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We Are All Laurasians

Until the discovery of Neanderthal admixture in all non-African populations by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the most publicly popular narrative of human evolution and settlement around the globe was the Out of Africa model, which posited that all humans descended from a single population of humans originating in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago who proceeded to settle the globe in the subsequent years, completely replacing whatever archaic hominids may have been occupying the lands that they settled.  The model received a further blow after the sequencing of DNA from a fossil finger bone found in Denisova revealed that Melanesian populations had further admixture with the population to which the individual whose finger was found belonged.

The notion that all humans were completely descended from a single population living in Africa 200,000 years ago appealed to the ideological framework of some on the secular left who saw it both as a rebuke to the Creationist narratives that were held by scriptural literalists as well as a possible means of arguing that race itself was a meaningless concept.  Ironically, just as this worldview was disintegrating, Richard Dawkins placed this T-shirt for sale at his site’s store:

But Dawkin’s design is certainly not the only “We are all Africans” T-shirt design.  Here’s one that is cataloged with a set of “Atheist Designs” at Spreadshirt:

Here is one version from Squidoo that actually directly incorporates the Out of Africa model:

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The Galton Inequality

One of the popular signifiers of Christianity has been the ΙΧΘΥΣ symbol, which has been standardized for use on the rear bumpers of devoutly Christian drivers everywhere, sometimes with the Greek written on the belly as can be seen below on the left.  In response, some secularists produced the image on the right showing a fish with legs and DARWIN written on its body as can be seen below on the right.  Since then there have been an explosion of competing bumper logos symbolizing the ideological combat of Darwinians and Christian Creationists made on both sides.


In a similar vein, Glaivester (hat tip: Eugenicist) has made a parody of the equal sign:

While I like the concept, I think that the execution needs some improvement in two areas. The first is that in the inequality sign (≠), the slash runs in the opposite direction. The second is that, though Glaivester’s version seems to be a parody on the logo of the Human Rights Campaign, the formost LGBT* lobbying organization in the United States, it is quite a bit more elongated than the original logo. As such, using the original logo as a template (the blue background version, on the left), I’ve made my own version of the Galton Inequality, as shown on the left.

I’ve also created a Logos page where I have some variations on the graphic for those who would prefer a different color combination.  Feel free to use and distribute these logos as you see fit.

*Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender, for those uninitiated in gender politics

It’s been over half a year since I created this blog, but looking back, I’ve noticed that I have not yet given a a satisfactory explanation of my pseudonym, which is important, since taking it at face value could give a mistaken impression.

Apostasy is typically refers to rejection of one’s religious origins and has mostly been used in conjunction with Islam because of that particular religion’s attitude toward apostasy.  On that front, I would qualify as an apostate from Christianity, but when I created the blog, the apostasy I had in mind was political:

It is a bit more difficult to describe my political views.  They are easiest to define in the negative: I, unlike most of my friends and family, am not a conventional American liberal or progressive.

I choose to use the word “apostate” to refer to my turning away from American liberalism because in many ways, that ideology has a quasi-religious structure such that morality is partially tied to politics.  In particular, the concept of equality plays a strong normative role in the worldview of the Left and it is one of the main tenets that I reject, which by the definition set forth by Paul Gottfried, makes me a Man of the Right.

I choose to refer to myself as a reluctant apostate because I understand the difficulty of apostasy as a viable route to a worldview and that is that an apostate is defined by what he is not and in opposition to his past worldview.  An apostate is giving up a system of beliefs without necessarily adopting a complete replacement.  While as an apostate, I reject the structures of thought that predominate the Left, I recognize the dangers that this entails.  Just as a religious apostate can fill the newfound void with an even more pernicious worldview, such as Marxist communism, one who rejects the doctrines of the Left must be aware that some of the alternatives lead down a far more destructive path.

I’d also like to add my reluctance as an apostate as has some personal roots.  Most of my family and the people who I’ve associated with through most of my life would identify as liberal or progressive.  The fact that I am writing under a pseudonym is an indicator of the extent to which I am willing to air my heretical views publicly.

Atheism

In recent weeks, a YouTube poster with the user name HeyRuka has been held up among a few bloggers in the race realist blogosphere.  As someone with a pseudonymous blog, it is heartening to see a young woman who is willing to argue against the conventional wisdom on racial matters and on video, no less.  However, as Unamused points out in a recent post, her main focus as a video blogger is on atheism.  For example, here she is riffing on antitheism:

While as per my initial post, I consider myself to be an agnostic atheist, I can’t say that I endorse many of her statements.  I personally find the religious thinking to be overly superstitious and I don’t partake in religion myself, but I cannot deny that religious people tend to be more charitable than the nonreligious or that religion provides an important social bond for societies around the world, a fact reflected in its etymology:

From religiōn-, the stem of the Latin religiō (“scrupulousness”, “pious misgivings”, “superstition”, “conscientiousness”, “sanctity”, “an object of veneration”, “cult-observance”, “reverence”), from religō (“I bind back or behind”), from re + ligō (“I tie, bind, or bandage”).

Nonetheless, I consider myself to be an agnostic atheist and I put emphasis on the atheism.  When I brought that up months ago in a  comment on hbd chick’s blog, she gave the following reply:

i’m an agnostic atheist, too, more-or-less. my gut tells me there is no god, but my head tells me that we can’t be sure. but, if i were interviewed for the gss i would definitely respond #2 [NO WAY TO FIND OUT, the GSS option for agnostics].

I respect that viewpoint, but I’d like to use the rest of this post to discuss why given the choice of identifying as an agnostic or an atheist I choose atheist.  As Unamused aptly pointed out, a discussion of atheism cannot be productive unless the ground rules are set.  I also liked Unamused’s definitions of theism and atheism, so I’ll quote them here:

Theism means belief in the existence of gods, so I define atheism, sensibly enough, as lack of belief in the existence of gods.

I would further add, in the same vein, a definition of agnosticism as lack of a knowledge claim concerning the existence of gods.

The reason that I primarily identify as an atheist rather than an agnostic is that identification as an atheist says something about one’s view of reality while agnosticism says something about one’s view of the state of one’s knowledge.  While I do think that acknowledgment of the limitations of one’s knowledge is important and that an atheist who is certain that no being that would qualify as a deity exists is foolish, I think that it is more important to emphasize one’s view of reality over one’s view of knowledge if a choice must be made.

To be clear, I have a basic view of reality that does not include any deities.  I acknowledge that I do not know that I am correct my exclusion of deities and I further believe that, barring the emergence of extraordinary evidence provided in favor of a deity’s existence, it would be impossible for me to determine whether or not deities exist to an extent that would satisfactorily qualify as knowledge.  Nonetheless, it seems to me that quirks of the human mind are a more plausible explanation of the widespread existence of mystical beliefs than the actual existence of God or lesser deities and that given the knowledge presented by modern physics and biology, no deity is necessary to explain the current state of the Universe.

A Warmer World

I haven’t posted anything regarding the topic of climate change, but I did want to highlight what I thought was a very good article by John Derbyshire in Taki’s Magazine under the title “Al Gore’s Dream of Power”, which touches on some recent comments by former Vice President Al Gore comparing global warming skeptics with racists during the civil rights era.  While many liberals upon hearing the title of the article and that the author is a conservative would assume that this was another piece aimed at discrediting scientific consensus by attacking Al Gore, Derbyshire states that science tells us that:

The Earth’s climate is variable. It is currently varying on an overall (several-year moving average) warming trend. Some part of this current trend is due to human activity.

Indeed, while many elements of the political Right have hewn to a line that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax, the fact is that the great majority of climate scientists accept some form of anthropogenic global warming and the evidence against it is currently pretty weak.  What really is at issue is the normative aspect of this fact and the politics surrounding it.  Conservatives have done themselves some damage by choosing to dispute the science itself, though open dispute is healthy for science, rather than asking whether the effects of an average temperature rise were truly dire events and discussing the power, or lack thereof, that political actors have in shaping our climatic future.

Those two issues are ones of great uncertainty, but in both cases, the evidence is stacked against those seeking radical political approaches to climatic issues.  Contrary to the claims of Bill Nye, there is nothing that suggests that Irene was “caused” by climate change.  It was, in fact, a rather mundane hurricane whose most noteworthy feature was that its path led to America’s largest city and media center, New York.  The repeated conflation of periodic weather events with rising global temperatures is an area with regard to climate that those on the political Left are frequently grasping at straws with regard to evidence.

Further, while higher average temperatures may be detrimental to some regions, it is hard to argue that expanded temperate zones and longer growing seasons in higher latitudes as well as the opening of new sea lanes during summer months, all of which are likely consequences of an upward creep in average global temperature, are bad events.  The extent to which this would be a dominant trend relative to predictions of sea level rise that threatens low-lying populations such as Bangladesh is outside the scope of reliable climate modeling.

Finally, the constellation of interests around the globe make it unlikely that any major global political action will succeed at preventing a significant amount of fossil fuel usage, which is suspected of being man’s largest contribution to the current climate trend.  Furthermore, given fossil fuels’ status as the most commons sources of energy, stemming from their reliability, versatility, and prices, combined with their finite availability, any cuts in short term usage are likely to be nearly balanced out by greater future usage as easily accessed deposits would simply be depleted more slowly, barring civilizational collapse, an outcome far worse than what all but the most dire predictions regarding Earth’s climate countenance.

In any event, I would recommend John Derbyshire’s piece, as I think it is an accurate assessment of the landscape we face in terms of the science, the politics, and the uncertainty, and advocates a sound approach to thinking about the topic, one that has been eschewed both by most on the Left and the Right.

Whither Eugenics

Reuben Hayat posted this 2005 PBS documentary focused around James Watson’s views of genetics and eugenics at his blog Jewamongyou:

If you have an hour of free time, I’d recommend watching it.  As Reuben points out, the narrator of the documentary does not seem especially sanguine about Watson’s views, but in many ways this is meant to balance against Watson, who is given quite a bit of time to speak his mind without much direct criticism of his views.  In light of the views presented in this PBS production, it’s easy to see why Watson’s statements to The Sunday Times caused such a furor, essentially ending Watson’s career.

Watson’s philosophy is essentially a form of eugenics which is focused on the choices available to parents.  He believes that parents should be able to make informed decisions regarding the genetics of their offspring.  For instance, as a simple case, there is a current practice of screening fetus for Down Syndrome.  Given a positive result, the parents would have the choice of aborting the fetus, which happens in the majority of positive screenings.  Watson approves of this, as do I, against the views of the pro-life movement, which can be embodied in Sarah Palin and her son Trig.

Other opponents include those who have already had a child with Down Syndrome and one such family was featured in the film.  While I sympathize with this family and understand their love for their son in spite of the difficulties, I like Watson think that not only should they have had the option to terminate the pregnancy, but that they should have sought to end it if they had screened for Down Syndrome and the test had come up positive.  A child with Down Syndrome can never achieve what a fully functional human can and in essence, when such a child does what would be considered ordinary for other children of his age, it is considered extraordinary.

The father expresses this feeling in a positive light, but the end effect is a child that will never grow up to be an autonomous adult as well as a robbing of resources from the other children of the family, including the prevention of future children.  While the families of children who suffer from this disorder love them deeply, the harsh truth is that they are mostly a burden that makes a family worse off, not to mention the difficulties that the child himself would face compared to a healthy child, one that would be made possible should a family decide to end a Down Syndrome pregnancy.

The program moves toward more controversial and difficult to answer questions when it broaches mental illnesses, with the chosen example being bipolar disorder, which has a significantly heritable component.  Kay Jamison is brought on as a counterweight to Watson’s views.  To my mind, Watson’s answer of leaving it to the discretion of the parents is the best answer.  Parents who are at risk for having children with bipolar disorder are likely to have had relatives with the same disorder and are probably in the best position to determine whether or not they are willing to let their children live with it.

Given that Watson’s views on this topic are outside of the mainstream and that he has already made an enemy of many because of his candor, it’s easy to see why his comments concerning the intelligence of sub-Saharan Africans was a bridge too far.  Not only did it question the notion of equality between the races that has become central to American civic religion since the civil rights movement, when coupled with his views on eugenics, it’s easy to see a stir of fear forming in the minds of those familiar with his point of view.  One can see him attempting to allay that fear in the editorial he wrote in the Independent shortly after his statements caught fire in the media:

Rarely more so than right now, where I find myself at the centre of a storm of criticism. I can understand much of this reaction. For if I said what I was quoted as saying, then I can only admit that I am bewildered by it. To those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologise unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.

Because it was not a repudiation of his earlier comments, it was not enough to soothe the mob and he was stripped of his post as chairman of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as a result.

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Sheril Kirchenbaum at her new blog Culture of Science has a post featuring three bar graphs depicting the correct response rate of males and females to three questions on simple scientific topics.  The data (which can be found in Table 7-4 of the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Indicators) shown here comes from the 2008 version (the survey was also conducted in 2001, 2004, and 2006) of a survey done four times over the last four years asking men and women ten questions of scientific relevance, six in the physical sciences and four in the biological sciences.

Physical Science

Respondents were asked six questions regarding the physical sciences.  Five were true or false and the sixth was actually a complex of two questions in which respondents were asked the second question if they answered the first correctly.  Here are the questions with the answers in parentheses

  1. The center of the Earth is very hot. (True)
  2. All radioactivity is man-made. (False)
  3. Lasers work by focusing sound waves. (False)
  4. Electrons are smaller than atoms. (True)
  5. The continents have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move. (True)
  6. Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth? (Earth around Sun)
    How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun? (One year)

Here are the percentage of correct responses:

As is pretty clear from the chart, the men noticeably outperformed the women on all four questions.  As will be seen, the results for the biological science questions are more complicated. View full article »

Commenter M.G. Miles posted a link to a map she made showing 2006 GDP per capita in the Eurozone (plus Switzerland and the UK) at the largest subnational level.

Since she offered it up for comparison, I thought I’d show the GDP per capita and PISA maps side by side for both Spain and Italy:

I must say, it is an interesting comparison.  While there is a clear correlation between the test scores and the economic indicator, there are definitely exceptions and outliers.  Furthermore, many of the outlier provinces have interesting characteristics that could act as confounding factors. View full article »

At her blog, hbdchick has a discussion of the north-south division in Spain where she asks if there are any differences in IQ that show up.  I suggested looking through the 2009 PISA results, which she did.  To follow up, I decided to map out the results for Spain and Italy.  For each map, the pure black is 400 and pure white is 525 (a scale I came up with before I realized that Lombardy had a 526 average science score).  To start, here are the maps for Reading scores:
It is worth noting that PISA did not release the scores for three autonomous communities in Spain: Extremadura, Castile-La Mancha, and Valencia, which form a band immediately to the north of Andalusia and Murcia. I’ve made those three mostly transparent.

Nuclear Scare!

In the wake of the 9.0 Mw earthquake that took place off the coast of Japan and its associated tsunami, an area that has caught the attention of the news media, particularly in the West has been the condition of the reactors at the Fuskushima I Nuclear Power Plant.  Because of the public sensitivity and ignorance with regard to nuclear issues, a point well-illustrated by the fact that MRI machines are so-named despite employing essentially the same technology as nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers, the reporting of the story has generated a sense of hysteria among the public, who are frightened by talk of explosions and meltdown and by pictures of technicians in protective suits scanning locals in Fukushima province for radiation exposure.

In the wake of this, I want to point out a few sources that take a sober look at the problem.  The first is from Mutant Frog Travelogue, which presents the situation with the necessary caveats to those currently in Japan.  The second is the MIT NSE Nuclear Information Hub, which provides periodic updates as well as background on the mechanics.  The third is the following video conversation between science journalist John Horgan and nuclear engineer Rod Adams:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

To be fair, Adam’s is an adamant pro-nuclear advocate, so his instinct to downplay the dangers of this incident may be overly strong, but his background gives him a sense of proportion that is sorely lacking in many of the reporters and consumers of information that have clamored around this story.

I do wish the best to the people of Japan as they begin the long process of rebuilding their country and reestablishing normality, and I do think that this is a grave and serious matter that deserves the attention of the relevant authorities and that necessary precautions should and are being taken.  However, it seems clear to me that most of the attitudes concerning the Fukushima I plant have bordered on hysteria, including ridiculous moves by some foreign governments and one of the responsibilities of both providers and consumers of information is to obtain a proper context for what is happening and that is happening it too few places.

Update: Steve Hsu points to an interview with the UK government’s Chief Scientific Officer John Beddington on the website of the British embassy in Tokyo.  Hsu highlights the following passage regarding what a meltdown would mean:

If the Japanese fail to keep the reactors cool and fail to keep the pressure in the containment vessels at an appropriate level, you can get this, you know, the dramatic word “meltdown.” But what does that actually mean? What a meltdown involves is the basic reactor core melts, and as it melts, nuclear material will fall through to the floor of the container. There it will react with concrete and other materials that is likely.

Remember this is the reasonable worst case, we don’t think anything worse is going to happen. In this reasonable worst case you get an explosion. You get some radioactive material going up to about 500 meters up into the air. Now, that’s really serious, but it’s serious again for the local area. It’s not serious for elsewhere, even if you get a combination of that explosion it would only have nuclear material going in to the air up to about 500 meters.

If you then couple that with the worst possible weather situation, i.e. prevailing weather taking radioactive material in the direction of Greater Tokyo and you had maybe rainfall which would bring the radioactive material down, do we have a problem? The answer is unequivocally no. Absolutely no issue.

The problems are within 30 km of the reactor. And to give you a flavor for that, when Chernobyl had a massive fire at the graphite core, material was going up not just 500 meters but to 30,000 feet; it was lasting not for the odd hour or so but lasted months, and that was putting nuclear radioactive material up into the upper atmosphere for a very long period of time. But even in the case of Chernobyl, the exclusion zone that they had was about 30 kilometers. And in that exclusion zone, outside that, there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate people had problems from the radiation.

The problems with Chernobyl were people were continuing to drink the water, continuing to eat vegetables and so on and that was where the problems came from. That’s not going to be the case here. So what I would really reemphasize is that this is very problematic for the area and the immediate vicinity and one has to have concerns for the people working there. Beyond that 20 or 30 kilometers, it’s really not an issue for health.

Again, this is very serious, but a sense of proportion is warranted here.