belief" and a discussion of aliefs. Is this feeling of safety a demonstration of an alief?

By Randall Parker    2009 June 03 10:58 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (13)
2009 June 01 Monday
Bad Girls Get Pregnant As Teens

Try hard to guide naughty juvie girls away from a life of crime and they'll get pregnant less often.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A program aimed at reducing criminal behavior in juvenile justice teens has yielded a surprising side benefit. The program is also reducing the teens' rate of pregnancy, according to a new study out this week.

David Kerr, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Oregon State University, and Leslie Leve and Patricia Chamberlain of the Eugene-based Oregon Social Learning Center, conducted the research, which will be published in the April edition of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Their work was funded in part by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The study was conducted with 166 teen girls ages 13-17 with histories of criminal behavior who had been court-mandated to receive out-of-home treatment. The girls were randomly assigned to either receive the Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC) program, which involved one-on-one care in the homes of highly trained foster parents, or the services they would have received had they not participated in the study, which was usually treatment in a group care facility.

Crime chicks get knocked up a lot. Even a quarter of crime chicks put in with high quality foster parents still got themselves pregnant.

The results were dramatic, according to lead author Kerr of OSU. About 26 percent of the girls assigned to receive the specialized Treatment Foster Care program became pregnant, compared to almost 47 percent of teens in group care.

So look, what's going on here? Crime genes are getting propagated. Dysgenesis. We are DEVO. D-E-V-O. Think of it as evolution in action.

These are bad girls.

"These girls are extremely compromised," Kerr said. "They are not doing well. They have had a hard time in different areas, including criminal behavior, drugs and risky sexual activity. Many of them had already been pregnant before the time of the intervention."

Girls in the foster care system get themselves knocked up - thereby ensuring the cycle repeats. We should intervene to break this cycle.

Kerr said while teen pregnancy rates have fallen in recent years, the United States still has one of the highest rates compared to other industrialized nations. And that rate is even higher among females in the foster care system. One survey of child welfare systems in three states found that nearly half of girls in the foster system reported a pregnancy by age 19.

What's the answer? Norplant. Really. Norplant. Girl in foster care? Norplant. Make pegnancy a biological impossibility.

Once the girls turns 18 offer her money to keep getting Norplant at least for a few years. Break the cycle of crime, poverty, drug abuse, child abuse, welfare, and dependency. We should regain a sense of pride and a sense of desire to reverse our decay and stop problems that are stoppable.

By Randall Parker    2009 June 01 11:17 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (10)
2009 May 31 Sunday
Women In America Less Happy Than In 1970s

Feminism doesn't appear to be helping women lead happier lives. In an NBER working paper Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers find that men are becoming happier than women as female happiness declines.

By many objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years, yet we show that measures of subjective well-being indicate that women's happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men. The paradox of women's declining relative well-being is found across various datasets, measures of subjective well-being, and is pervasive across demographic groups and industrialized countries. Relative declines in female happiness have eroded a gender gap in happiness in which women in the 1970s typically reported higher subjective well-being than did men. These declines have continued and a new gender gap is emerging -- one with higher subjective well-being for men.

One cause of this trend: the better educated and more successful a woman becomes the higher her standards for an acceptable guy. That shrinks her pool of potential mates while not shrinking the pool of potential mates for high status guys. So high status guys have more to choose from. The woman's high income makes her more alone. Her pursuit of a career makes her delay marriage until her value on the dating market goes down.

Because we pretend that assorted double standards between the sexes aren't natural consequences of our different natures we try to live and act in ways incompatible with our natures. Hence the unhappiness. Another possible cause of this greater female unhappiness: does the welfare state create more cads?

By Randall Parker    2009 May 31 02:35 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2009 May 30 Saturday
Lower Drinking Age Means More Teen Pregnancies

Lower drinking ages translate into more teen pregnancies.

The team examined birth records and survey data on alcohol use for the years 1978 to 1988, a period when state minimum drinking age laws were in flux. Fertig said the consensus among researchers is that a higher minimum drinking age reduces fatal car crashes and alcohol consumption among young adults, but there is little data on how drinking age laws influence infant health. The researchers found that a drinking age of 18:

  • Increases prenatal alcohol consumption among 18- to 20-year-old women by 21 percent;
  • Increases the number of births to 18- to 20-year-olds by 4.6 percent in white women and 3.9 percent in 18- to 20-year-old African-American women;
  • Increases the likelihood of women under age 21 having a low-birth weight baby by 6 percent (4 percent for white women and 8 percent for African-American women); and
  • Increases the likelihood of premature birth by 5 percent in white women under age 18 and by 7 percent in African-American women under age 18.

Fertig noted that in many cases the impact of a reduced drinking age disproportionately falls on African-Americans. The researchers found that a drinking age of 18 increases the probability of an unplanned pregnancy by 25 percent for African-American women, for example.

A radical libertarian would say that the government should make no laws about use of addictive and mind-altering substances. But I'm more utilitarian. Society has to actually work. Teen girls with marginal self control shouldn't be getting pregnant while on alcohol and also drinking while pregnant and we need to prevent them from doing this for the rest of us. They impose external costs by their behavior.

Teen girls who get pregnant while drunk are probably dumber than those who maintain more control and refrain. Our problems are with the dumber people and policy should be set more to encourage better behavior by the dumber people than for the convenience of those who have the most self control.

By Randall Parker    2009 May 30 10:27 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (6)
2009 May 22 Friday
Conspicuous Consumption Is Not Cost Effective

John Tierney reports useful information: Your attempts at impressing others with conspicuous consumption are mostly a waste of time.

The grand edifice of brand-name consumerism rests on the narcissistic fantasy that everyone else cares about what we buy. (It’s no accident that narcissistic teenagers are the most brand-obsessed consumers.) But who else even notices? Can you remember what your partner or your best friend was wearing the day before yesterday? Or what kind of watch your boss has?

A Harvard diploma might help get you a date or a job interview, but what you say during the date or conversation will make the difference. An elegantly thin Skagen watch might send a signal to a stranger at a cocktail party or in an airport lounge, but even if it were noticed, anyone who talked to you for just a few minutes would get a much better gauge of your intelligence and personality.

You are better off spending the money on stocks that have long term growth potential.

By Randall Parker    2009 May 22 07:21 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2009 February 01 Sunday
Tyler Cowen: Physical Health Improves In Recessions

Without losing your job you can simulate the health-promoting effects of a recession by living more cheaply, sleeping more, and exercising more.

Recessions and depressions, of course, are not good for mental health. But it is less widely known that in the United States and other affluent countries, physical health seems to improve, on average, during a downturn. Sure, it’s stressful to miss a paycheck, but eliminating the stresses of a job may have some beneficial effects. Perhaps more important, people may take fewer car trips, thus lowering the risk of accidents, and spend less on alcohol and tobacco. They also have more time for exercise and sleep, and tend to choose home cooking over fast food.

In a 2003 paper, “Healthy Living in Hard Times,” Christopher J. Ruhm, an economist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, found that the death rate falls as unemployment rises. In the United States, he found, a 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate, on average, decreases the death rate by 0.5 percent.

I used to drive to a supermarket that is pretty close to where I live. But a couple of years ago I started making myself walk instead. Now I walk to many places I used to drive to. Obviously, if you do live close enough to stores to walk you might still need to drive. Though a bicycle could easily make a 3 mile trip feasible without a car.

We aren't adapted to industrial civilization. Our ancestors evolved (really) under conditions far different than those we face today. We need to make choices and shape our environments in ways that will get us the exercise and diets which we are more suited to.

By Randall Parker    2009 February 01 05:57 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2009 January 26 Monday
The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution

Over the Christmas holidays I read a now just released and thoroughly enjoyable book by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. I'll be writing a review about it shortly. Michael Blowhard is running a week-long interview with Greg and you can read the first installment. The core argument: we now have enough genetic sequencing data to know that the rate of human evolution has accelerated by a couple of orders of magnitude in the last 10,000 years. Says Greg:

2B: What genuine reasons were there ever to believe that human evolution stopped?

GC: I can't think of any genuine reasons for thinking that human evolution had stopped. Some people seem to have thought that 40,000 years was small potatoes compared to the time since the chimp-human split (five or six million years), so that there wouldn't have been much change over that time period. Of course this ignores the massive ecological changes that humans experienced over the last 40 millennia, and the resulting selective pressures.

Others seem to have thought that newly clever humans instantly came up with a technological fix for any problem that arose, which would have removed the selective pressure associated with the problem. Face it, we're not that smart. People suffered from malaria for thousands of years before figuring out that it was transmitted by mosquitoes (in 1897, by Ronald Ross) -- and we haven't knocked it out yet.

And often when we did solve problems, they didn't stay solved. For example, whenever we came up with better methods of food production, population increased until people were hungry again. At that point you see selection for metabolic efficiency, for the ability to digest newly available foods such as milk, etc.

I've run into this misunderstanding in a recent correspondence. My correspondent figured that we must not have been under much selective pressure because for the last few thousand years the human population was growing rapidly. Yet Europe was repeatedly hit by famines and disease outbreaks. Ditto for other parts of the world. Human populations expanded quickly in response to new ways to farm and then hit limits. We didn't break free of the food limits until the 19th century in some parts of the West and much later in some other parts of the world. Death by starvation still occurs today. One dig of medieval bones in Stockholm found that average adult life expectancy was less than 50 years. Those causes of death were selective pressures.

Death from war occurred too. While the term genocide gets batted around today for fairly small scale killings in the past invaders wiped out entire cities and regions. These killings were selective pressures on human evolution. We have not escaped selective pressures. Our human-caused environmental changes cause differences in who reproduces and how much.

By Randall Parker    2009 January 26 11:48 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2008 December 21 Sunday
Roissy On Infractions Against The Male Libido

Roissy says:

Relations between the sexes and divorce rates would markedly improve if men started putting their women in the doghouse more often for infractions against the male libido.

Are there cultures where men demand better performance from women in terms of keeping up their looks?

In the comments Michael Blowhard reacts to this line:

Why *do* so many American guys picture marriage as a matter of living up to the woman’s demands? Dudez: Dont’ be so lame. Qualify your woman. (I think I’m using that term correctly …) No reason not to be nice to your woman and enjoy making her feel good. But for god’s sake, make her aware that she has a duty to live up to your standards — and to contribute to your pleasures — too.

Good advice. Make it clear early on in a relationship that if she porks out the relationship will be finished.

Though the guys who pork out as well aren't going to be in a position to negotiate. Also, once kids are in the scene the costs of a break-up includes the impact on the kids. So she thinks if you are conscientious she's got you by the balls. I hear Mick Jagger:

Too bad she's got you by the balls
You can't get free at all
She's got your name
She's got your number
You're screamin'
Like thunder
And you can't get away from it all

By Randall Parker    2008 December 21 01:56 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2008 November 16 Sunday
Dead Parrots And Dead Slaves: He's Just Resting

There is nothing new under the sun. Do you remember the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch?

Mr. Praline: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

Owner: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!

Mr. Praline: The plumage don't enter into it. It's stone dead.

Owner: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!

In an earlier era dead slaves served the place of dead parrots. But what about their plumage?

For those who believe the ancient Greeks thought of everything first, proof has been found in a 4th century AD joke book featuring an ancestor of Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch where a man returns a parrot to a shop, complaining it is dead.

The 1,600-year-old work entitled "Philogelos: The Laugh Addict," one of the world's oldest joke books, features a joke in which a man complains that a slave he has just bought has died, its publisher said on Friday.

"By the gods," answers the slave's seller, "when he was with me, he never did any such thing!"

This is great. Are Monty Python troop members reincarnated Greek joke tellers? That would explain the Australian philosophy department.

By Randall Parker    2008 November 16 08:05 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2008 June 15 Sunday
Tattoos On Women: What Do They Mean?

Steve Sailer thinks tattoos might signal that a woman is a bad decision maker.

"Whoa!" said the young man next to me, who looked like an unemployed bike messenger. "Check her out!"

"Yes, a beautiful girl."

"And she's got a lot of tattoos!" he exclaimed, with a wild look of excitement in his bloodshot eyes.

That struck me as, by far, the least of her charms. On further reflection, though, I assume that her tattoos signaled to him that, while you might think she wouldn't be interested in any fellow below the movie producer / hedge fund manager level, she was actually a really bad decision-maker. So, he had a chance!

Is she a bad decision maker? Does a tattoo lessen a woman's attractiveness to the most desirable males? Even if she is a bad decision maker what motivates the tattoo?

Half Sigma thinks tattoos are a sign of "prole drift".

If tattoos are becoming more popular, then it’s an example what Paul Fussell calls prole drift. Do tattoos make you more popular with the opposite sex? I don’t know the answer. I did, however, read a piece by a woman who was grossed out when she discovered her new boyfriend had a really ugly tattoo. Perhaps Roissy, who occasionally comments on this blog and who is an expert at knowing what turns on women, will be able to supply us with the definitive answer?

I know what turns me on, and women with tattoos don't do it for me.

I am confused by this. Did tattoos start out with the lower class and move upward? I associate tattoos with carnival freaks and enlisted men in militaries. Drunken sailors get tattooed while in port of some city. I thought tattoos have always been low class. BUt Wikipedia defines prole drift as the migration of upper class practices down into lower class use.

Anyway, I'm also curious what supposedly evil (with an evil retort) Roissy has to say about tattoos. I couldn't find anything relevant he said about tattoos on women. If you find anything please post in the comments. In his Dating Market Value For Women post he doesn't include tattoos in his rating system. In fact, in the comments someone even mentions this fact.

Alyssa Milano and Jessica Alba have tattoos. But they do not need a tattoo to be highly desired. Britney Spears has tattoos. But she also has poor judgment. Angelina Jolie has tattoos. But she also has a reputation for edginess. On the other hand Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jennifer Aniston have tattoos. Why? To seem more egalitarian? To show they are just as free to get tattoos as men are? To be rebellious?

By Randall Parker    2008 June 15 09:35 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (44)
2008 April 27 Sunday
Prison Experience Ended Robert Downey Jr.'s Liberalism

Actor Robert Downey Jr. got hit too hard by reality to think like a liberal any longer. You've heard the "A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality". How about "A conservative is a liberal who got beat up inmates"?

“I have a really interesting political point of view, and it’s not always something I say too loud at dinner tables here, but you can’t go from a $2,000-a-night suite at La Mirage to a penitentiary and really understand it and come out a liberal. You can’t. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone else, but it was very, very, very educational for me and has informed my proclivities and politics every since.”

Acting in Iron Man must have had a fantasy escapist appeal. If he'd only had Iron Man's abilities he wouldn't have gotten beat up in prison.

The unfortunate thing here is that we do not have a way for most people to get their political beliefs tested in a manner that'll let them see reality. It is a measure of just how much our technologies insulate us from the consequences of our false beliefs that holding false beliefs on political topics is so easy to do.

Here's a literal example of someone getting sense knocked into him. While in prison Downey got knocked out in fights.

“If I see somebody who is throwing their life away with both hands and is raging around and destroying their family, I can’t understand that person,” he said. “I’m not in that sphere of activity anymore, and I don’t understand it any more than I understood 10 or 20 years ago that somehow everything was going to turn out O.K. from this lousy, exotic and dark triple chapter of my life. I swear to God I don’t even really understand that planet anymore.”

Mr. Downey, who has said that he woke up in a pool of his own blood a time or two when he was in prison, is a fighter. “Probably the biggest thing that Tony Stark and I have in common is the hardware of conflict, the courage under fire,” he said, setting aside his lunch on a tray. “I don’t really fit in so good outside the military bases with my mentality.”

Our advancing technological capabilities increase the number of people who can live to varying degrees in fantasies. Virtual realms are the latest manifestation of this trend. Second Life, World of Warcraft, and other online virtual communities allow people to experience simulated worlds governed by rules more to their liking. Does that make people less realistic about the real world?

I see another manifestation of this problem with people who do not vaccinate their kids. They are able to harbor false beliefs about vaccination risks because most people still vaccinate and therefore their kids aren't likely to get exposed to the diseases that vaccines protect against. But at some point a critical mass of kids doesn't get vaccinated and then a disease can spread with harmful results. What political beliefs are likely to continue to spread until we reach a critical mass for some problem? Which problem will that be?

By Randall Parker    2008 April 27 09:06 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (14)
2008 January 13 Sunday
Francis Crick Agreed With James Watson On Race

Francis Crick and James Watson famously discovered the structure of the DNA double helix back in 1954. This made them 2 of the biggest figures in 20th century biology. More recently Watson indicated he believes large differences in cognitive ability exist between the races. He was widely attacked for these comments and found few defenders. His attackers did not bother to examine whether the evidence really does support Watson's contentions. Well, Watson and Crick are portrayed as very different personalities and Crick has been portrayed as the smarter of this dynamic duo. So where did Crick (who is already dead) stand on racial differences? Crick's views were very similar to Watson's and Steve Sailer has the details.

Watson has, of course, been in the news lately, getting dumped from his post as chancellor of the Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory. Now, a reader has pointed out to me that Watson's elder partner, Crick (1916-2004), was also guilty of holding the same views on race and IQ.

Some of the Francis Crick Papers are now online, and they are certainly illuminating. For example, during the controversy in 1969-1971 over IQ and race launched by Arthur Jensen's 1969 Harvard Education Review article and William Shockley's call for financial incentives and penalties to encourage higher IQ reproduction, Crick, a strong supporter of Jensen, threatened to resign as a Foreign Associate of the American National Academy of Sciences if steps were taken to "suppress reputable scientific research for political reasons."

In contrast, in 2007 almost nobody stood up for James Watson.

Steve excerpts some of the letters where Crick engages other scientists regarding scientific flaps about race in the 1970s. Here's an excerpt of a letter that Crick wrote to another scientist on 22 February 1971 in response to a letter this scientist had signed.

Dr. John T, Edsall
Fogarty International Center
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, Maryland 2 0014

Dear John,

I have been very distressed to see the letter to the President of the National Academy by you and six other Academy members regarding a Proposal by Dr. [William] Shockley [Nobel laureate in physics]. Like you I have not published anything on the population problem, but f have become fairly familiar with the literature of the subject. I have also talked to Dr, Jensen when he visited the Salk Institute recently.

Unlike you and your colleagues I have formed the opinion that there is much substance to [Berkeley psychologist Arthur] Jensen’s arguments. In brief I think it likely that more than half the difference between the average I.Q. of American whites and Negroes is due to genetic reasons, and will not be eliminated by any foreseeable change in the environment. Moreover I think the social consequences of this are likely to be rather serious unless steps are taken to recognize the situation.

While any present conclusions are tentative, it seems likely that the matter could be largely resolved if further research were carried out. I should thus like to know two things. Would you and your colleagues please state in detail why they think the arguments put forward by Jensen are either incorrect or misleading. Secondly, would they please indicate what research they think should be done to establish to what extent "intelligence" is inherited. This is surely the important point, and is equally valid for a country without a racially mixed population.

The most distressing feature of your letter is that it neither gives nor refers to any scientific arguments, but makes unsupported statements of opinion, This, I need hardly remind you, is politics, not science. The voice of established authority, unsupported by evidence or argument, should have no place in science, and I am surprised to find that you, of all people, should put your name to a letter of this character written to the Academy on a matter of scientific research. I am cure you will realize that if the Academy were to take active steps to suppress reputable scientific research for political reasons it would not be possible for me to remain a Foreign Associate.

Again, these are two of the greatest minds in 20th century biology.

By Randall Parker    2008 January 13 10:35 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2007 November 18 Sunday
William Saletan Considers Heretical Views On Race

Writing in Slate William Saletan commits the outrageous sin of heresy against the left-liberal secular religion (at least as that secular religion has been defined in the last half century).

Last month, James Watson, the legendary biologist, was condemned and forced into retirement after claiming that African intelligence wasn't "the same as ours." "Racist, vicious and unsupported by science," said the Federation of American Scientists. "Utterly unsupported by scientific evidence," declared the U.S. government's supervisor of genetic research. The New York Times told readers that when Watson implied "that black Africans are less intelligent than whites, he hadn't a scientific leg to stand on."

I wish these assurances were true. They aren't. Tests do show an IQ deficit, not just for Africans relative to Europeans, but for Europeans relative to Asians. Economic and cultural theories have failed to explain most of the pattern, and there's strong preliminary evidence that part of it is genetic. It's time to prepare for the possibility that equality of intelligence, in the sense of racial averages on tests, will turn out not to be true.

The latter link is to Jason Malloy's highly excellent Gene Expression blog post about the entirely unfair and anti-scientific liberal media attacks on James Watson: James Watson Tells the Inconvenient Truth: Faces the Consequences. Jason points to relevant psychometric and genetic research on racial differences. Saletan read Malloy's post and apparently even read a substantial amount of the supporting material that Malloy points to (much of it familiar to long term readers of ParaPundit).

The article is amazing. Saletan doesn't say that the measured differences in intelligence are genetically based. But he admits the science does not rule it out. To publically take the real science of human differences in cognitive abilities that seriously makes Saletan something of a novelty in liberal media. Is he going to get crucified? Or has he left enough room to defend himself from the inquisition while still drawing attention to the real evidence?

Curiously, this turn of events began as a result of the attack on Watson. Jason wrote his article in defense of what Watson said about Africa. That led to a New York Times piece by Amy Harmon quoting Jason and blogger Half Sigma in an article entitled In DNA Era, New Worries About Prejudice.

New genetic information, some liberal critics say, could become the latest rallying point for a conservative political camp that objects to social policies like affirmative action, as happened with “The Bell Curve,” the controversial 1994 book that examined the relationship between race and I.Q.

Yet even some self-described liberals argue that accepting that there may be genetic differences between races is important in preparing to address them politically.

“Let’s say the genetic data says we’ll have to spend two times as much for every black child to close the achievement gap,” said Jason Malloy, 28, an artist in Madison, Wis., who wrote a defense of Dr. Watson for the widely read science blog Gene Expression. Society, he said, would need to consider how individuals “can be given educational and occupational opportunities that work best for their unique talents and limitations.”

Liberals have hung the defense of political equality on genetic equality in ability. This has been a big strategic mistake on their part since even within races people obviously vary greatly in ability and genetic differences play a large role in creating differences in ability. Research on selective pressures that have created differences in brain genes is not hard to find. Genes which code for the brain are not immune to selective pressures caused by differences in local environments. People who hold otherwise are effectively embracing a form of neo-Cartesian dualism where the spiritual side of the mind includes brain genes that are held above the influence of local selective pressures in the physical plane. Really, they don't want to think of their position this way. But that is what it amounts to.

Steve Sailer highlighted some comments Jason made about how liberals hung their entire argument for equality on genetic equality and what a huge mistake that was. Their character assassinations of the realists did not really further the cause of defending free societies. There was never any need to deceive citizens to get them to treat others as possessing of rights. Some of their motives for deceiving selves and others weren't even most effectively achieved by the deception. Though the Marxists involved in the inquisition probably benefited their (still doomed) cause by their role in suppressing psychometric research.

See Steve's articles on Watson's comments: James D. Watson—A Modern Galileo and James D. Watson: Broken By The PC Inquisition, Betrayed By The Righteous Right.

Also see Half Sigma's posts NY Times article: time to celebrate?, Race differences in intelligence: does genetic proof already exist?, DTNBP1 gene and racial IQ differences, and Response to comments on race and intelligence.

By Randall Parker    2007 November 18 10:27 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2007 July 18 Wednesday
Distracted Drunks Less Violent

Drunks get violent toward what annoys them unless distractions shift their thoughts elsewhere.

The link between alcohol and aggression is well known. What’s not so clear is just why drunks get belligerent. What is it about the brain-on-alcohol that makes fighting seem like a good idea" And do all intoxicated people get more aggressive" Or does it depend on the circumstances"

University of Kentucky psychologist Peter Giancola and his student Michelle Corman decided to explore these questions in the laboratory. One theory about alcohol and aggression is that drinking impairs the part of the brain involved in allocating our limited mental resources—specifically attention and working memory. When we can only focus on a fraction of what’s going on around us, the theory holds, drunks narrow their social vision, concentrating myopically on provocative cues and ignoring things that might have a calming or inhibiting effect.

The scientists tested this idea on a group of young Kentucky men. Some of the men drank three to four screwdrivers before the experiment, while others stayed sober. Then they had them all compete against another person in a somewhat stressful game that required very quick responses. Every time they lost a round, they received a shock varying in intensity. Likewise, when they won a round they gave their opponent a shock. The idea was to see how alcohol affected the men’s belligerence, as measured by the kinds of shocks they chose to hand out.

But there was more to it. Giancola and Corman also deliberately manipulated some of the volunteers’ cognitive powers. They required them—some drinkers, some not—to simultaneously perform a difficult memory task. The idea was to see if they could distract those who were “under the influence” from their “hostile” situation. If they could tax their limited powers of concentration, perhaps they wouldn’t process the fact that someone was zapping them with electricity.

And that’s exactly what happened. As reported in the July issue of Psychological Science, the drunks who had nothing to distract them were predictably mean, exhibiting aggression towards their adversaries. However, the drunks whose attention was focused elsewhere were actually less aggressive than the sober non-drinkers. This seems counterintuitive at first, but it’s really not: The sober men were cognitively intact, so they would naturally attend to both provocations and distractions in the room, resulting in some low level of aggression.

It appears that alcohol has the potential to both increase and decrease aggression, depending on where’s one’s attention is focused. The psychologists speculate that working memory is crucial not only to barroom behavior, but to all social behavior, because it provides the capacity for self-reflection and strategic planning. Activating working memory with salient, non-hostile, and health-promoting thoughts, in effect reduces the “cognitive space” available for inclinations towards violence.

Create distractions when a person or group is starting to get belligerent.

By Randall Parker    2007 July 18 10:01 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2007 March 28 Wednesday
Erotic Literature Widespread In England 300 Years Ago

Popular views of England in recent centuries seem to revolve around Victorian standards of behavior. But a new study argues erotic literature was widely available and cheap in 18th century England.

Prostitutes, perversions and public scandals – the stuff of the 21st century tabloids was familiar to readers three centuries earlier, according to new research from the University of Leeds.

The reading of erotic literature was already a social activity 300 years ago.

Erotic texts were read out loud in public settings.

And despite earlier work suggesting that these texts were only for solitary consumption – at home, alone, and behind closed doors – Skipp’s work throws up a surprising image of how these works were used. "They would be read in public – everywhere from London's rough-and-ready alehouses to the city’s thriving coffee houses, which weren't quite the focus of polite society in the way we sometimes think," she explained. "Some texts even came as questions and answers and were clearly intended for groups of men to read together, with one asking the questions and the others answering them."

But erotic literature of the 1700s was better written than modern era porno stories.

And Skipp describes a literary quality to the writing which you might struggle to find in modern erotic fiction or top-shelf pornography. "It is very different to today's erotica," she said. "It is more humorous, more literary and more engaged with the wider issues of the life and politics of the times." Its metaphors mirror the passions of the age: "At a time when military power was equated with virility, armed conquest is often used as a metaphor for sex – in phrases such as 'unsheathing the weapon', 'storming the fort' and 'releasing the cannon'."

Today's scandals and celebrity intrigues shown on TV and in tabloids find their parallels in the 1770s.

By the 1770s, the transcripts of adultery trials became a new source of titillation. To secure a divorce, a man would first have to successfully sue a rival for 'violating his property', before petitioning Parliament to dissolve the marriage. "There is something rather voyeuristic about these trials," said Skipp. "Often servants would give evidence while innkeepers would testify about lovers taking rooms together."

Imagine if you could go back in a time machine with very small hidden cameras. You could go to trials and ale houses and record stories every bit as scandalous as anything that happens today.

By Randall Parker    2007 March 28 09:47 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2006 October 22 Sunday
Average IQ Of American States

Read Steve Sailer's latest: Average IQ by State: Honest Numbers at Last. He reports on a new study by Michael McDaniel, a researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University. Here is an IQ table for the American states. New England and the northern plains states have the smarter people. One question: What are the North Dakotans doing with their brains?

Immigration is driving national IQ downward. This is a national disaster that far outstrips the Iraq Debacle in importance.

Update: Note that the method of measure for state-level IQ involved testing children using other types of tests. (in contrast to more rigorous IQ tests used in international IQ comparisons). But the correlation between some other tests (e.g. SAT tests) and IQ tests are high enough for this to be useful. But since children were used and the ethnic mix of children is different than the ethnic mix of adults (due to immigration and different rates of fertility) the results understate the current adult IQ of those states that have seen a large influx of lower IQ ethnic groups. But as the older whites die off some states are going to lose economic ground and become more corrupt as a result of increasing proportions of lower IQ workers and voters and ethnic group politics where people vote for their ethnic group rather than for the best candidate for the whole.

By Randall Parker    2006 October 22 11:21 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (31)
Ethnic Pride Helps Teens Stay Happy

When under stress Chinese and Mexican adolescent ethnics feel better about themselves if they feel good about their ethnicity.

Ethnic pride can help teenagers maintain happiness when faced with stress, according to a new study by a Wake Forest University psychologist published in the October issue of Child Development.

Adolescents with positive feelings toward their ethnic group say they are happier on a daily basis than those who have a more negative attitude about their ethnic identity, said Lisa Kiang, assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest and lead author of the study.

The study, involving 415 ninth-graders from Chinese and Mexican backgrounds, shows the protective effects of ethnic identity on daily psychological well-being, Kiang said.

Each participant completed a brief questionnaire regarding their feelings about their ethnic identity. Then, for two weeks, the students filled out a three-page checklist at the end of each day indicating the kinds of stresses they experienced that day. For example, the students would mark whether they had a lot of schoolwork to complete or if they had a lot of demands made by their family.

Finally, the students were asked to rate their daily emotional states on a scale from zero to four, including how happy they felt that day and how nervous they felt that day.

Those with higher ethnic regard rated their daily happiness level higher.

Adolescents with a high ethnic regard maintained a generally positive and happy attitude in the face of daily stressors and despite their anxious feelings,” Kiang said. “So, having positive feelings about one’s ethnic group appeared to provide an extra boost of positivity in individuals’ daily lives.”

Although the experience of more daily stressors predicted less daily happiness in individuals with a low to moderate ethnic regard, individuals with a high ethnic regard were protected from these negative effects, said Kiang, who teaches courses in developmental psychology.

The researchers focused on adolescents because that is when identity issues are at the forefront. Kiang said the positive effects of ethnic pride found in this study could suggest that parents and society in general should encourage strong ethnic identity in families.

Imagine researchers conducting this same study but with white teens. The teens would be afraid to answer the questions of the researchers, knowing that to say they feel ethnic pride would reveal a thought crime.

If you are white and want to feel better about yourself then commit thought crimes. But don't let the commissars know what you are doing in the privacy of your own mind.

By Randall Parker    2006 October 22 03:13 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2006 October 06 Friday
Ethnic Diversity Increases Feelings Of Isolation, Turnover

Here's a study with obvious implications for immigration policy. In retail stores ethnic diversity leads employees to quit. (same article here)

Contrary to popular thinking among some diversity consultants, employing workers of many different races has little effect on average turnover in a retail workplace, although employees do quit more often if fewer colleagues are the same race, according to a recently published case study by two professors at the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business.

In one of few studies to explore how workplace demographics affect employee behavior, Haas School Professors Jonathan Leonard and David Levine examined more than 70,000 employees at more than 800 workplaces of a national retailer. They outlined the results of their study in an article titled “The Effect of Diversity on Turnover: A Large Case Study” in the July issue of the journal Industrial and Labor Relations Review.

“The most important takeaway is diversity itself doesn’t matter much in terms of turnover for most groups of workers,” says Leonard, chairman of the Haas Economic Analysis and Policy Group. “It suggests that people are, at least in this sector, pretty tolerant.”

The diversity consultants peddling politically correct myths to businesses are all selling snake oil.

Leonard and Levine's findings contradict one argument by some diversity consultants who claim that having a gender and racially diverse workforce reduces turnover. Leonard and Levine also failed to find support for another line of thinking that argues that diverse workplaces experience more friction and thus require special training.

"We were interested in seeing whether in fact there really was an empirical basis for a lot of advice that is pretty commonplace in the diversity consulting industry," explains Leonard, who holds the George Quist Chair in Business Ethics at the Haas School. "We discovered that, at least in the retail sector, diversity itself is not a big driver of turnover."

Most people like being around people who think like them, look like them, act like them. Even the people who look down their noses at people who admit to preferrig their own kind also prefer their own kind.

Minorities do not like to work in white majority workplaces. I guess white Leftists could write this off as a desire to escape from their white male patriarchial capitalistic oppressors. Gotta invest in rationalizations if one is to maintain a secular faith.

At the same time, Leonard and Levine did find support for the old proverb "birds of a feather flock together" when they studied another facet of diversity -- racial isolation. They defined racial isolation as being in a numerical minority in a workplace, whether it's white, black, Hispanic, or Asian. For instance, in a group composed five black employees and two white employees, the white employees would be more racially isolated than their black colleagues.

“The problem for managers is that each new hire raises isolation for some groups at the same time that it decreases isolation for others,” Leonard and Levine noted.

Another discouraging finding was that all minority groups were more likely to quit a workplace in which a greater proportion of employees were white, suggesting that diversity is difficult to sustain. “Managers can benefit by helping employees thrive in a world of racial diversity – a prescription that is easier to state than to implement,” the authors wrote.

The courts do not recognize a right to free association in business. So exercise of the basic human desire to be around people more like yourself is not legal.

Here's a real interesting one: Females want to work in workplaces that are either male-dominated or female-dominated. This is an argument for having males clustering in some occupations while females cluster in other occupations.

One surprising finding was that women seemed to dislike gender diversity. Women were slightly more likely to quit when the gender breakdown of their workplace was closer to 50% female and 50% male, and less likely when their workplace was less diverse, with either mostly female or mostly male employees.

People do not like to wait on people of other races.

* Racial isolation from potential customers – not just coworkers – also increased turnover, the authors found. Black and Hispanic employees in particular were less likely to quit in heavily black and Hispanic communities, respectively.

* White employees left more often in situations where there were fewer whites. Although the sample was two-thirds white, almost a quarter of the workplaces had a nonwhite majority.

* There was evidence that blacks and Hispanics preferred each other to white coworkers. Black exits were particularly rapid when more of their coworkers were white or Asian, while Hispanic colleagues did not increase black employees’ exit rate.

* For Hispanics, unlike other groups, turnover was lowest with a mixture of Hispanics and others. Hispanics left stores with many whites or Asians, but were not more likely to leave stores with black coworkers.

In less ethnically diverse societies it is easier for people to live in neighborhoods and work in workplaces that have the same kinds that people want to be around. Denying this desire does not make it go away.

By Randall Parker    2006 October 06 08:45 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2006 October 01 Sunday
Writing About Relationships Makes Them Last Longer

If either member of a couple writes about their relationship every day the relationship lasts longer on average. So then what would happen if they both wrote about it? And what would happen if they read what each other wrote?

AUSTIN, Texas—Writing about one’s romantic relationship may help it last longer, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin report in this month’s issue of Psychological Science.

In a study titled “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Words,” Psychology Professor James Pennebaker and graduate student Richard Slatcher analyzed writing samples from 86 couples. One person from each couple was instructed to write for 20 minutes a day for three consecutive days. Volunteers in one group wrote about their daily activities while those in the second group wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings about the relationship. The participants’ dating partners did not complete any writing task.

The researchers found that 77 percent of volunteers who wrote about their relationship were still dating their partner three months later. In contrast, only 52 percent of people who wrote just about everyday activities stayed with their partner.

The study also showed that those who wrote about their relationship used more words expressing positive emotions such as “happy" and "love" in Instant Message (IM) exchanges with their dating partner during the days following the writing.

This brings up a perhaps unobvious question: If writing about a relationship will make it last longer is that necessarily a good thing?

If you are fairly young and are in a relationship that is not well suited to you then keeping it going has a big opportunity cost. You might end up getting married, having kids, and only then might the strains of the relationship push you apart and end the relationship. In that case writing about it is a bad idea.

What we need are measures of a relationship's health and long term prospects that would provide some guidance on whether to up the investment or write off the loss and move on.

By Randall Parker    2006 October 01 02:07 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2006 September 03 Sunday
Wyoming Teens Big Alcohol Abusers

Kids in Wyoming are bored out of their minds by the desolation and get wasted on alcoholic beverages.

A federal government survey recently confirmed what residents of Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas already knew: people there drink to excess, at very early ages, well above the national average.

The survey, conducted over three years by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said south-central Wyoming led the nation with the highest rate of alcohol abuse by people age 12 and older. In Albany and Carbon counties, more than 30 percent of people under age 20 binge drink — 50 percent above the national average.

In examining behavior in 340 regions of the country, the survey found that 7 of the top 10 areas for under-age binge drinking — defined as five or more drinks at a time — were in Wyoming, Montana and North and South Dakota.

What I find curious about this: Video games, text messaging phones, and the internet have not become big enough sources of teen entertainment to stop kids in rural areas from getting blotto. How to keep teenagers in rural areas sufficiently distracted to prevent them from dying behind the wheel drunk out of their skulls?

Parents who think cities are poisonous influences on their kids with drugs and gangs ought to consider the threat of going too far in the other direction.

I'm thinking some day when DNA testing is really cheap and lots of genetic risk factors for drug and alcohol abuse are known parents will want to check for genetic risk factors for alcoholism before deciding to move their families out into the sticks. Given the wrong variation on alcohol dehydrogenase the prudent parent might want to consider raising their kids in a town where the local culture frowns on alcohol consumption. Anyone know which parts of America have very low levels of alcohol consumption?

By Randall Parker    2006 September 03 08:37 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2006 July 30 Sunday
Affluent Homogeneous Small Countries Happiest

Denmark is happiest. Next come Switzerland, Austria, and Iceland. Yet more evidence that the people who push for multiculturalism and ethnic diversity are either morons or malicious: Denmark and similar countries have the happiness populations.

A University of Leicester psychologist has produced the first ever ‘world map of happiness.’

Adrian White, an analytic social psychologist at the University’s School of Psychology, analysed data published by UNESCO, the CIA, the New Economics Foundation, the WHO, the Veenhoven Database, the Latinbarometer, the Afrobarometer, and the UNHDR, to create a global projection of subjective well-being: the first world map of happiness.

The projection, which is to be published in a psychology journal this September, will be presented at a conference later in the year. Participants in the various studies were asked questions related to happiness and satisfaction with life. The meta-analysis is based on the findings of over 100 different studies around the world, which questioned 80,000 people worldwide. For this study data has also been analysed in relation to health, wealth and access to education.

Small affluent homogeneous countries make for greater happiness.

"I think there is a parallel between the state of a nation and an individual. If you are very depressed, you are less likely to go out and be ambitious which obviously impacts on the economy, creating a vicious circle of poverty and depression.

"Scandinavian countries have done so well firstly because they are rich with good healthcare and education systems. They also have a sense of collectivity and community because of a strong national identity. Bigger countries are often more fragmented and people there may not feel they are making so much of a difference. While not such a big indicator of happiness, this is also a factor.

"We also found that living in beautiful rural areas increased happiness by a small factor. However countries in Africa are very beautiful but more important factors there that reduce happiness are people dying of preventable diseases and war."

My guess is nationalized health care is not making people happier by keeping them healthier. My guess is that availability of government-provided health care make people feel more secure and that it is this feeling of security rather than objective services provided that causes an increase in happiness. People want security.

Immigration can contribute to lower average levels of happiness in a number of of ways. For example, it makes a population larger and therefore makes each person less important and less influential to the whole. Also, with ethnic diversity comes less trust and less commonly held values. A population that is more diverse in values about how a society should be organised is one where far fewer are likely to be satisfied about the rules and about what governments do and require.

Note that higher IQ enables the affluence needed for high quality health care. Also, a smarter population can become more educated. So a country's level of average intelligence plays a big role in determining how happy its populace will be. Also, an ethnically more diverse country will have a wider distribution of levels of intelligence. Part of the decreased happiness in ethnically more diverse nations may flow from having larger populations of lower IQ groups.

Going back to the first link above, note how many small and ethnically non-diverse countries come out on top in happiness:

The 20 happiest nations in the World are:

1 - Denmark
2 - Switzerland
3 - Austria
4 - Iceland
5 - The Bahamas
6 - Finland
7 - Sweden
8 - Bhutan
9 - Brunei
10 - Canada
11 - Ireland
12 - Luxembourg
13 - Costa Rica
14 - Malta
15 - The Netherlands
16 - Antigua and Barbuda
17 - Malaysia
18 - New Zealand
19 - Norway
20 - The Seychelles

Other notable results include:

23 - USA
35 - Germany
41 - UK
62 - France
82 - China
90 - Japan
125 - India
167 - Russia

The three least happy countries were:

176 - Democratic Republic of the Congo
177 - Zimbabwe
178 - Burundi

Some of the European welfare states rank incredibly high in happiness. How could anything less than a pure laissez fair libertarian free market utopia produce such a high level of happiness? Surely we can not suppose conventional free market economists are promoting theories based on wrong assumptions about human nature. Banish that thought. Keep the homo economicus faith.

One big puzzler here is ethnically homogeneous and affluent Japan. China's low ranking seems less difficult to explain given the rapid rate of change there and the feellings of insecurity that must cause. Also, China still has extensive poverty and the impoverished feel even worse when they look around and see others who are doing far better than them.

By Randall Parker    2006 July 30 10:43 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (57)
2006 May 24 Wednesday
High British Crime Rate In 4000 BC

This is probably not what Ray Davies had in mind when he sang "I'm an ape man".

IF YOU are worried about being attacked or killed by a violent criminal, just be glad you are not living in Neolithic Britain. From 4000 to 3200 BC, Britons had a 1 in 14 chance of being bashed on the head, and a 1 in 50 chance of dying from their injuries.

Brain trauma wasn't the only way people were getting killed. Was it the biggest cause? Or were chest injuries bigger killers?

Was the death rate from assaults as high in other parts of the world at that time? When did the murder rate start dropping toward levels seen in more recent times?

By Randall Parker    2006 May 24 11:57 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2006 May 07 Sunday
British Becoming Less Happy

Money can't buy you happiness?

Britain is less happy than in the 1950s - despite the fact that we are three times richer.

The proportion of people saying they are "very happy" has fallen from 52% in 1957 to just 36% today.

The opinion poll by GfK NOP for The Happiness Formula series on BBC Two provides the first evidence that Britain's happiness levels are declining - a trend already well documented in the United States.

Polling data from Gallup throughout the 1950s shows happiness levels above what they are today, suggesting that our extra wealth has not brought extra well-being.

It could even be making matters worse.

Americans have become less happy as well. The article also claims this pattern has been observed in other Western countries.

The British experience mirrors data from America, where social scientists have seen levels of life satisfaction gradually decline over the last quarter of a century.

In the early 1970s, 34% of those interviewed in the General Social Survey described themselves as "very happy".

By the late 1990s, the figure was 30% - a small but statistically significant drop.

These people are not behaving like homo economicus. Someone tell them to stop doing that. They are disappointing economists.

People think their neighborhoods are becoming less friendly. I suspect people are becoming more mobile and therefore know their neighbors less well.

Our poll asked whether people felt their neighbourhood was more or less friendly now than it was 10 years ago.

43% said less friendly, compared to 22% of people who said it was friendlier.

I wonder if people feel less secure than they used to and hence less happy. Also, marrieds are more happy. Has the decline in marriage boosted the number who are unhappy? See page 17 of the report below and you'll see that relationships and family are the most important factor in happiness followed by health. Parenthetically, advances in medical science therefore promise to improve happiness by contributing to the second most important factor for health. The gap between relationships and health as determinants of happiness gets progressively smaller with age. Again see page 17.

On page 22 of the report linked to below they ask what the second most important thing is in determining happiness. Two mostly financial factors "A Nice Place To Live" and "Money And Financial Situation" come close to relationships in importance. This is an argument against immigrant-driven population growth that drives up the cost of housing and raises crime rates.

You can download the full report as a 1 meg PDF file. Some interesting facts emerge: "Very Happy" has an age peak between 25-34 of 38% and then a decline to 30% at 45-54 and then a rise to 41% at 55-64. They have happiness by social classes AB, C1, C2, and DE. Anyone know what those mean? C1 has the highest happiness rating.

On page 72 if we are to believe the results men have more close friends they speak to regularly than do women. I wouldn't have expected that.

On page 77 people report their neighborhoods as becoming less friendly. Does this attitude measure a real change in crime rates or in influxes of immigrants? Or higher mobility and therefore less longer term friendships in neighborhoods? Or do people have distorted views of a rosier past that never existed?

By Randall Parker    2006 May 07 02:43 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (8)
2005 December 12 Monday
Experts Have High Error Rates In Prognostications

Experts and commentators make predictions with high error rates and rarely get called on it.

It is the somewhat gratifying lesson of Philip Tetlock’s new book, “Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?” (Princeton; $35), that people who make prediction their business—people who appear as experts on television, get quoted in newspaper articles, advise governments and businesses, and participate in punditry roundtables—are no better than the rest of us. When they’re wrong, they’re rarely held accountable, and they rarely admit it, either. They insist that they were just off on timing, or blindsided by an improbable event, or almost right, or wrong for the right reasons. They have the same repertoire of self-justifications that everyone has, and are no more inclined than anyone else to revise their beliefs about the way the world works, or ought to work, just because they made a mistake. No one is paying you for your gratuitous opinions about other people, but the experts are being paid, and Tetlock claims that the better known and more frequently quoted they are, the less reliable their guesses about the future are likely to be.

Go read the article for details on the research which Tetlock conducted to reach these conclusions. The whole article is worth your time.

What we really need: Studies like Tetlock's but designed to survey a much larger group of people in order to identify people who have much better rates of being right. We can't trust TV news show producers to wisely choose experts whose rates of accuracy are greater than sheer chance. In fact, the only thing we can count on is that the most famous prognosticators and commentators will be wrong more often than most people. If the talking head consensus is X then the truth is not X.

Consider what the article says and introspect about your own thinking. There are some obvious simple rules of thumb to follow such as resist committing to a position if you do not have strong proof for it. If you commit publically you will become less likely to recognize the incorrectness of a position if you feel your reputation is at stake. Also, just because a person spouts lots of details doesn't mean the details somehow prove the argument. Experts have tons of facts and terrible track records in predicting complex human events. When it comes to human affairs the factors influencing outcomes are so many and so little understood that the feeling of certainty is not something you should feel too often.

I found one part of the article gratifying: The bit about people who ascribe big single causes to explain events are wrong more often than the people who think many factors contribute. For example, I think the Iraq democracy project is doomed for a whole host of reasons including cousin marriage, Islam, ethnic divisions, low IQs, Arab culture, and still other factors. Contrast that with the position that liberal democracy is an inevitable historical force, a sort of Manifest Destiny.

Tetlock says big name commentators are so bad because their predictions are designed more to make people feel good about their side than to be correct.

Tetlock notes, sadly, a point that Richard Posner has made about these kinds of public intellectuals, which is that most of them are dealing in “solidarity” goods, not “credence” goods. Their analyses and predictions are tailored to make their ideological brethren feel good—more white swans for the white-swan camp. A prediction, in this context, is just an exclamation point added to an analysis.

This is a problem. The market of information for those who want to know the truth is an awful lot smaller than the market of information for those who want to feel good about themselves and their faction.

By Randall Parker    2005 December 12 09:28 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (13)
2005 October 30 Sunday
Single Mothers Have Poorer Marriage Prospects

Nothing surprising here.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Women who have children outside of marriage are less likely than other single women to marry, and when they do marry, their husbands tend to be less well-matched, according to a new study.

The results show that the odds that unwed mothers marry rather than cohabit are about 30 percent lower than those of childless single women.

When they do marry, mothers are more likely to have husbands who are significantly older and less educated than those of childless women.

“It's more difficult for unwed mothers to get married, and if they do, they tend to not marry well,” said Zhenchao Qian, co-author of the study and associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

The results suggest that efforts by the federal government and states to promote marriage among young, poor Americans need to do more to prevent out-of-wedlock childbearing, Qian said. He conducted the study with Leanna Mellott, graduate student in sociology at Ohio State, and Daniel Lichter, professor at Cornell University .

I bet those single childless women are seen as better catches on average even before considering their lack of children. Part of their poorer marriage prospects stem from the fact that women with illegitimate children tend to be dumber, less educated, and lower wage earners on average. Still, most men see existing children as a liability when looking at a single women. So these results are at least partially due to that simple fact.

For example, the study showed that single mothers were less likely than childless women to marry a man with at least some college education. That suggests unwed mothers are unlikely to improve their economic prospects through marriage, she said, because potential husbands are less likely to have opportunities for good-paying jobs.

That is not entirely true. Even if their husband earns low wages those wages would be added to the wages of the woman. Also, a second parent in the household would provide extra labor for child care so that each parent could more easily manage to go to work and still have the kids looked after. Sometimes that is accomplished by having the two parents work different times of the day and days of the week.

In addition, a white woman who had children outside of marriage was more likely to marry a man who was significantly older – at least six years older – than she. That wasn't the case for Black and Hispanic women, but only because they were less likely than whites to be married at all, Qian said.

“Our analysis suggests that Blacks and Hispanics may be less likely to marry or cohabit because they face shortages of potential spouses,” he said. “If they had been married or living with someone, they would likely have husbands or partners much older than themselves.”

Of course, part of the problem for most of these women who have children out of wedlock is that even if they didn't have illegitimate babies their marital prospects would still be bleak. Still, illegitimate children do make their lives and their prospects even poorer.

The United States as a whole would be much better off in the long run if reproduction outside of marriage became as stigmatized and punished as it used to be in the early half of the 20th century. We all pay for illegitimate births in higher taxes, higher crime, and in other ways. We'd be better off if single women had fewer children and had those children much later. At the same time, we'd be better off of smarter married women had more children. This sort of talk is taboo in the mainstream media. But that taboo does not make the facts any less true.

By Randall Parker    2005 October 30 09:53 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (16)
2005 October 27 Thursday
Early 20th Century Progressives, Eugenics, Minimum Wage

Over at Marginal Revolution Alex Tabarrok says early 20th century progressives advocated a minimum wage for women only in order to promote their eugenic goals.

Progressives, including Richard Ely, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, the Webbs in England etc., were interested not in protecting women but in protecting men and the race. Their goal was to get women back into the home, where they belonged, instead of abandoning their eugenic duties and competing with men for work.

Unlike today's progressives, the originals understood that minimum wages for women would put women out of work - that was the point and the more unemployment of women the better!

Are today's progressives dumber than the progressives of a hundred years ago? Or are today's progressives more brain washed by the accumulated lies of politically correct ideology? My guess is the latter. People have become more unrealistic because public discussions are conducted under taboos that prevent honest discussion of obvious truths.

Alex is reacting to a paper by Princeton academic Tim Leonard: "Protecting Family and Race: The Progressive Case for Regulating Women's Work."

Seems to me these progressives who were pursuing eugenic goals made a fundamental mistake. To the extent that a minimum wage would keep some women home and pregnant it woud tend to have a dysgenic effect. Why? Because a minimum wage would reduce labor market participation of dumber women more than smarter women. Dumber women are more likely than smarter women to have their market wage fall below the minimum wage. Very smart women will still go off to work at higher paying jobs which their cognitive abilities enable them to do. Dumber women will get locked out of the labor market given a sufficiently high minimum wage.

A maximum wage for women only (and mind you I'm not advocating this) would be far more eugenic than a minimum wage. But a maximum yearly income would be even more eugenic. Smart women would, on average, work a fairly small fraction of the time to achieve their maximum income, freeing them up for child-rearing duties. Whereas dumber women would, again on average, work many more hours to achieve their maximum allowed yearly income.

To the extent that dumber women get locked out of the job market by a minimum wage that creates conditions that create support for the welfare state. Any woman whose husband died, became ill, or left her who was also locked out of the job market could be left in a position of being unable to support herself. At the same time, the welfare state encourages reproduction among those who have the least earning power in the job market. No need to spend time at work? The state will pay for your babies? Some (though not all) women will have more childen under those circumstances.

The progressives probably lost the ability to use state power to coerce for eugenic goals when women gained the vote. However, when DNA sequencing costs fall far enough to demonstrate in undeniable ways that genetic variations cause large variations in cognitive ability I predict the political Left will once again take up eugenic politics. I expect most of us will live to see progressives promote the use of state power to achieve eugenic goals in order to uplift the poor with genetic engineering and with restrictions on reproduction by those who refuse to use genetic engineering to have smart babies.

By Randall Parker    2005 October 27 11:03 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2005 October 15 Saturday
Humans Act Like Chimpanzee Bonobo Hybrid

Temple Grandin, an amazingly high functioning autistic with a number of impressive intellectual accomplishments to her credit (including livestock slaughter facilities designs), reviews Frans de Waal's book Our Inner Ape which advances the argument that examination of Chimp and Bonobo behavior yields two sides of what makes up human nature.

In this fascinating book, de Waal suggests that the two species represent sides of our own nature. We have "not one but two inner apes," he writes, speculating that humans may act like a hybrid of bonobos and chimps.

Grandin notices that de Waal avoids the genetic significance of his observations.

De Waal does not discuss the possible genetic implications of many of his observations. Animals who have high-fear genetics are less inclined to be aggressive because they are afraid to fight, and stressful, scary situations can affect them more dramatically. When bombs fell on Munich during World War II, de Waal tells us, all the bonobos in the zoo died of heart failure, but all the chimps survived. Unfortunately, he does not discuss how these differences in fearfulness might affect social behavior. Fear and other traits, like aggression and sociability, have a strong genetic component. In my own work with antelopes, I have observed huge differences in the startle and fear response between individual animals. It is likely that there may be genetic differences between the most peaceful and most violent chimps.

Since personality characteristics vary between humans due to genetic and development differences some humans are closer to the average chimp and others, relatively speaking, are closer to the average bonobo.

The more precise terminology for labelling the Chimps and the Bonobos is Common Chimpanzee or Pan troglodytes for what we commonly just call Chimp and the Bonobo is called Bonobo or Pygmy Chimpanzee or Pan paniscus.

We aren't technically a hybrid of Chimps and Bonobos. The Chimps split off from the humans before the Common Chimps and the Bonobos split off from each other. But different humans share characteristics with Chimps and Bonobos to varying degrees.

From Amazon:

Noted primatologist de Waal (Chimpanzee Politics) thinks human behavior cannot be fully explained by selfish genes and Darwinian competition. Drawing on his own primate research on chimpanzees and bonobos—our closest animal relatives—he shows how much we can learn from them about ourselves: our qualities of "fellow feeling and empathy" as well as our power-obsessed, violent side. We are "bipolar apes," de Waal says, as much like bonobos as like chimps. The latter are known for their viciousness and "red in tooth and claw" social politics, but bonobos offer a radically different social model, one of peace and hedonistic orgies; de Waal offers vivid, often delightful stories of politics, sex, violence and kindness in the ape communities he has studied to illustrate such questions as why we are irreverent toward the powerful and whether men or women are better at conflict resolution.

Advances in genetics and neurobiology are going to undermine more sentimental, religious, and ideological views of humans in favor of a view of humans as smarter primates. The political implications for this coming change will be profound. Liberalism, even among secular liberals, is still based upon a mystical view of humans as magically equal and hence entitlted to equal rights. That view is not going to survive the coming avalanche of scientific evidence. But religious views are in for similar rough times as urges to commit many sins are traced back to genetic sequences and neuronal wiring patterns.

I do not know what sorts of political schools of thought will emerge after human nature becomes demystified. Dumber people will probably to continue to believe many myths because much of the evidence against their myths will be incomprehensible to them. Also, some smart people will opt for self delusion. But quite a few people will come to understand the real score. What will they decide to have as their political philosophies and ideologies?

I'm expecting a partial return to some ancient pre-Christian Roman and Greek schools of ethics and political philosophy. Take away Christianity and liberalism and high pagan culture might appeal to Western elites of the 21st century. But I'm just guessing.

Update: Of course people do not always change their beliefs when confronted with new evidence. Michael Gazzaniga argues in his book The Ethical Brain that not just religious people but also highly scientific people resist changes in their beliefs when confronted by new evidence.

Nowhere does the human capacity to form and hold beliefs become more stark than when clear scientific data challenge the assumptions of someone’s personal beliefs. It would be easy to spin a story line about how a particular person with a set of religious values resisted the biological analysis of this or that finding in an effort to reaffirm his or her belief. There are many such stories, but they miss the point. Scientists themselves are just as resistant to change a view when confronted with new data that suggest their view is incorrect. All of us hold on to our beliefs, and it now appears that men are even more tenacious about not letting go than are women

Let me be as clear as I can about what I mean by “holding beliefs” or having belief systems. Many roads lead to holding beliefs. For many religiously oriented people, rules and codes to live by are spelled out and delivered by the religion in question, when one signs on to it. For the scientist, scientific rules and codes become part of the beliefs one must uphold upon joining the ranks of the particular science. For utilitarians, the decisions society makes about life’s challenges become their own beliefs. Overall, and this is my view about the nature of beliefs, our species instinctively reacts to events, and in a specialized system of the human brain that reaction is interpreted. Out of that interpretation, beliefs emerge about rules to live by. Sometimes they have a moral character; sometimes they are of an utterly practical nature. We can form beliefs slowly or quickly. Studies have shown startling aspects of how we can generate and hold onto a belief. People who buy a computer-generated lotto ticket for a dollar are reluctant to part with it if offered more money for it seconds after its purchase. Offering two bucks—a 100 percent increase in their investment—doesn’t do it. In many instances the offer has to be extended to twenty bucks. Why? Why do we hold onto our beliefs—new or old? Interestingly, it turns out that scientists are slower to change their views in the face of new data than are preachers.

People will often put far more effort into rationalizing a reconciliation of their beliefs with new evidence than they will put into abandoning their beliefs. Beliefs are like possessions. People feel a sense of loss when they have to give up a belief and they resist the potential loss.

By Randall Parker    2005 October 15 10:57 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (6)
2005 September 29 Thursday
Charles Murray On Growing Underclass Criminality

Charles Murray argues that a great increase in incarceration rates has kept down the amount of crime committed while obscuring an increased willingness of America's underclass to commit crime.

The underclass has been growing. The crime rate has been dropping for 13 years. But the proportion of young men who grow up unsocialized and who, given the opportunity, commit crimes, has not.

A rough operational measure of criminality is the percentage of the population under correctional supervision. This is less sensitive to changes in correctional fashion than imprisonment rates, since people convicted of a crime get some sort of correctional supervision regardless of the political climate. When Ronald Reagan took office, 0.9% of the population was under correctional supervision. That figure has continued to rise. When crime began to fall in 1992, it stood at 1.9%. In 2003 it was 2.4%. Crime has dropped, but criminality has continued to rise.

This doesn't matter to the middle and upper classes, because we figured out how to deal with it. Partly we created enclaves where criminals have a harder time getting at us, and instead must be content with preying on their own neighbors. But mainly we locked 'em up, a radical change from the 1960s and 1970s. Consider this statistic: The ratio of prisoners to crimes that prevailed when Ronald Reagan took office, applied to the number of crimes reported in 2003, corresponds to a prison population of 490,000. The actual prison population in 2003 was 2,086,000, a difference of 1.6 million. If you doubt that criminality has increased, imagine the crime rate tomorrow if today we released 1.6 million people from our jails and prisons.

America is the incarceration nation. But what choice do we have? The crime rate would skyrocket if we weren't locking up so many young black men. We should at least stop adding to the problem by allowing the importation of an additional underclass from Mexico.

Murray points to a large decrease in young black male labor market participation rates even after adjusting for the increase in incarceration rate for black males.

Criminality is the most extreme manifestation of the unsocialized young male. Another is the proportion of young males who choose not to work. Among black males ages 20-24, for example, the percentage who were not working or looking for work when the first numbers were gathered in 1954 was 9%. That figure grew during the 1960s and 1970s, stabilizing at around 20% during the 1980s. The proportion rose again, reaching 30% in 1999, a year when employers were frantically seeking workers for every level of job. The dropout rate among young white males is lower, but has been increasing faster than among blacks.

That is a staggeringly high rate of drop-out from the labor market. Some of that dropping out is caused by immigration driving down wages at the bottom. Black males see easier money in crime and parasitism off of girlfriends. But some of the change is due to the breakdown of black families. Illegitimacy reduces the forces of socialization on black male boys and adolescents.

Murray makes a point you've heard here: The social program proposals in response to the looting and lawlessness in New Orleans are all ideas that have been tried before and failed.

The government hasn't a clue. Versions of every program being proposed in the aftermath of Katrina have been tried before and evaluated. We already know that the programs are mismatched with the characteristics of the underclass. Job training? Unemployment in the underclass is not caused by lack of jobs or of job skills, but by the inability to get up every morning and go to work. A homesteading act? The lack of home ownership is not caused by the inability to save money from meager earnings, but because the concept of thrift is alien. You name it, we've tried it. It doesn't work with the underclass.

He makes several other important points. It was hard to choose what to excerpt. Read the whole thing.

America is growing its underclass through immigration. But this gets little attention. Our liberal press and educational bureaucracy try to deceive us into believing that ways to close the inter-racial test score gaps exist. America's elites are lying about race. We live inside an elaborate mythology which needs constant defending to prevent us from publically uttering that which we see with our lying eyes. The need to lie about race ends up requiring lies about other subjects such as a recent lie about the effect of Christian religious beliefs on crime rates.

I see the news coverage of New Orleans as akin to that of workers on a Dutch dike running around patching leaks. Rather than plug up leaks in a physical wall reporters try to patch leaks in a mythology that walls us off from discussing taboo truths. The mythology patching has to ignore Indian response to Bombay/Mumbai flooding and somehow explain away the total absence of Japanese looting after the Kobe earthquake killed several thousand in 1995. An essential strategy for mythology leak patching is use of strawmen to build up and then knock down (no black crime problem to see here folks, just wild exaggerations).

Another essential element of mythology patching is to proclaim that something can be done about some problem with the underclass because, hey, it is all due to environment. Hence Bush's reaction to New Orleans turns into a mini-Great Society proposal for the Gulf Coast. The press's reaction includes underreporting, misleading reporting, and false proclamations that if we just pay attention to poverty and "feel their pain" we can solve it. The mythology dike can hold up even if some small media outlets and a very small minority of blogs point out the leaks. As long as most minds do not hear the discordant messages they will not try to flow through the holes and publically proclaim their loss of faith in the mythology. The latest flurry of patching is enough to ensure that the racial mythology dike can hold.

The mythology hole repair team faces two big problems in the medium to long run though. First of all, the underclass is growing mostly due to immigration but also because of the high rate of illegitimacy in the underclass. So many costs for management of the problems caused by the underclass are going to keep rising. The problems of the underclass could be managed more effectively with the truth. Therefore the costs of ignoring the truth are also rising. Secondly, science is not on the side of the defenders of the faith. DNA testing costs continue to fall and the evidence for substantial and differential rates of evolution of genes for cognition is becoming harder to ignore.

Update: Steve Sailer points out that lack of early employment opportunities for poor blacks sets up a vicious cycle.

Obviously, there's a chicken or egg issue involving the relationship between black fecklessness and illegal immigration. The more illegal immigrants pour in, the fewer people willing to hire poor blacks, so poor blacks don't get the discipline of holding a job, so they get even more feckless and unemployable.

Think about the numbers above folks. We have a huge problem that our elites are intent to either ignore or to spend money on in counterproductive ways in order to morally posture as caring.

Update II: Why is the volume of media lies about race currently running far above average? New Orleans created a huge need for mythological dike repair. All the "You Can't Talk About That" subjects intruded into the nation's collective consciousness as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The collective mind needs reminders both of what the official lies are and that the media, academic, and political elites stand ready to marginalize anyone who tries to deviate from the enforced mythology. This marginalization is an essential step in mythological dike repair. Plug those leaks in the collective public consciousness. Force forbidden thoughts back into the privacy of individual isolated minds rarely to be uttered out loud.

By Randall Parker    2005 September 29 03:40 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (30)
2005 September 11 Sunday
A Litany Of Mistakes In Hurricane Katrina Disaster Handling

The New York Times has a long excellent article reviewing many different things that went wrong in disaster response for Hurricane Katrina. It includes pathetic quotes from politicians at different levels of government who are busy playing a game of hot potato so that they do not get the blame. The Louisiana National Guard was as dumb with its vehicles as the New Orleans government with their 255 flooded buses.

The Louisiana National Guard, already stretched by the deployment of more than 3,000 troops to Iraq, was hampered when its New Orleans barracks flooded. It lost 20 vehicles that could have carried soldiers through the watery streets and had to abandon much of its most advanced communications equipment, guard officials said.

The article also relays how the local governments around the state wouldn't send buses to evacuate New Orleans because the bus drivers were afraid of criminals. Couldn't the state government have offered the bus drivers the ability to pick up only old folks and children? Or brought the people out of the city and let the bus drivers pick up the people after the people had been brought out to a safer location by a smaller number of vehicles?

Putting FEMA between volunteers and the disaster areas was a huge mistake.

The heart-rending pictures broadcast from the Gulf Coast drew offers of every possible kind of help. But FEMA found itself accused repeatedly of putting bureaucratic niceties ahead of getting aid to those who desperately needed it.

Hundreds of firefighters, who responded to a nationwide call for help in the disaster, were held by the federal agency in Atlanta for days of training on community relations and sexual harassment before being sent on to the devastated area. The delay, some volunteers complained, meant lives were being lost in New Orleans.

"On the news every night you hear, 'How come everybody forgot us?' " said Joseph Manning, a firefighter from Washington, Pa., told The Dallas Morning News. "We didn't forget. We're stuck in Atlanta drinking beer."

William D. Vines, a former mayor of Fort Smith, Ark., helped deliver food and water to areas hit by the hurricane. But he said FEMA halted two trailer trucks carrying thousands of bottles of water to Camp Beauregard, near Alexandria, La., a staging area for the distribution of supplies.

"FEMA would not let the trucks unload," Mr. Vines said in an interview. "The drivers were stuck for several days on the side of the road about 10 miles from Camp Beauregard. FEMA said we had to have a 'tasker number.' What in the world is a tasker number? I have no idea. It's just paperwork, and it's ridiculous."

Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, who interceded on behalf of Mr. Vines, said, "All our Congressional offices have had difficulty contacting FEMA. Governors' offices have had difficulty contacting FEMA." When the state of Arkansas repeatedly offered to send buses and planes to evacuate people displaced by flooding, she said, "they were told they could not go. I don't really know why."

There is a lot to be said for not requiring or even allowing top-down control of volunteers who want to help in disaster responses. Let people in the field spontaneously agree with each other on how to form up teams. Let them cooperate in whatever ways they decide make the most sense given the situations they see arising in front of them. FEMA should not have the power to make firemen go through training before entering a disaster area. Firemen know what to do. Let them do it.

Even if someone competent was running FEMA I still do not think it should have power over volunteers. Informal society should not go under government control in a disaster.

Update: But it bears repeating that the big mistakes were made by elected politicians from Louisiana before the hurricane hit.

In Katrina's wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular. But over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large.

Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state's congressional delegation and approved by the Corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate. Despite a series of independent investigations criticizing Army Corps construction projects as wasteful pork-barrel spending, Louisiana's representatives have kept bringing home the bacon.

You can bet that the Louisiana Congressional delegation does not want the public to take a hard look at how they allocated their pork barrel spending in Louisiana.

Update: To put that $1.9 billion a year chunk of money Louisiana got each year for Army Corps of Engineers spending in perspective: Al Naomi, senior project manager for the New Orleans District of the Army Corps of Engineers says that the category 5 levee protection system for New Orleans would have cost $2.5 billion. The elected officials of Louisiana steered that $1.9 billion away from projects rated more urgent and important by the Corps. They have done this for decades running.

Update II: On MSNBC Joe Scarborough interviewed a city official from Jefferson Parish south of New Orleans who told him FEMA people seized his fuel that his government had purchased in advance to run Parish electric generators. He sent his own sheriffs to escort his fuel into his hands. FEMA people also replaced his aerial for communications on a tower of his government and replaced it with their own. I didn't realize we are ruled by an imperial government. But FEMA apparently thinks we are.

Scarborough also interviewed Julia Reed of Vogue magazine and a New Orleans resident who described how Amtrak offered to carry out a large number of people before the hurricane hit and the city government just ignored the offer.

Also, the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, has spent almost a week now in Texas visiting his family. He's not real big on the work ethic when he's most needed. Nagin said everyone has made mistakes. Asked if he has made mistakes he claimed his mistake was that he didn't yell more loudly. So then was ignoring the Amtrak offer not a mistake? Or leaving the 255 school buses to get flooded rather than evacuate people not a mistake? How about not putting more food and fuel for electric generators in the Superdome? Was that not a mistake? How about not putting police on overtime the weekend before Katrina hit in order to round up criminals and otherwise get ready for the hurricane? Was that not a mistake?

An incredible amount of incompetence has been on display.

By Randall Parker    2005 September 11 01:23 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (20)
2005 September 08 Thursday
Baghdad Prepared US Soldiers For New Orleans

Battle hardened veterans from battles in Iraq see parallels between Iraq and New Orleans.

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 5 -- Spec. Frank Atkinson, wearing his tan desert fatigues from his recent deployment in Iraq, alternately drove a Humvee through downtown New Orleans streets littered with debris and putrid garbage and held suspected looters at gunpoint with his M-4 rifle.

"It's just so much like Iraq, it's not funny," said Atkinson, of Woodlawn, Ark., "except for all the water, and they speak English."

For a year ending this spring, Atkinson's infantry company of the Arkansas National Guard patrolled Baghdad's deadly Haifa Street, and scores of its members were awarded Purple Heart medals after fighting insurgents. Those war-zone images and instincts came flooding back Friday when Atkinson and 300 other Arkansas guardsmen, wearing helmets and full body armor, rolled into the chaos of central New Orleans.

"It's like Baghdad on a bad day," said Spec. Brian McKay, 19, of Mount Ida, Ark.

The whole article is worth reading.

Gun battles in New Orleans.

"We're having some pretty intense gun battles breaking out around the city," said Capt. Jeff Winn of the New Orleans police SWAT team. "Armed gangs of from eight to 15 young men are riding around in pickup trucks, looting and raping," he said. Residents fearful of looters often shout to passing Humvees to alert the soldiers to crimes in progress.

Some government officials were claiming that order had been restored to New Orleans two or three days ago. You don't suppose they were lying do you? I figure quite a few criminals will need to get captured or killed before that happens. But eventually New Orleans will be so deserted that it will be safer than it has been for centuries. That is what we call progress.

These soldiers are still better off than the soldiers in Baghdad. The looters will break a lot faster than Iraq's mujahedeen.

There's an obvious parallel between Iraq and Baghdad that has been missed: Democracy failed in New Orleans just as it failed in Baghdad. New Orleans is part of a nation with a population literally 600 times bigger than New Orleans and that nation imposes some amount of order on New Orleans. So the democracy failure is less apparent to those who want to avert their gaze from unpleasantness. But New Orleans has been part of the United States since the Louisiana Purchase. Though it almost was lost to the British in 1815 and was part of the Confederacy during the US Civil War. Still, it has been part of the United States for a long time and yet it is corrupt and dysfunctional as recent events have underscored. Democracy did not produce good government in New Orleans.

The failure of New Orleans government is predictable for those who have studied the accumulated body of evidence accumulated from psychometric research (PDF format).

Update: My sympathy goes out to all the towns and cities that are getting New Orleans refugees.

A Hurricane Katrina evacuee staying with a Plano family was arrested Tuesday and accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, police said.

Freddie Murray, 48, of New Orleans was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. Mr. Murray is a distant relative of the girl, police said. Police didn't know the exact relationship.

The difference here with Iraq is that in Iraq sex with relatives is done within the confines of marriage.

By Randall Parker    2005 September 08 09:49 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2005 August 26 Friday
Charles Murray: The Inequality Taboo

Charles Murray revisits the evidence for group average differences in ability with a highly recommended essay in Commentary. I urge you all to go read it. (same article here)

The Orwellian disinformation about innate group differences is not wholly the media’s fault. Many academics who are familiar with the state of knowledge are afraid to go on the record. Talking publicly can dry up research funding for senior professors and can cost assistant professors their jobs. But while the public’s misconception is understandable, it is also getting in the way of clear thinking about American social policy.

Good social policy can be based on premises that have nothing to do with scientific truth. The premise that is supposed to undergird all of our social policy, the founders’ assertion of an unalienable right to liberty, is not a falsifiable hypothesis. But specific policies based on premises that conflict with scientific truths about human beings tend not to work. Often they do harm.

One such premise is that the distribution of innate abilities and propensities is the same across different groups. The statistical tests for uncovering job discrimination assume that men are not innately different from women, blacks from whites, older people from younger people, homosexuals from heterosexuals, Latinos from Anglos, in ways that can legitimately affect employment decisions. Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 assumes that women are no different from men in their attraction to sports. Affirmative action in all its forms assumes there are no innate differences between any of the groups it seeks to help and everyone else. The assumption of no innate differences among groups suffuses American social policy. That assumption is wrong.

When the outcomes that these policies are supposed to produce fail to occur, with one group falling short, the fault for the discrepancy has been assigned to society. It continues to be assumed that better programs, better regulations, or the right court decisions can make the differences go away. That assumption is also wrong.

Hence this essay. Most of the following discussion describes reasons for believing that some group differences are intractable. I shift from “innate” to “intractable” to acknowledge how complex is the interaction of genes, their expression in behavior, and the environment. “Intractable” means that, whatever the precise partitioning of causation may be (we seldom know), policy interventions can only tweak the difference at the margins.

The inequality taboo harms American society in a number of ways. It is used to justify harmful immigration policies, labor laws that persecute perfectly fair employers, college admissions polices that discriminate against the more talented, medical school admissions policies that let in less talented and hence more dangerous future doctors, and other policies that each inflict a variety of forms of damage on individuals and society as a whole. The inequality taboo undermines law enforcement efforts and leads to unfair accusations of racism against cops. This leads to increased numbers of criminals on the streets and more suffering and death of victims of crime. The people who defend this taboo and attack those who violate the taboo have a lot to answer for.

Ultimately this taboo will fall to advances in DNA sequencing technology. The evidence from twins studies, transracial adoption studies (and also see here), brain scan studies correlated with IQ, and the wider body of research results from psychometric research already make clear what massive DNA comparisons between humans will find once DNA sequencing costs drop by orders of magnitude. I'm looking forward to the death of the taboo and honest discussions in the political mainstream of social problems in America.

Update: In the comments of a debate of the left-leaning TPM Cafe blog Jason Malloy refutes Matthew Yglesias's lame attempt to dismiss the results of psychometric research. If you go up to my link above to trans-racial adoption studies and look at the graph of income of Korean adoptees and native children of parents in the same families you'll see the Socio-Economic Status (SES) of families argument touted on the Left for why some are more successful does not fit with the evidence. Control for genetics and SES effects become so extremely small that even I'm amazed by how little SES matters.

The argument for identical average IQ across races is the biggest and most important bright shining lie of our era. From it flows so many damaging policies. Even in foreign affairs this bright shining lie provides an essential support for the ridiculous argument that the Middle Eastern countries can transform into Jeffersonian democracies. Middle Eastern countries face a large cognitive obstacle on the road to liberal democracy. In foreign policy the denial of the truth is getting thousands of American soldiers killed and maimed, costing the public purse hundreds of billions of dollars, and damaging US security.

Update II: See TangoMan's post "The Adoption Controversy, Part Two" for a detailed treatment of the study on the trans-racial adoption of Korean babies I link to above.

Update III: Also see Jason Malloy's post on trans-racial adoption and the success of Asians. Note that the environmental factors that favor better school performance are found more often in white than Asian homes in the US. So much for cultural stereotypes as explanations of Asian success. It is hard to square the standard Leftist "white male racism is holding back non-whites in America" diatribe with the success of many Asian ethnic groups in the US of A.

Aside: I use the term "Asian" reluctantly. The genetic distance between various "Asian" ethnies is as great as the distance between Europeans and some Asian groups. Asia is a very big place. The lumping together of so many groups under the "Asian brand" hides important genetic and cultural differences.

Update III: Also see Steves Sailer's excellent observations on Murray's article.

By Randall Parker    2005 August 26 12:20 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (24)
2005 February 04 Friday
Erroneous Views Of Western Men On Female Ideals For Male Bodies?

Researchers at Harvard Medical School-affiliated McLean Hospital think Taiwanese men have a more accurate view of what women see as ideal male bodies. How sexy is major musculature?

The researchers, led by Chi-Fu Jeffrey Yang, administered a computerized test, asking 55 male university students in Taiwan to choose pictures corresponding to their own bodies, the body they would like to have, the body of an average Taiwanese male, and the body that Taiwanese women would prefer. They then compared these results to those previously obtained in an identical study in the U.S. and Europe.

The Western men estimated that women preferred a male body with 20 to 30 pounds more muscle than an average man. But when actual Western women were asked to choose the male body that they liked, they selected an ordinary male body without all of the added muscle. By contrast, the Taiwanese men did not show this distortion; they correctly recognized that women did not prefer a bulked-up male body.

"Our findings suggest that Western men may have a very distorted view of what they ideally should look like, whereas men in Taiwan don't seem to have this problem," says senior author Harrison Pope Jr., MD, director of McLean Hospital's Biological Psychiatry Laboratory. "These factors may explain why body dysmorphic disorder and anabolic steroid abuse are far more serious in the West than in Taiwan. In fact, we have seen almost no evidence of steroid abuse anywhere in the Pacific Rim."

Is this difference in perceptions genetic or cultural? I have no idea. If it is cultural then where is it coming from? Are Hollywood movies with big strong action heroes the cause? But then why are those movies made? Also, Taiwanese people see some Hollywood movies.

Also, do American women really not prefer physically stronger men? My impression is that this is at least partially a function of intelligence and social class. There is a stronger preference for muscular men among lower than among upper class women. Is that preference (assuming I'm correct) due to economic or genetic causes? One can see how at least in the past strength was of greater value for earning higher salaries when doing manual labor. So did women prefer muscular men at least in part due to recognition of higher earnings potential?

By Randall Parker    2005 February 04 12:29 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (9)
2004 September 08 Wednesday
Drug Legalization, TV Watching, Laziness, Sex, Obesity

Steve Sailer has an article in The American Spectator arguing his belief that legalization of marijuana would make teenagers even lazier and fattier than they already are today.

The problem with marijuana is not that it's some wild and crazy thing, but that it's middle-age-in-a-bong. Smoking dope saps the energy from youth, turning them into sedentary couch potatoes.

The parents of America already have a hard enough time getting their teenagers -- and, increasingly, their adult children who have come back home to live -- off the TV room floor when they are perfectly straight. Parents understand that changing laws to make marijuana more readily available -- and, let's not kid ourselves, that's what these "reforms" would do -- would create an even more inert and obese generation of young people.

Legalization would lower costs, increase ease of access, and make it easier to get away with smoking pot. It therefore seems reasonable to expect usage to go up and drive and ambition to go down. Quite a few recreational drugs cause brain damage. So the short term effect of drug use is not the only effect. See my FuturePundit web log's Brain Addiction archives for posts on what has been discovered via brain scans of how various drugs damage different parts of the brain.

I do not personally buy the libertarian argument for legalization. My problem with it is that I see society as a kind of contract. We have a contractual obligation to our fellow citizens to not impair out ability to take care of ourselves and to respect the rights of others. Also, as a purely practical matter the more people who are impaired the more the rest of us will have to pay taxes to support them. Libertarian arguments against the welfare state are irrelevant because the majority of the public support the welfare state. Higher levels of irresponsible behavior by some people will always cause costs for the rest of us.

On a kinda related note the Rand Corporation think tank has just released a study providing evidence that TV watching leads to earlier sexual activity by teenagers.

Adolescents who watch large amounts of television containing sexual content are twice as likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse in the following year as their peers who watch little such TV, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.

In addition, the study found that youths who watch large amounts of TV with sexual content are more likely to initiate sexual activities other than intercourse, such as “making out” and oral sex. These adolescents behaved sexually like youths who were 9 to 17 months older, but watched only average amounts of TV with sexual content, according to the study published in the September electronic edition of the journal Pediatrics.

“This is the strongest evidence yet that the sexual content of television programs encourages adolescents to initiate sexual intercourse and other sexual activities,” said Rebecca Collins, a RAND psychologist who headed the study. “The impact of television viewing is so large that even a moderate shift in the sexual content of adolescent TV watching could have a substantial effect on their sexual behavior.”

“Television habits predicted whether adolescents went to ‘second or third base,’ as well as whether they had sex for the first time,” Collins said. “The 12-year-olds who watched a lot of television with sexual content behaved like the 14- or 15-years-olds who watched the least amount of sexual television. The advancement in sexual behavior we saw among kids who watched a lot of sexual television was striking.”

Researchers from RAND Health found that television shows that included only talk about sex had just as much impact on adolescent behavior as shows that depicted sexual behavior.

“We found little difference whether a TV show presents people talking about whether they have sex or portrays them having sex,” Collins said. “Both affect adolescents’ perceptions of what is normal sexual behavior and propels their own sexual behavior.”

On a positive note, the study found that one group — African American youth — that watched more depictions of sexual risks or safety measures was less likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse in the subsequent year.

Why are black kids different in their reaction to TV? Does TV sex provide some feeling of satiation for them? If so, why? If that is not the explanation for their different reaction then what is? Or is the difference more in the kids who do not watch much TV? Are the kids black kids who do not watch TV different than the white kids who do not watch TV in some way that accounts for the difference?

Another question: Are boys who watch more TV different on average in personalities from boys who play more video games? Also, are boys who spend more time on the internet on average smarter or different in personality than the boys who spend either more time watching TV or playing games or outside playing sports?

Also, different youthful subcultures developing around TV, games, internet, and outdoors activities?

By Randall Parker    2004 September 08 02:28 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (14)
2004 June 24 Thursday
Top People In Hierarchies Set The Tone

Bullies in positions of power set the tone and their underlings begin to copy their behavior. (same article here and here)

Ambition, experts say, is the bully's most insidious deputy. Dr. Leigh Thompson, an organizational psychologist at Northwestern University, and Cameron P. Anderson, of the New York University business school, are studying the effects of varying management styles on the behavior of small groups.

In one simulation, business students gather in teams of three, acting out the parts of company managers meeting to divvy up resources. The students are randomly assigned to one of three roles, the top manager of a large company, a middle manager and a lower-ranking manager.

After the negotiations begin, the researchers find, the heavyweights quickly dominate and, with regular meetings, they also transform the behavior of the No. 2 managers.

"If the person in charge is high energy, aggressive, mean, the classic bully type,'' Dr. Thompson said, "then over time, that's the way the No. 2 person begins to act."

She added that this holds true no matter how low-key and compassionate the No. 2 person looks on personality tests outside the simulation. Working to please and impress a more powerful figure, the second-tier managers are temporarily transformed into carbon copies of the alpha dogs, and in the simulation, they tend to corner the money and cut out the lowest-level players.

The article goes on to cite data collected by researchers from real world business environments that confirm this pattern.

People who are not the object of bullying often develop rationalizations for why another person really deserved it.

"They do this by wondering whether maybe the person deserved the treatment, that he or she has been annoying, or lazy, they did something to earn it," Dr. Duffy said.

The brutal behavior goes unchallenged, and the target feels a sudden chill of isolation that is all too real. By doing nothing, even people who abhor the bullying become complicit in the behavior and find themselves supplying reasons to justify it.

When people at the bottom of a hierarchy are misbehaving it is, more likely than not, a sign that there is a problem higher up in the hierarchy. Prison guards in Abu Ghraib out of control? They probably didn't go down that road on their own.

By Randall Parker    2004 June 24 04:03 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2004 April 23 Friday
Competition, Resentment, Demotivation, And Large Status Hierarchies

Over at Marginal Revolution Alex Tabarrok cites a research paper Performance in Competitive Environments: Gender Differences (PDF format), which studies how men and women perform in maze tournaments. Women perform worse than men on average but even worse when playing against men.

The authors compare male and female performance at solving mazes across different incentive systems. In a simple piece-rate system men perform slightly but not markedly better than women, on average the men solved 11.23 mazes in 15 minutes compared to 9.73 for the women, a difference of 1.5. But in a tournament, in which only the highest-paid performer wins, the men significantly improve their performance and the women hardly improve at all. As a result, the gender-gap in performance rises (men complete 15 mazes, the women only 10.8 for a difference of 4.2, stat. significant at p=0.034).

Now here is where it gets really interesting. One might think that this shows that women are less competitive than men. To test this the authors run single-sex tournaments. Surprisingly, in the single-sex tournaments the women's performance improves considerably relative to both their performance in the piece rate system and to their performance in the mixed tournament. Women do like to compete just not against men! Men's performance stays about the same as in the mixed tournament. As a result, when comparing the peformance of the all-male groups versus the all-female group, the gender gap shrinks considerably.

Click through to see the graph that illustrates the results.

One very plausible interpretation of the results: People will not compete as hard when they think their odds of winning are low. While that certainly has implications for differences in outcomes between the sexes it has broader implications for a large number of other situations where groups differ in average levels of skills, innate abilities, physical attractiveness, and other qualities. To boost productivity an argument can be made for creating separate social and work spheres where women and men or any two groups with different average levels of accomplishment would avoid competing across groups.

One aspect of modern society with, I think, unappreciated implications is that mass communications and mass transportation are putting more people in direct competition with each other. The most enthusiastic advocates of free markets see this trend as an unalloyed blessing. In their minds the more competition the better. But I think this viewpoint misses a fundamental fact of human nature: Most people want to feel like winners. (possible exceptions: some depressives and some people who have a great deal of natural contentment) Well, the bigger status hierarchies get the less chance any one person can be on or near the top.

This strikes me as having all sorts of highly problematic ramifications. Consider, for instance, the phenomenon of celebrity. As compared to most people celebrities are better looking, more successful, have higher status, and live what are portrayed as more exciting lives. Ever seen the TV show (forget whether it is on MTV or VH1) which is based on the theme of "It is good to be..."? Each episode has a theme where, for example, "It is good to be Britney Spears" or "It is good to be Jennifer Lopez". The personal possessions, money, and exciting lives of these people are shown in the most flattering terms. Many people who obsess about celebrities feel frustrated by either their inability to form real relationships with celebrities or their inability to be as successful and as loved as celebrities.

The ability to see celebrities and their possessions is just an extreme example of a more general phenomenon: the ability to compare oneself to many more people. One can compare one's friends, spouse, lovers (or lack thereof) to what more other people have. In a neolithic village of 30 or 40 people one could not feel that one was inferior to all that many people because so few were there in the first place. The odds that there was someone who had a better looking wife or a better hut were a whole lot lower than they are today. The amount of perceived relative deprivation was probably far less than it is today even as the amount of absolute deprivation was far greater back in the neolithic era.

Look at the hatred and resentment that Islamic fundamentalist terrorists feel toward the United States and other Western nations. Would as many of them feel as much animosity if there was no television, no movies, no photographs, and no airplanes that could take them to see what other people have in distant lands? I'm not arguing this resentment is the sole cause of their animosity. Their feelings arise from a complex set of factors including the practice of consanguineous marriage and Islamic beliefs. But the ability of people to compare themselves to more other people and to feel to be of lower status as compared to more people must generate resentments and even demoralization due to comparisons that would not have been possible in the past.

One advantage of the rise of a large number of special interests which are not shared by all members of society is that these interests provide people with smaller arenas in which to compete and seek status. The large variety of forms of competitive sports such as hot rod racing, golf, tennis, football, basketball, distance running, bicycling, and sail boat racing each provide an area in which a unique group of people can be the winners. Differences in values about what is important also provide opportunities for the creation of other kinds of subcultures based on purely intellectual achievements which produce their own unique status hierarchies. For instance, Linux open source developers can rank each other in an area where they collectively have decided what achievement is important. Also, scientists can compete for status in their professions and for awards such as the Nobel Prize.

However, in spite of the proliferation of new areas of pursuit of status we are still left with a trend toward more direct competition between growing numbers of people. This may be creating greater feelings of passivity and demoralization in some segments of the population. Are we then headed toward a future that will be characterised as an age of resentment? I'd very much like to hear your comments on this.

By Randall Parker    2004 April 23 11:09 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (20)
2004 February 29 Sunday
Prospect Of Democracy Breeding Ethnic Hatred In Iraq

Yale law professor Amy Chua, author of World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, argues that democracy is unleashing inter-ethnic conflicts around the world, including in Iraq.

When sudden democratisation gives voice to this previously silenced majority, opportunistic demagogues can swiftly marshal animosity into powerful ethno-nationalist movements that can subvert both markets and democracy. That is what happened in Indonesia, Zimbabwe, and most recently Bolivia, where weeks of majority-supported, Amerindian-led protests resulted in the resignation of the pro-US, pro-free-market "gringo" President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. In another variation, recent confiscations by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, of the assets of the "oligarchs" Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky - all well-known in Russia to be Jewish - were facilitated by pervasive anti-semitic resentment among the Russian majority.

Iraq is the next tinderbox. The Sunni minority, particularly the Ba'aths, have a large head start in education, capital and economic expertise. The Shiites, although far from homogeneous, represent a long-oppressed majority of 60-70%, with every reason to exploit their numerical power. Liberation has already unleashed powerful fundamentalist movements which, needless to say, are intensely anti-secular and anti-western. Iraq's 20% Kurdish minority in the north, mistrustful of Arab rule, creates another source of profound instability. Finally, Iraq's oil could prove a curse, leading to massive corruption and a destructive battle between groups to capture the nation's oil wealth.

Chua points out that the government of Indonesia, once it became democratic, nationalized $58 billion dollars worth of assets formerly owned by Indonesian Chinese. The result is stagnation of Indonesia's economy with high unemployment, poverty, and the rise of extremist movements. Will similar calamities befall Iraq? Since I favor placing empirical evidence ahead of ideological beliefs when setting policy I think the rational response to the situation in Iraq is to split the country up into 3 countries where there is a single dominant overwhelming majority in each country with more trust of its own members. More arguments for that approach here.

Chua is unwilling to build on her observations to either explain why there are market dominant minorities or to explain what ought to be done about preventing the development of the conflicts that inevitably come from having market dominant minorities. Paul Craig Roberts argues that Chua misses obvious conclusions about US immigration polices and about US foreign policy that can be drawn from her observations.

Certainly the U.S. government and the IMF should take care not to export policies that worsen ethnic conflicts, but the more powerful conclusion to be drawn from Chua’s material—a conclusion that Chua studiously avoids—is that the U.S., Europe, the U.K., Australia, Canada, and New Zealand should immediately cease and desist from reconstructing themselves as multi-ethnic societies. Accentuating ethnic conflict abroad is stupid, even criminal, but it is insane to import unassimiliable ethnic groups into Western countries, thus replicating in the West the Third World conflicts that Chua so terrifyingly describes.

In his analysis of Chua's work Steve Sailer points out that property rights and one man-one vote do not always mix and that this is bad news for the future of the United States.

That property rights and one man-one vote democracy don't always mix well would not have surprised Aristotle, Edmund Burke, or Alexander Hamilton. Yet many Americans who call themselves conservatives have forgotten this.

One reason: we are one of the fairly small number of lucky countries with "market dominant majorities." We can have our cake (capitalism) and eat it too (democracy) because our majority group is economically quite competent.

America's perpetual trouble has been a less-productive black minority. Black-white economic inequality is not a problem that America is going to be able to solve any time soon. But, due to our market-dominant majority, our country is rich enough to live with it.

In contrast, if our current mass immigration system is allowed to continue, America will become just another country with a market dominant minority. Through government policy, we will have inflicted upon ourselves the kind of ugly society seen in most of the rest of the world.

Also see Vinod on Amy Chua's work.

Proclaiming that all ethnic and racial groups should all be equally economically successful will not make it happen. Less successful groups will inevitably resent more successful groups and will therefore act politically, whether at the ballot box or by other means, to express their resentments. Any society whose most successful groups become a smaller fraction of the population is one that is going to have more strife, more crime, more use of government to seize assets from the most successful groups, less civility, and less trust. The debate over this problem and its implications for and foreign policy - especially for immigration policy - has now reached the leftish mainstream in the UK with David Goodhart's Prospect article about Great Britain becoming too diverse being republished in the Guardian. Anthony Browne, Environment Editor of the London Times, has also played a role in bringing a skeptical look at immigration into the mainstream of British political debate. But that debate is still taboo in The New York Times and other legitimizers of elite liberal-left discourse in America. This taboo also has the effect of making US foreign policy in places like Iraq dangerously naive as the assertion of unversalist beliefs about how we can all just get along in democratic capitalistic utopians obscures the much uglier truths about why the world's problems are so much less tractable.

By Randall Parker    2004 February 29 01:35 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2004 February 22 Sunday
University Presidents Are Pre-Darwinian

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution has a post about what university presidents think undergraduates ought to read.

Here is what university presidents think:

1. The Bible
2. The Odyssey
3. The Republic
4. Democracy in America
5. The Iliad
6. Hamlet
7. (tie) Wealth of Nations, The Koran, The Prince
10. (tie) Federalist Papers, Don Quixote, On Liberty, Invisible Man, King Lear, War and Peace, Moby Dick, The Lexus and the Olive Tree

What an incredibly deficient list. The longer list is not much better and completely misses the bulk of what science is telling us about human nature, life forms in general, and the physical laws of the universe. A person can not be truly educated if that person does not understand:

  • The scientific method.
  • Evolution by natural selection.
  • Statistics.
  • Some basic physics.

Evolution of species by natural selection is obviously the most important idea to come along in the last couple hundred years. Yet most people (and I suspect, most university presidents) still model the world using a pre-Darwinian set of concepts. Plus, even a lot of people who accept natural selection created us still shrink from embracing many of its ramifications (including the fact that natural selection is still happening).

What does it tell us about university presidents that many of them cited Karl Marx and not a single one cited Charles Darwin? Marxism is not a useful set of ideas for thinking about the world. Yet natural selection obviously is. At least the university presidents didn't mention some other discredited modern era frauds such as Sigmund Freud and Margaret Mead.

The inclusion of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History Of Time for a science book is a poor choice since it is not going to teach the reader how to think scientifically or to be able to better understand science. Two mentioned Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel which strikes me as a poor choice. William H. McNeill's review and follow-up outline some of the problems with the book as has Steve Sailer. So the university presidents have no useful advice to offer students to learn about biological science and human nature. They could have pointed to a number of other books such as Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. or perhaps Edward O. Wilson's Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge.

Colleges and universities do a poor job of training young minds. They are very costly, inefficient, and do not require their students to learn basic topics which are essential for making sense of the world. My own biggest educational deficiency is that I had only a single class in statistics and that was not mandated. As a result, I know enough math to detect all sorts of fallacies coming from second rate social scientists (i.e. most social science academics), commentators, politicians, and others. But I'm painfully aware that there are types of analyses I just can't do or even follow that the statistically more adept can perform. You can't understand reality without understanding statistics. Does that mean I'm not truly educated? Afraid so.

By Randall Parker    2004 February 22 04:19 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (9)
2003 December 10 Wednesday
Bullies Are Popular And Have High Self Esteems

Here's another nail in the coffin of the foolish myth that a utopian therapeutic society can make everyone behave better by making them feel better about themselves.

More than one in five 12-year-olds are repeatedly either bullies, victims or both, and bullies are often popular and viewed by classmates as the "coolest" in their classes, according to new UCLA research from the most comprehensive study on young adolescent bullying in an ethnically diverse, large urban setting.

Bullies, seven percent of the students, are psychologically strong.

"Bullies are popular and respected: they are considered the 'cool' kids," said Jaana Juvonen, UCLA professor of psychology, and lead author of "Bullying Among Young Adolescents: The Strong, the Weak and the Troubled," published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics. "They don't show signs of depression or social anxiety and they don't feel lonely.

"We hope that these findings help us dispel the myth that bullies suffer from low self-esteem," Juvonen said. "Our data indicate that bullies do not need ego boosters. Unfortunately, this myth is still guiding many programs conducted in schools. Instead, we should be concerned about the popularity of bullies and how to change the peer culture that encourages bullying."

Depression, social anxiety and loneliness are common among victims of bullies, who are nine percent of the students in the UCLA study.

"Young teens who are victims of bullying are often emotionally distressed and socially marginalized," said Juvonen, who also works as a consultant to Los Angeles elementary schools on developing anti-bullying programs. "Many of the victims are disengaged in school.

"Victims are reluctant to talk about their plight," she said. They suffer is silence and often blame themselves. This is one of our challenges for intervention: We need to provide students with educational settings in which they feel comfortable talking about their plight. But we also need to give kids tools to effectively deal with bullying. One method of doing so involves engaging students to talk about strategies that might help them stop bullying and tactics that make them feel better after being bullied. Teachers can facilitate the generalization of these skills if they help students mediate incidents between students."

The victims have even worse lives than those shown in Hollywood coming-of-age teen movies.

Students who witness bullying often encourage bullies by watching someone getting pushed around or called names or helping a classmate spread rumors about another student, Juvonen said. Bystanders rarely intervene with bullying. Juvonen regards this as one of the biggest challenges for effective anti-bullying intervention.

"Bully-victims," the six percent of students who both bully and get bullied, are the most disturbed group of all, Juvonen and her colleagues found. They are by far the most unpopular students, least engaged in school, most disruptive in class and they also reported somewhat elevated levels of depression and loneliness, Juvonen said. Teachers ranked these "bully-victims" as having by far the most conduct problems.

Kids are much closer to the Hobbesian state of nature and lessons from studies such as this one are useful for understanding international relations between states unrestrained by any higher authority. Also, the bullies bear some resemblance to dictators who can be surprisingly popular and defended as they beat on their own people and neighboring countries.

By Randall Parker    2003 December 10 06:13 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (25)
2003 November 30 Sunday
Child Abuse Dropped In US After 1996 Welfare Reform

Contrary to various liberal predictions to the contrary welfare reform did not cause an increase in child abuse.

PHILADELPHIA -- Despite predictions to the contrary, the incidence of child abuse did not rise with the implementation of welfare reform.

After analyzing data from a number of national sources on child abuse and neglect, Richard J. Gelles, dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania, concluded that, not only did maltreatment of children in the United States not increase after the 1996 passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, the opposite happened.

"All the doomsday scenarios predicting that families, and especially children, would be direct victims of this legislation just didn't happen," Gelles said.

Among the data sources Gelles used in his research were the National Incidence Survey of Reported and Recognized Child Maltreatment, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, Prevent Child Abuse America Reports from the States and the State Automated Child Welfare Information System.

The rate of confirmed child maltreatment, according to the NCANDS data, increased from 1990 to 1993, decreased slightly between 1993 and 1996 and then declined steeply between 1996 and 1999 before increasing again in 2000. Reports of child abuse and neglect have stabilized at about 3 million children per year.

Could it be that forcing people to take responsibility for earning a living caused them to become more responsible toward their children as well?

By Randall Parker    2003 November 30 02:58 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2003 November 14 Friday
Working With The Opposite Sex Wrecks Marriages

The effects of temptation are very real.

The seven-year study of 37,000 employees at 1,500 workplaces provides empirical evidence that working with people of the opposite sex is hazardous to your marriage. Working with co-workers who are all of the opposite sex increases the divorce rate by a startling 70 percent, compared with an office filled with co-workers of the same sex. Whether the co-workers were single or married had no impact, says author Yvonne Aberg, now a research fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford University, England

Does this mean that the marriage of Kirsten and Sandy Cohen on The OC is doomed now that that lawyer temptress woman is going after Sandy at the office?

This is an argument for bringing back politically incorrect single-sex schools. Kids are distracted by those of the opposite sex. Homosexuals are a more complicated case though. One could not send homosexual males to a female school because if more than one homosexual male was sent to the same school they'd be attracted to each other. It is a lot easier to separate sexually distractable heterosexuals than to do the same with homosexuals.

By Randall Parker    2003 November 14 10:31 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2003 September 09 Tuesday
Winning Basketball Teams Lead To College Drop-Outs

Successful college and university basketball teams have the effect of reducing graduation rates by distracting students from their studies.

University of Arkansas researchers report that universities with highly successful basketball programs experience reduced graduation rates as a direct result of their team's athletic prowess. This means that even as teams battle to win the championship title, their home institutions may be suffering a significant loss.

UA sociology professor Doug Adams and professor emeritus William Mangold have conducted a statistical analysis of 97 major Division IA universities. Their research examines the impact of intercollegiate athletic success on overall institutional graduation rates and appears in the September/October issue of The Journal of Higher Education.

Numerous studies have analyzed the graduation rates of student athletes and debated the emphasis placed on academic and athletic success. However, the University of Arkansas study represents the first detailed examination of how specific sports - football and basketball - each impact overall graduation rates.

"Current student retention theories tell us that a strong athletic program brings students together, that it fosters school spirit, pride and solidarity in the institution and that this leads to greater retention and higher graduation rates. That's not what our results showed," Adams said.

While football appeared to have a slight positive impact on overall graduation rates, the data showed a much stronger negative correlation to successful basketball programs. As teams scored more and more victories, net graduation rates dropped.

Why is basketball worse? It uses up more time of undergrads.

According to the researchers, football attracts a larger alumni crowd while basketball games are more popular among the students. In addition, basketball teams play more games during the season, and games are more likely to be held during the school week. As basketball continues to gain popularity, its impact on academics grows.

If some school wanted to get more serious about academics (the supposed reason that institutions of higher education exist) they'd drop their basketball program. But it seems pretty safe to bet against that happening.

By Randall Parker    2003 September 09 02:09 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 August 21 Thursday
Ballot Candidate Name Order Influences Voter Choices

Not exactly a confidence-inspiring revelation about the electorate.

In the 2000 presidential race, George W. Bush received 9 percent more votes among Californians when he was listed first on the ballot than when he was listed later, a new study found.

“Even in high profile elections such as the presidential race and upcoming recall contest, name order on the ballot can make a big difference,” said Jon Krosnick, co-author of the study and professor of psychology and political science at Ohio State.


In this new study, Krosnick and two colleagues examined how ballot position affected votes cast for the presidential candidates in three states: California, North Dakota and Ohio. All three states rotate candidate names on ballots within the state. And in all three states, Bush received more votes when he was listed first on the ballots. Other presidential candidates also tended to do better when listed first, but the results were not statistically significant, Krosnick said.

One advantage that Arnold Schwarzenegger has in running for Governor of California is that people actually know who he is. Plus, his name is longer and so it sticks out in a list of names. A person scanning down the list is more likely to notice it.

By Randall Parker    2003 August 21 02:41 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 August 15 Friday
Will Increasing National Security Threats Restore Status Of Masculinity?

An interesting Frontpage Magazine-American Enterprise symposium conducted by Jamie Glazov with anthropologist Lionel Tiger, Michael Ledeen, and David Gutmann is on the topic The Return of Manhood

Interlocutor: Why do you think that the male professions in question fell out of favor with American elites during the dark 1970s?

Bowman: They actually fell out of favor much earlier than that. Almost all the worst features of the 1960s and 1970s were anticipated in the 1920s, and the disfavor into which masculine honor fell then was owing to the slaughter of the First World War and the simultaneous rise of feminism and psychotherapy. The discredit these developments brought to masculine honor was offset by the need for it during the Second World War, though it was very different then from what it had been 25 years earlier. But the brief swing back towards tradition of the 1950s was undone by the same culprits in a new guise: the dirtiness of counter-insurgency warfare, second-wave feminism and the romance of victimhood, especially with post-traumatic stress disorder, a new and poetical illness that, seemingly, everyone who had been to Vietnam (and a great many who had not) wanted to claim for themselves.

Tiger: Elites are surely principally interested in what interests them - other elites, their money, their jobs, their housing, their associations. Beat cops and corporals have rarely been the foci of interest and admiration of elites, especially females, because they promise little in the way of resources, status, fun, and opportunities for children. As well, the training and disposition of those in the lower echelons of the male professions were relatively thin and, yes, macho.

Now, however, soldiers and policeman are more sophisticated, operate more and costlier equipment, and are clearly more than trench-diggers or bouncers. So there's been an upgrade of occupational tone of especially indigenous working males while the muckwork of the world is increasingly performed by immigrants who don't figure in any of this palaver for at least 20 years of their American residence. Traditional concepts of sex were changed into skeltonless notions of "gender" and a vast and successful tsunami of bad science about the social construction of sex as well as everything else - to say nothing of the bizarre separation of the social from the natural sciences - squashed any empirical naturalism on the subject. It has been Lysenko at his most effective.

Eventually the evidence of average biological differences in cognitive processes of males and females will become so large that the radical egalitarian feminist idelogues will have to retreat from some of their ridiculous positions. Though their retreat will probably be to a position that basicaly claims that, yes, men and women are different but in ways that reflect poorly on men. We can see where that line of thinking will lead from a comment by Tiger:

The school system tries to remould males and doesn't do so well. Hence only 43% of college students are male, 9 times as many males as females are victims of Ritalin which is an effort to turn them behaviorally into females.

Advances in the biological science of human nature may well intensify the ideological battle in American society as factions battle over which kinds of behavioral tendencies should be undermined with pharmacology and genetic engineering.

As for whether the masculine qualities will come to have a higher status: it depends on how the war against terrorism goes. If there are a few more big terrorist attacks in the United States that will do more to change the popular view of men than any reasoned debate could accomplish. Academia is rotten and, since existing professors make tenure decisions about new professors, it is likely to stay that way. Quite simply, academia lacks mechanisms for self-correction.

By Randall Parker    2003 August 15 12:44 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 August 02 Saturday
Most Zimbabwean Women Think Wife Beating Is Justified

People in different cultures have different values.

More than 50 percent of women in Zimbabwe believe domestic violence is justifiable in certain situations, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. When presented with five situations -- arguing with her spouse, neglecting the children, refusing to have sex, burning food or leaving the home without telling her husband -- the study participants agreed that a husband is justified beating his wife. The study, "Understanding women's attitudes towards wife beating in Zimbabwe," appears in the July 2003, issue of Bulletin, the newsletter of the World Health Organization.

Michelle J. Hindin, PhD, author of the study and assistant professor in the Department of Population and Family Health Sciences at the School of Public Health, said, "While further research is needed to explicitly make the link between women's attitudes towards wife beating and their experiences of abuse, women's attitudes serve as a marker for social acceptability and reflect pervasive gender norms and the unequal status of women in Zimbabwean society."

Women aged 15-24 were over two and half times more likely to believe that wife beating was justified when compared to women aged 45-49. Although fewer older women said they found violence against women acceptable, over 50 percent of the women in this age group justified beatings. The researchers said that the results are evidence that wife beating is standard behavior in Zimbabwean society.

Younger women living in rural areas, with low household wealth, less than a secondary education and lower occupational status more frequently justified violence at the hands of their spouse. Women who share the responsibility of making household decisions with their husbands, live in an urban environment, came from wealthy households or had secondary education or higher were less likely to rationalize wife beating. In addition, women who share the same level of education with their spouses were less likely to justify violence.

Large influxes of people from one culture into another culture will change the average values held in the receiving culture. Cultural differences do matter.

By Randall Parker    2003 August 02 10:28 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 July 03 Thursday
Fouad Ajami On Anti-Americanism And Pollsters

Reacting to the latest poll of world opinion by the Pew Research Center the always interesting Fouad Ajami casts a skeptical eye at the claims that anti-Americanism is growing in response to US actions.

"America is everywhere," Ignazio Silone once observed. An idea of it, a fantasy of it, hovers over distant lands. In the days that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, a young Palestinian gave expression to the image America holds out in places where its shadow falls: the boy passing out sweets in celebration of America's grief wondered aloud as to the impact of the bombings on his ability to get a U.S. visa. He felt no great contradiction. He had no feeling of affection or loyalty for the land he yearned to migrate to. He grew up to the familiar drums of anti-Americanism. He had implicated America in his life's circumstances. You can't reason with his worldview. You can only wish for him deliverance from his incoherence--or go there, questionnaire in hand, and return with dispatches of people at odds with American policies. You can make foreigners say the sort of things about America you wanted to say yourself.

The use of foreigners essentially as props in domestic American and wider Western cultural and political battles is becoming too dangerous. Ideological factions in Europe and the United States have created elaborate intellectual justifications for grievances felt by non-Westerners because the intellectuals want "authentic" Third Worlders to play the scripted role of the victims of capitalists, Americans, hawks, right-wingers, or whoever some faction in the West views as its enemies. The danger of playing this sort of game is that it has the effect of legitimizing and intensifying irrational grievances in non-Westerns that are going to be present anyway due to envy that naturally tends to form toward the denizens of distant and more successful lands.

Also, with regard to the quote above of "America is everywhere", psychologically speaking in the minds of billions of people this is only too true. See my post On Globalization And The Psychological Visibility Of America and also click thru on the link at the bottom of that post and read Robert Koehler's reply.

Update: On a related note see this essay by Theodore Dalrymple about how envious people tend to think they deserve to make more money than they do.

On the other hand, the poor (by whom I mean all those who are not rich) always believe that wealth greater than theirs is illicit or unjust. They subscribe to the strange superstition that, if there were any justice in the world, they would be much better off than they are. It is not that they have failed to earn the money that would make them rich: rather, they have been deprived or despoiled of it. The rich have cornered the market in money.

Globalization of the marketplace and the rise of cheap worldwide communications and transportation shows people all around the world more people who are doing better than they are and increases feelings of envy and dissatisfaction. Because technological advances have reduced the barriers of distance the sources and targets of envious feelings are more likely to belong to different races, tribes, nationalities, religions, linguistic groupings, and cultures. This phenomenon where envy is increasingly directed at people who are more unlike the people who are feeling the envy is a trend that looks set to continue.

By Randall Parker    2003 July 03 03:49 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 July 01 Tuesday
On Globalization And The Psychological Visibility Of America

In the comments section of a post on Winds of Change.NET's Hushoor's Korea Briefing Robert Koehler of the Marmot's Hole blog makes an interesting set of observations about the Korean people and anti-Americanism.

Even among "pro-American" Koreans, the depth to which these feelings exhibit themselves can be truly astonishing; when Koreans discuss among themselves the (perceived) need for the US military in South Korea, little is ever mentioned of the historic ties between the two countries, or the common interests between Seoul and Washington. Rather, the arguments run something like this - Korea is a small, weak country, and it has no choice but to rely on the US. If the USFK leaves, then foreign investors will run away and our economy will be destroyed. If the US leaves, then Japan will re-arm, and we'll once again be a "shrimp between two whales." Poor, helpless Korea! Of course, the reality is much different - South Korea possesses the world's 13th largest economy, one of the world's largest (and toughest!) militaries, and is a major foreign investor abroad. Still, the feelings are there, buttressed by an education system that indoctrinates "victimization" from a very early age.

It should be pointed out, however, that in the Korean context, there are very few "Marxists," per say. "Progressive" Korean students simply use the language of Marxism to cover an intellectual system that, at its base, is really quite reactionary and disturbingly similar to the racial theories expoused by Japanese militarists during the 1930s. Despite recourse to such terms as imperialism and the "masses," the Korean "Left"'s beef with capitalism, globalization, and the US has nothing to do with its concern for the international working class, and everything to do with globalization's "assault" on Korea's (supposedly uniquely unique) cultural identity. The work "minjok," which most closely corresponds to the German word "volk," is one of the most oft-used in Korean radical student discourse (and in North Korea, as well). It's used all the time; in fact, one almost never hears referrences made to "class struggle." "Struggle," when the term is used, is almost always used in a racial context. The Japanese have the same work - minjoku - except that in the Japanese context, the word carries strong connotations of the 1930s, and only re-entered common use in Japan after Nakasone's prime ministership in the 1980s (the term was actually banned by American occupational authorities).

I think there is an important idea here that relates to the effect that globalization is having. As more influences come into each culture from other cultures lots of people around the world feel, to varying degrees, like their culture is being attacked by outside influences. Local racial and ethnic prejudices still have a force and legitimacy in other parts of the world that most Americans would find astonishing given current American attitudes about such matters. Therefore there is a tendency to miss just how much these prejudices motivate the complaints that come from various cultures when we hear about anti-American sentiment.

One problem America has is that America is the most visible high profile source of cultural products which have clearly identified country of origin. Movies, TV shows, and other forms of media create celebrities and cultural phenomena which have easily recognizeable American origins. Even in a country which does not have America as top trading partner people sense America's presence to a degree that far exceeds America's actual influence over events that occur within the country's border. American-branded fast food restaurants, movies, and branded products from creative companies such as Disney see to it that America has a high profile.

On a related note, technological changes trigger social changes. The birth control pill, home appliances, TV dinners, and countless other consumer products helped trigger a change in the status of women and their relationship with men. America, being more affluent, has widely adopted many socially changing technologies first. The birth control pill, the car, television, the dishwasher, and a great many other products achieved widespread adoption in America long before doing so in many other parts of the world. Therefore many social changes happened in America first. In countries which are now taking up technologies that lead to changes in their societies many people already identify those social changes with America. This mental connection between social changes and America causes a tendency in many of those who are concerned about changes in their own society to suspect that those changes are a result of a willful desire on the part of the United States to change their society.

The human mind tends to want to personalize the causes for events. The tendency among some to embrace a succession of conspiracy theories represents a desire to make the conditions of their lives comprehensible by assigning blame to choices made by identifiable conspirators. To people who lack a deeper understanding of the causes of rapid changes the personalization of the causes gives them a sense of comprehension that they'd otherwise lack. That the comprehension is false is besides the point because it fulfills an emotional need.

The problem for the United States in all this is that technological advances and international trade are causing great social changes throughout the world and the United States is the most visible cause of those changes. As US cultural products and other products make it more visible it becomes a target of blame for conditions which are not even the result of technological changes or of US government policy. Simply by being prominent in the thinking of people around the world the US all too often becomes the preferred target of blame for many grievances.

There is another important point to consider when looking at grievances: just because a grievance is strongly felt does not mean that it is justified. Not only are the wrong people frequently unfairly assigned responsibility for the state of affairs that causes a feeling of grievance but quite often the state of affairs is not necessarily even unfair in the way that the complainers claim it to be. Ever worked at a place where some lazy co-worker got really upset for being passed over for a raise or promotion? Ever marvelled at the totally unjustified sense of grievance that people you know sometimes express? Well, whole cultures and nations are no less flawed in this regard than individual humans. People are not only unfair in how they treat each other. They are also frequently unfair when they blame others for being unfair to them. The point is that plenty of people are walking around getting upset about things in their life that are not anyone else's fault and yet they are looking for plausible candidates to blame.

Another point about unjustified grievance is that some grievances are the result of a conflict of values. If some Jihadi Al Qaeda member thinks the US ought to be destroyed because American moves are putting subversive ideas into the minds of his society's women then he's properly ascertaining the origins of something that he objects to yet he's proclaiming a grievance that does not register as a legitimate grievance to most Americans. It is important to understand that such grievances really do exists and are not simply the product of frustration over failed economies or unfair dictators.

What should be done about this state of affairs? I see a couple of lessons. The first is that, in a situation where the US is contemplating a new form of intervention in some part of the world we should ask whether doing so will make us more visible as a cause of what is making people there dissatisfied. Note that this can cut both ways. If we are going to be blamed for the outcome even if we do not do some interventon (e.g. the US was blamed for the conditions in Iraq as a result of the sanctions even before the US invaded) then that is an argument for intervention. If we are going to be blamed then at least if we take control of a situation and try to get some benefit from it and perhaps even recognition that we made some place better than it was (note I'm not trying to say that reason alone is suffiicient justification for intervention). On the other hand, if we do not need to intervene because there is no compelling national interest and if the people in some messed-up place do not currently blame us for what is wrong there that is a strong argument to not intervene since intervention effectively means we will be judged and blamed for what then transpires.

Another lesson is that US intellectuals who trumpet American power and American influence over the world are probably not serving US interests. Americans who proclaim that America has enormous power and influence are giving the blamers reasons to blame America if they do not like something in their own country or region of the world. From the viewpoint of the blamers if America is so powerful and something about their lives and society dissatisfies them then it must be America's fault because after all America is in charge, is running an empire, and so on. American commentators who want to reduce resentment toward America ought to put a lot more effort into describing why in each region of the world locally caused factors are the cause of local problems. There is a tendency to shy away from doing this because the commentators do not want to come across as sounding superior and judgemental and in some cases they simply think it is rude and insulting to criticise other societies. But given the extent to which America is blamed for what is wrong with the world it really is necessary to turn the tables and start assigning blame to other cultures, governments, religions, and assorted local causes.

Update: Be sure to read Robert Koehler's response.

By Randall Parker    2003 July 01 03:30 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2003 June 03 Tuesday
Death Rate From War Was Higher When Food Was Scarce

Obviously there are a lot of other reasons why the death rate from war has declined. History is over-determined by many factors. Theories that explains some historical trend based on a single factor are far more often wrong than right. Still, it makes sense that when hunger was far more common humans were often in the position where starting and winning a war would help them survive.

Why do today’s wars impose such a low percentage of deaths? We’re living in the first era when humans haven’t had to kill each other to protect food supplies for their families.

Stephen LeBlanc, of Harvard’s Peabody Museum, writes in the May/June issue of Archaelogy that resource-scarcity warfare left ample evidence of violent deaths, including mass graves, crushed skulls, and spear points between skeletal ribs. Researchers also find bows, arrows, spears, piles of slingshots and plaster sling missiles, lots of doughnut-shaped stones perfect for war club heads, and even prehistoric bone armor in the Arctic.

“The prehistoric people who lived in southern California had the highest incident of warfare deaths known anywhere in the world,” says LeBlanc. “Thirty percent of a large sample of males dating to the first centuries A.D. had wounds or died violent deaths. About half that number of women had similar histories. When we remember that not all warfare deaths leave skeletal evidence, this is a staggering number.”

From an evolutionary perspective, humans would not have such a capacity for aggressiion and lethal violence if violence had not been adaptive for much of human history. Of course now the same genetic predisposition toward aggression is problematic.

By Randall Parker    2003 June 03 12:18 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 March 19 Wednesday
Mark Steyn Likes Straight Talking Donald Rumsfeld

Mark Steyn sings the praises for US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

That's Rumsfeld's function -- to take the polite fictions and drag them back to the real world. During the Afghan campaign, CNN's Larry King asked him, "Is it very important that the coalition hold?" The correct answer -- the Powell-Blair-Gore-Annan answer -- is, of course, "Yes." But Rummy decided to give the truthful answer: "No." He went on to explain why: "The worst thing you can do is allow a coalition to determine what your mission is." Such a man cannot be happy at the sight of the Guinean tail wagging the French rectum of the British hind quarters of the American dog.

I think tendency in diplomacy to not speak the truth is quite often counter-productive. The public all over the world frequently will benefit from having explained to them the truths that so many officials will take offense over. Often the roots of some problem are simple if boiled down to basics. Stating the basics will help people's understanding and will signal to the listeners that you have a grasp of reality.

The effect of truth-telling is also to increase the respect that people feel toward a government. After all, if a high muckety-muck lies to an interviewer in order to send a signal to leaders in another country or to avoid giving offense to those other leaders he's not jusy having an impact on what those leaders think of him. He's being heard by his own country's populace and the populaces of other countries who have busy lives and lack of time to parse and interpret government statements. If members of a populace figure out that they are being lied they may not understand that they are not the real target of the lie and many will feel disrespected because they wrongly think some government is trying to deceive them. Or if the populace is the target of the lie the populace will feel insulted and disrespected because the government really is trying to fool them.

I fully share Mark Steyn's enthusiasm for Donald Rumsfeld. If more political figures spoke so bluntly and honestly our political discourse would be much improved.

By Randall Parker    2003 March 19 12:03 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2002 December 26 Thursday
Lionel Tiger on What Humans Need

Noted anthropologist Lionel Tiger talks about basic human needs.

Using physiology as his baseline, Tiger said we have a sturdy general idea of what the body needs and how it should be cared for. The body is structure, and behavior is function. Structure and function are almost invariably related. From this interaction, he developed his portfolio of behavioral "vitamins."

The first is the opportunity to be governed by rules about maturity. "That is, 3-year-olds do not and should not have the same package of rights and responsibilities as 30-year-olds."

The second is access to fresh air and natural light as necessary for indulging in agreeable behavior.

The third is greenery. "Humans evolved in nature, and we try to import the upper Paleolithic into our high-rise apartments by buying plants whose only serious function is aesthetic," Tiger said.

We are not infinitely malleable. We have basic biological needs. All modern tabula rasa social science doctrine notwithstanding, we can not be trained to not have innate needs and desires. Among those innate needs appears to be a need to look at plants.

Researchers, such as Roger Ulrich and Russ Parsons at Texas A&M and Rachel and Stephen Kaplan at the University of Michigan, note positive changes in behavior which result directly from people being able to see plants. For example, Ulrich compared the hospital records of patients recovering from gall bladder surgery and found those with a view of a group of trees spent less time in the hospital than those looking out at a brick wall (7.96 days vs 8.70 days). Equally important, they required fewer and less-potent drugs to remain comfortable.

In a recently completed study at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York, women recovering from breast cancer surgery found walks in the garden helped restore their ability to concentrate and focus their attention, and reduced their depression. At the start of the study, the scores of all the women on tests of measured attention were so low they resembled brain-damaged patients. Over the next 90 days, some of the patients participated in activities selected to help restore them from the anxiety and mental fatigue related to their surgery. Walking in the garden 20 to 30 minutes three times per week proved to be a very effective activity. Those who participated in the activities recovered faster and were able to develop new interests. More of them went back to work during the study than the control group. The Kaplans report workers with a view of trees and flowers experienced less job pressure and were more satisfied with their jobs than those who had no outside view or only a view of buildings. The employees with views of plants also reported fewer headaches and illnesses. Several researchers have documented faster recovery from the stress and mental fatigue of daily life through the use of plants.

Perhaps we should set our computer desktop backgrounds to a shade of green. Articles such as the above inspired the change to a teal green blog banner. Though an image of plants and tree leaves would probably be more effective.

By Randall Parker    2002 December 26 02:11 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2002 October 30 Wednesday
The Blank Slate, the Modern Denial of Human Nature

Steven Pinker, language specialist and professor in the Department of Brain Cognitive Science at MIT. Pinker has written a new book, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.

Pinker takes issue with the assumption underlying so much of modern social science that we are born as tabula rasas and that our thinking is entirely shaped by our environments. He points out that rarely do social scienists use adopted and biological children in experiments to try to discover just how much about how we think and how we behave is a result of environment, genes, or a combination of the two. Here are some excepts from the Financial Times Steven Pinker interview about his booK:

He says: "In psychology and the social sciences, there is a phobia of any possibility that the mind has some degree of innate organisation. And that distorts the science, because certain hypotheses are not even mentioned, let alone tested and proven or disproven."

This is a serious problem in the social sciences. This blind spot in the minds of so many social scientists results in mounds of studies in which genetic factors are rarely controlled for. Therefore a lot of effort being expended to do social science is producing dubious results which in turn serve as the basis for harmful political decisions. Pinker argues that we shouldn't build up political beliefs on falsehoods:

Pinker suddenly grows grave. He delivers another concise paragraph in defence of his maverick claims: "Many politically conscious scholars believe that claims about human nature are dangerous, because they feel that they could legitimate discrimination and oppression, or even slavery and genocide. They argue that it's politically preferable to say that all human traits are the product of culture.

"My own view is that this politicisation of science does much more harm than good. You can never predict what tomorrow's science will find, and therefore you shouldn't rest some important moral claim - such as that discrimination and oppression are wrong - on a factual hypothesis that might be refuted tomorrow."

I agree with Pinker's point brought up in The Economist's review that some of the human mind's nature as selected by evolution is in conflict with our needs in a technological society:

Two final points in favour of “The Blank Slate” are these. Unlike many new-science popularisers, the book never underplays the mind's complexity. Nor does it revel in juvenile smugness about the human condition. In one of his best chapters, “The Many Roots of Our Suffering”, Mr Pinker suggests that conflict between the drives which evolution has landed us with and the aptitudes that would now help us prosper is probably inevitable. Scientific knowledge can at least aid us in managing this conflict, and denying science will almost certainly make it worse. In the words of Anton Chekhov, one of Mr Pinker's favourites, “Man will become better when you show him what he is like.”

I think this makes a lot of sense. Denying our instincts does not make them go away. If we can develop a better understanding of our instincts then we'll be far better equipped to deal with them. As has been recently illustrated by the news that the North Korean regime has been working on nuclear weapons development, holding illusions about the intentions and motives of other humans makes the world a more dangerous place.

The Guardian on Pinker's book:

It's tough being a parent: you try your best and the kids grow up in spite of you, according to Steven Pinker, evolutionary psychologist and researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Time and again, he says, the most exhaustive attempts by researchers to document the role of parents has failed to find any significant influence. For example, identical twins reared together were no more similar than identical twins reared apart.

"When you think about it, that is quite a shock. People confuse that with the finding that identical twins separated at birth are similar at all," he says. "Finding number two: adopted siblings growing up together don't end up similar at all, in intelligence, personality, or in life outcomes like divorce or criminal behaviour. Those are two shocks, because they are very inclusive measures of everything that a child experiences at home, whether the parents are nice or nasty, spank you or don't, whether you have TV sets or books."

Steve Sailer interviews Steven Pinker:

Q: What is the Naturalistic Fallacy vs. the Moralistic Fallacy?

A: The naturalistic fallacy is the idea that what is found in nature is good. It was the basis for Social Darwinism, the belief that helping the poor and sick would get in the way of evolution, which depends on the survival of the fittest. Today, biologists denounce the Naturalistic Fallacy because they want to describe the natural world honestly, without people deriving morals about how we ought to behave -- as in: If birds and beasts engage in adultery, infanticide, cannibalism, it must be OK).

The moralistic fallacy is that what is good is found in nature. It lies behind the bad science in nature-documentary voiceovers: lions are mercy-killers of the weak and sick, mice feel no pain when cats eat them, dung beetles recycle dung to benefit the ecosystem and so on. It also lies behind the romantic belief that humans cannot harbor desires to kill, rape, lie, or steal because that would be too depressing or reactionary.

Update: Kenan Malik, author of Man, Beast, and Zombie: What Science Can and Cannot Tell Us about Human Nature has written an excellent review and critique of Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate in the October 2002 issue of the UK Prospect Magazine:

But this separation of nature and values raises new problems. Human values, presumably, do not float down from the sky; how then do they originate if not through "natural selection and neurophysiology," which Pinker considers the basis of all human thoughts and behaviour? Pinker argues that some innate faculties "may endow us with greed or lust or malice, but others may endow us with sympathy, foresight, self-respect... and an ability to learn from our own experiences and those of our neighbours." Nature, in other words, has endowed us with both good and bad propensities, and particular values arise from the clash of these propensities. This suggests that values are rooted in nature. It is difficult to distinguish this argument from that which Pinker condemns as the "moralistic fallacy." The primatologist Frans de Waal suggests in his book The Ape and the Sushi Master that thinkers like Pinker "want to have it both ways: human behaviour is an evolutionary product except when it is hard to explain."

No one-not even the blankest of blank slate advocates-denies that human thoughts and behaviours are the products of brain processes. But this is not the same as explaining where those thoughts and values come from. Why, for instance, have we come to believe that slavery is wrong and the idea of equal worth good? Pinker says that everyone feels "revulsion... toward discrimination and slavery," because it is in our nature to reject such treatment: "No one likes being enslaved. No one likes being humiliated."

For most of human history, though, slavery was regarded as natural as individual freedom is today. Only in the past 200 years have we begun to view the practice with revulsion. Why? Partly because of the political ideas generated by the Enlightenment, partly because of the changing economic needs of capitalism, and partly because of the struggles of the enslaved and the oppressed. To understand human values such as the belief in equal worth, we need to explore not so much human psychology as human history, society and politics.

Update: The New Yorker review by Louis Menand.

The insistence on deprecating the efficacy of socialization leads Pinker into absurdities that he handles with a blitheness that would be charming if his self-assurance were not so overdeveloped. He argues, for example, that democracy, the rule of law, and women's reproductive freedom are all products of evolution. The Founding Fathers understood that the ideas of power sharing and individual rights are grounded in human nature. And he quotes, with approval, the claim of two evolutionary psychologists that the "evolutionary calculus" explains why women evolved "to exert control over their own sexuality, over the terms of their relationships, and over the choice of which men are to be the fathers of their children." Now, democracy, individual rights, and women's sexual autonomy are concepts almost nowhere to be found, even in the West, before the eighteenth century. Either human beings spent ten thousand years denying their own nature by slavishly obeying the whims of the rich and powerful, cheerfully burning heretics at the stake, and arranging their daughters' marriages (which would imply a pretty effective system of socialization), or modern liberal society is largely a social construction. Which hypothesis seems more plausible?

By Randall Parker    2002 October 30 11:49 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2002 September 19 Thursday
Out-of-body experience inducable with electrodes

The Daily Telegraph has the best write-up on this that I've found:

The brain centre was found an inch above and slightly behind the right ear by a neurologist, Dr Olaf Blanke, and colleagues at Geneva University Hospital, Switzerland. Exciting this spot - called the angular gyrus of her right cortex - repeatedly caused out-of-body experiences.

At low levels of stimulation, the patient felt as if she was sinking into the bed or falling. At high levels, "I see myself lying in bed, from above," she told them, adding that she felt as if she was levitating.

My guess is that people are seeing an imaginary image of their bodies. It would be interesting to test people in this induced state to see if they can see anything that they wouldn't be able to see from their own eyeballs.

See also this and this and this.

By Randall Parker    2002 September 19 12:46 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
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