March 12, 2009

National creativity



It's fun to discuss which groups of people are and aren't creative, but it's worth noting that this often changes over time. For example, here are a couple of graphs I created from the database Charles Murray compiled for his 2003 book Human Accomplishment.


Here, I've plotted the "eminence" of scientists and artists working in the Netherlands between 1400 and 1950. Eminence is defined by attention paid to individuals in a wide selection of standard reference works by leading scholars in each field, on a 0 to 100 scale, with the top figure in each field being set at 100. For example, the highest point on this chart is Rembrandt, who "flourished" (i.e., was 40 years old) in 1646. Across about a dozen art history reference and textbook volumes, Rembrandt has 56.3% as much attention devoted to him as the top ranking figure in "Western Art," who is, unsurprisingly, Michelangelo.

The point of course is not to argue whether Rembrandt was really 46.3% or 66.3% as eminent as Michelangelo.

The point is to have an objective, disinterested tool for answering other questions, such as: Were artists and scientists working in the Netherlands equally eminent over time? (The database is "disinterested" in both the correct and vulgar senses of the word, in that neither the historians who wrote the reference books nor Murray who tabulated them were not particularly interested in this question.)

The answer is clearly: No.

Just like everybody says, the Netherlands enjoyed a Golden Age in the middle of the 17th Century: Rembrandt, Huygens, Vermeer, Hals, Van Ruisdael, Spinoza, van Leeuwenhoek, Swammerdam, and so forth. And there are a bunch of Europeans who moved about who arguably did their best work in the Netherlands, so Murray as classifying them as "Worked In" the Netherlands, such as Descartes (who said he got a lot of work done there because everybody in Holland was too concerned with making money to pester him).

And, yet, the Netherlands went through a Tin Age from about 1750 to 1850.

I don't know why the Netherlands declined in creativity in the late 17th Century. Perhaps it's due to the war of 1672. Wikipedia says:
1672 is known in the Netherlands as the "Disastrous Year" (Rampjaar). England declared war on the Republic, (the Third Anglo-Dutch War), followed by France, Münster and Cologne, which had all signed alliances against the Republic.

The Essential Vermeer website argues:
Eventually the prosperity of Holland became self-defeating: its covetous neighbors were finally moved to use force to acquire some of it for themselves. Toward the end of the age, the English wrested control of the seas from the Dutch Navy and in 1672 French troops overran most of the northern provinces. In a new era of surging nationalism, Holland was too small to maintain its dominant position. The merchants lost their daring; prosperity induced lethargy; godliness became self-righteousness. A long period of stagnation followed far Holland, and its art languished along with it.

Vermeer's career, for instance, was ruined by the war of 1672 and he died three years later in his early 40s. His widow, with 11 children, had to declare bankruptcy, and van Leeuwenhoek became the family's trustee.

Still, it's not clear if purely material explanations suffice.

Whatever the reason for the decline of creativity in the Netherlands, few famous artists and scientists flourished there from 1750-1850. Yet, in 1850-1950 (the end of Murray's survey), the population's individual accomplishments rebounded, with a Silver Age of Van Gogh, Mondrian, and a whole bunch of scientists.

The reason eminence can be reasonably assumed to be correlated with creativity is that both are measures of influence. Historians of the arts and sciences are trying to create narratives of Who Influenced Whom, as I explained at some length in my American Conservative review of Human Accomplishment.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

43 comments:

jack strocchi said...

"= 0"?

Pithiest blog of all time.

Garland said...

Fascinating. Just when I thought you couldn't top yourself.

Anonymous said...

So this is a blank space for us to be creative in?

Anonymous said...

Don' forget that besides just art there was another group, arguably even more consequential, operating in Holland in the 1600-1649 period - the Puritans in Leyden, who would go on to create the second (and culturally most important) English colony in America.

jack strocchi said...

I dont have a problem with measuring individual or national creativity by citations, patents or other generally recognised references.

My problem with Murray is his Occidental-centric viewpoint. Needham's work shows that much Occidental creativity was pre-dated by Oriental inventions and ideas.

This makes sense to me because Orientals have higher IQs than Occidentals. Although maybe they arent as good at really high-level abstract critical thought like the Greeks.

Too obsessed with specific detail and unwilling to engage in unharmonious head-to-head intellectual conflict.

Steve Sailer said...

Jack:

The limitation on Murray's methodology is that he needs the name of the individual scientist, inventor, or artist.

The great age of Chinese technological creativity preceded the period from which we have many names.

But exactly the same is true for the High Middle Ages in Europe. We don't know the name or names of the sculptors of Chartres Cathedral, so they aren't in Western Art section. Nor do we know the identity of the man or men who invented the mechanical clock in Europe around 1300 -- which David Landes has argued was perhaps the most important of all mechanical inventions.

So, while Asian technology inventions are understated, so are Western ones from similar periods. As for science and math, well, there wasn't a whole lot in China. As a historian said, the Chinese focused on technology and magic, while the Europeans focused on science and theology. In the short run, the Chinese benefited, but in the long run, the Europeans had the greater payoff.

jack strocchi said...

Steve Sailer says:

The great age of Chinese technological creativity preceded the period from which we have many names. But exactly the same is true for the High Middle Ages in Europe. So, while Asian technology inventions are understated, so are Western ones from similar periods.

Thats true, you gotta compare apples to apples. Not sure it matters that we dont know their names. Its teams not names that count in making useful stuff. And we can still identify the stuff.

The Orientals made some massively important inventions during the Middle Ages, somewhat more important than a bunch of sculptures or even nice buildings. Wikipedia says that the Orientals made Great Inventions of the Middle Ages:

China has been the source of some of the world's most significant inventions, including the Four Great Inventions of ancient China: paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing (both woodblock and movable type).

Its only fair that the Orientals get credit for creative priority on the Big Ticket "inventions that changed the world". Whether they can go on with it and do interesting stuff with knowledge once they reach the frontier is another question.

It helps to be annoying and egotistical to be creative. Orientals seem to lack these saving disgraces.

Steve Sailer says:

As for science and math, well, there wasn't a whole lot in China. As a historian said, the Chinese focused on technology and magic, while the Europeans focused on science and theology. In the short run, the Chinese benefited, but in the long run, the Europeans had the greater payoff.

I agree. Science requires both generalism and criticism. Two fundamental complements which sit uneasily in the Oriental mind. Scientific creativity will get you more technological power in the long run. Plus lots of fun on the way.

Antoine Zhang said...

"As a historian said, the Chinese focused on technology and magic, while the Europeans focused on science and theology. "

I'm not so sure about the veracity of this statement. I think the problem in Chinese society was that all of its most intelligent individuals aspired to membership of the scholar-official class. This was a class which is best described as secular and agnostic, generally indifferent to issues of metaphysics, or as mentioned, magic.

The guys who were dabbling in magic would most likely have been members of popular Daoist sects - my impression is that these were most likely individual who failed the standardized, empire-wide exams, and thus were forced to seek other forms of status or sustenance. I recall, for example, that the founder of the Taiping Rebellion was a failed examination candidate.

So essentially, all of the best intellectual talent in China was selected for membership in the civil service elite, whose avocational preoccupations fall within the category of what we today describe as the liberal arts - the composition of poetry and essays, painting, and connosieurship.

And as far as I can discern, China never really developed what we today describe as science - assertions about the natural world which are verified or disproven by means of empirical tests. So the problem in China was not one of lack of focus on the sciences, as the total absence of scientific method.

China had great inventors, and guys who excelled at acute observation (Zhang Heng of the Han Dynasty and Shen Guo of the Song Dynasty), but I don't think they properly qualify as scientists.

"It helps to be annoying and egotistical to be creative."

I don't think so at all - we only suffer from this misconception in the West, and it doesn't even apply to the best of our own artists. In "Orthodoxy", G.K. Chesterton has a great part where he refutes this notion that the finest artists lead irregular or unconventional lives, and that many of them were probably staid and prosaic in their habits. There's also that quote from Flaubert (I think), about leading a sedate lifestyle to better create more passionate art.

Then again,

Anonymous said...

The Dutch are an odd people. Everyone over there is happy with their bicycle, 6 feet of height, and identical commie block apartment. Just across the pond, no English would be content with this standard of life. English people are like Americans: if they have a bicycle, they want a motorcycle. If they have a motorcycle, they want a car. The commie block "council estates" in England are no better than housing projects here in the U.S. The Dutch have a standard of living they're happy with and don't seem too ambitious to try to increase it.

Henry Canaday said...

As other nations like France and England were attacking the Dutch, they were also tending to become much more like the Dutch, in religious liberty, in commercial orientation, in scientific interests, in loosening of their political systems and in colonizing efforts. Late 17th Century Netherlands was like the Athens of Europe, the source of many of Europe's ideals and habits for the next 300 years. And Athens had also paid a heavy price, in blood and eventual stagnation, for giving example to the classical world.

Anonymous said...

"Needham's work shows that much Occidental creativity was pre-dated by Oriental inventions and ideas."

Right, now I know who Bach plagiarised his music from. Please point me to the oriental Baroque composers so I can listen to even more of that great music.

Anonymous said...

Antoine, many of the important Daoists were able men who sought to live apart from society for their own reasons but were sought out by mainstream rulers for their counsel. In fact, this pattern of the leader seeking the advise of reclusive Daoist philosopher was ritualized in an accepted way. Think of Shao Yung.

Daoism evolved as a way for the independent thinker to exist apart from the Confucian hierarchy. While Confucians stressed harmonizing with human ways, the Daoists emphasized looking to the cycles of nature to find philosophical truth. Yet these two trends co-existed in a cultural symbiosis: one of the four classic texts studied by all Chinese bureaucrats was the I Ching.

How interesting that the Confucian way of thinking has been so embraced by Western society, where intelligence is best understood by one's place in the established hierarchy. How Chinese we have become, and how comfortable we are with ejecting our Western tradition of independent free inquiry with Oriental standardization in all its mass-mediocrity.

The Western giants of the Renaissance have become the Oriental ants of today.

Dennis Mangan said...

Funny thing about the beginning of Dutch creativity is that they were fighting a war with Spain for most the time. The Eighty Years' War, 1568-1648, was fought over the independence of the Netherlands - Belgium was the part that Spain retained. The tulip craze happened during this time too. Whether Dutch creativity occurred because of or despite the war is a good question.

Anonymous said...

When Holland is taken over by Muslims will it still be Holland?

Malcolm said...

How does multiculti & colonization fit in? It seems to me, at least the greatest creativity comes out of homogeneous peoples. Can anyone recall a great (i mean 'GREAT" as in Michangelo great) contribution from the Ottman empire? Now compare it to Spain AFTER expelling the Muslims and Jews in 1491. Compare to the small city state of Florence, or Athens, or scrappy 18th century Edinburgh.

Anonymous said...

Jack,
'My problem with Murray is his Occidental-centric viewpoint. Needham's work shows that much Occidental creativity was pre-dated by Oriental inventions and ideas.'

Oh, no it wasn't.

Anonymous said...

anon,

some London Council properties have been sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds. I live in Carmen street, London. My flat was worth about 200k until very recently!! ( I don't own it)

Projects they ain't, yet. P J O'Rourke wrote a great article about Project housing in Brooklyn. He pointed out that it would cost a fortune to rent the same amount of space in Manhattan.

Richard

Anonymous said...

Thanks for introducing time as a variable. It is a pet peeve of mine to see otherwise very intelligent people examine make sociological judgements and neglect this variable.

The most glaring one today is about elites and religiousity. Murray in his book considers "transcendental goods" to be one of the four necessities for a society of genius. He goes on to say that *unlike* during the Renaissance, our elites are not only irreligious, but hostile to religion. Yet, one will constantly hear that intelligent people are secular people, which is only true if one adds "today".

A very Sailery question: What is the I.Q. mark needed to be reached to avoid the error of forgetting the time variable? Or is this more a sign of sloppiness and being unwise?

Dutch Boy said...

A bicycle and a good pair of shoes will take you where you want to go in The Netherlands (a small country). Alas, the Dutch are surrounded by powerful, acquisitive neighbors who have not left them in peace. The British have their channel and fleet and we have two vast oceans to insulate us from potential enemies.Too bad they were not enough to discourage our rulers warlike ways.

testing99 said...

Decline in Dutch creativity exactly mirrors the decline in wealth and importantly, free wealth by powerful merchants eager to subsidize artists to gain prestige and social standing and status.

Think Bill Gates.

Half Sigma has thoughts on this as well.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Re: Chinese math, science and technology

I suggest you have a look at the many volumes of research compiled by Joseph Needham (see further links; a lot of this is on Google books)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Needham

Even simple questions such as the origin of zero (only now grudgingly acknowledged by Europeans as coming to them via Arabs from India) are not decided with certainty. There is evidence that the Indians got it from the Chinese.

It would only take a cursory investigation by Murray into Needham's work for him to understand that his own book on "eminence" has barely scratched the surface of non-European societies.

jody said...

van halen, perhaps the most creative guitar player ever, had a dutch father.

there's not enough space in a talkback to have a serious discussion about national creativity anyway. i also don't buy the idea that east asians do not demonstrate much creativity, or that european dominance in various fields of technology are due to creativity instead of just plain being smarter. with either assertion, the evidence presents huge problems.

east asians show a good amount of creativity in visual art, having their own style of animation, and their own film industries. the japanese are gadget-centric, and come up with a lot of novel material there including industrial robots. each nation in east asia has it's own music, and sports that they have created from scratch.

in the modern era, east asians did a lot of the work involved in developing some important stuff. an wang established the precursor to RAM, masaki watanabe was a pioneer of arthroscopic surgery, and liquid crystal displays were developed heavily in japan.

on the other side, you run into colossal problems with the evidence. the space race between the US and USSR is evidence of greater east asian intelligence? east asians could have easily beaten the europeans into space, and could have been exploring the solar system 100 years earlier, if only they weren't busy doing REAL work on...well, whatever it was they were doing instead. it must have been so high level that only east asian geniuses can even understand it. "clearly, obviously inferior" european intelligence only smashes problems and overcomes obstacles due to creativity, i guess. problem solving is not a display of intelligence, but rather of non-intellectual creativity, in this school of thought.

then you have, as i've mentioned before, the extremely, EXTREMELY problematic evidence that is the chinese defense industry. this is in contrast to the japanese defense industry which was competitive with european weapons technology, and is dormant today due to being defeated, occupied, and constitutionally denied the opportunity to re-arm. which it could, rapidly.

the chinese have EVERY incentive to have the best weapons technology. there is simply no way anybody can suggest otherwise. what possible reason could there be for china to not have the most advanced weapons? communism? the communism excuse does not work here at all. the USSR, outnumbered and underfunded, had a defense industry that was competitive with NATO. in some cases, the soviet equipment was actually better.

no natural enemies? it can't be that. japan is china's mortal enemy and literally invaded china only 50 years ago.

no interest in world domination? laughable. nothing would rank higher on china's agenda today. control of the seas and the sky is something they would do anything to obtain.

according to the numbers, china should not just have an IQ advantage, it should have a GIGANTIC IQ advantage over every other nation. the chinese are supposed to have higher mean IQs than europeans, and there are ONE BILLION of them. for every defense project that the US starts, china should be starting FIVE. for russia, the ratio is TEN TO ONE. for germany and england, TWENTY TO ONE.

china should never, EVER be behind ANY european nation in weapons technology. at ABSOLUTE MINIMUM, china would want to be able to defend itself from a re-armed japan. yet if the US allowed japan to re-arm they would have better weapons than china within 10 years.

china is two generations behind in weapons technology and does not show many signs of closing that distance, only of enlarging the size of it's two-generations-behind forces. so, there are massive problems with the hypothesis that east asians "are just plain smarter". the chinese, by far the largest east asian group, a group so big that all other east asians combined are only 20% of chinese numbers, can't match "inferior" european intelligence where it matters most, force.

i'm not really sure if vietnam counts as east asia or southeast asia, but that's a whole 'nother problem for the hypothesis.

Gavin said...

Dutch government had become more centralized and corrupt by 1672. The army (aristocracy) and navy (city leaders) hated each other. Amsterdam's power was resented by the weaker cities and provinces. And, as mentioned, the malicious envy of England.
The Dutch may have been the greatest world power of all time on a per capita basis.

dearieme said...

"an objective, disinterested tool": that's a bit optimistic. It's likely (I guess) that recent reference books will give too much attention to people who speak English, and within them to Americans.

Anonymous said...

"It helps to be annoying and egotistical to be creative. Orientals seem to lack these saving disgraces."

LOL

Riiiiight.

albertosaurus said...

Human accomplishment tends to be lumpy not smooth. This is surprising.

You might know that if you had been born at just the right time and managed to live a long time you could have seen the first of the Gothic Cathedrals built - and the last. A lone century.

But few realize that much the same is true of the Egyptian pyramids. There is only a century between the Step Pyramid - the first pyramid - and the Great Pyramid the penultimate pyramid. Thousands of years - no pyramids. A century or so of pyramids and then again thousands of years when no pyramids were built in Egypt.

The history of cathedrals in France and pyramids in Egypt is lumpy.

albertosaurus said...

I suggest you have a look at the many volumes of research compiled by Joseph Needham

Yes, indeed read Needham, just don't believe him. Needham was an ardent Communist and an impassioned anti-American. He was a life long collaborator with the Chinese communists. He promoted a story that the US used biological weapons in the Korean War. His friends and colleagues said the communists duped him. His enemies just said he was a traitor.

Needham's scholarship is very untrustworthy. Much of the evidence for technological primacy between East and West is ambiguous. In virtually every case Needham concludes that knowledge traveled from East to West.

The clearest example of this sort of giving credit to China for Western inventions is the invention of gunpowder. Today the man on the street and all writers of TV history shows "know" that gunpowder was invented in China.

You also read that China had the crossbow a millenium before the West - more nonsense or rather more purposeful propaganda.

Read any text on miliatry history. Look up The Gunpowder Revolution. You will find that it began in the fifteenth century in Europe. In the sixteenth century gunpowder transformed military architecture and military tactics. Gunpowder swept from West to East - not the other way around. China still hadn't accepted gunwder weapons when McCartney visited the Manchu emperor in the late eighteenth century. In the subsequent Opium Wars the Chinese fought Western cannon and muskets with their crossbows.

The Chinese experimented with nitrates very early if only because India and China have more nitrate deposits than does Europe. But we conventionally regard the inventor as the last person to assemble all the elements (e.g. Edison)into something new. We do not call the first person who worked on one of the parts the inventor.

Nitrate compounds were used as incendiaries and rocket propellants for centuries but they were very minor contributors on the battlefield. Then in Europe around 1420 corning was invented. The new true gunpowder soon ended the 100 Years War, ended the Byzantine Empire, and knocked down every castle in Italy. European kingdoms made the manufacture of gunpowser a royal monopoly. All of this was European not Chinese.

As to crossbows, the Greeks used the gastraphetes long before anyone else. The Romans used a large mounted crossbow called a Ballista for centuries before the Chinese. You can see ballistas in the first scene of the movie Gladiator. Romans however used big crossbows as artillery. The Chinese used little crossbows as light arms.

It's disturbing that these clear and well known aspects of history are befouled by the purposefull lies of men like Needham.

Anonymous said...

"It helps to be annoying and egotistical to be creative."

What a crock! Einstein wasn't like this, neither was Watson, Smith, Nietzhe, the Wright Brothers, and many others.

But today, intellectuals effetes think they have to cultivate this persona in order to gain some kind of respect. Perhaps it's a way of distancing themselves from masses that they purport to identify with.

Antoine Zhang said...

"In fact, this pattern of the leader seeking the advise of reclusive Daoist philosopher was ritualized in an accepted way. Think of Shao Yung.

Daoism evolved as a way for the independent thinker to exist apart from the Confucian hierarchy."

This may have been true during pre-Qin China, or even throughout the Han Dynasty period, but it no longer holds following the reunification of China under the Sui Dynasty.

Shao Yong is considered a Neo-Confucian heavily influenced perhaps, by Daoist cosmology. Name me some eminent Daoist philosophers or statesmen after the Sui Dynasty - to the best of my knowledge, there are none. Religious Daoism became the preserve of quacks and conmen.

"How interesting that the Confucian way of thinking has been so embraced by Western society, where intelligence is best understood by one's place in the established hierarchy. How Chinese we have become, and how comfortable we are with ejecting our Western tradition of independent free inquiry with Oriental standardization in all its mass-mediocrity. "

I think even Westerners who have an extremely interest in the East are either indifferent to Confucianism or hold it in low-regard. Since when has it brrn embraced by the rest of Western society?

It's also suffered from gross misinterpretation by so many people abroad. Confucianism is the one pre-modern ideology which most strongly and thoroughly advocates independent thought and self-reflection. As a moral philosophy is perfectly satisfies Immanuel Kant's definition of "Enlightenment" - the ability to use one's understanding without the guidance of another.

Any culture - mass culture especially, is standardized regardless of ideology. If a culture didn't possess consistent characteristics and benchmarks, it wouldn't be one.

Maximilian said...

You might know that if you had been born at just the right time and managed to live a long time you could have seen the first of the Gothic Cathedrals built - and the last. A lone century.

I don't disagree with your point about lumpiness, however the example of gothic cathedrals is somewhat tautalogical. If you define "gothic" very narrowly to refer to the architecture of a particular century, then it's no surprise to find all the "gothic" cathedrals built during that time.

But if you look more widely at similar French cathedrals, you'll see that they cover a span of several centuries.

Chartres itself, the most famous French gothic cathedral, was begun early in the 12th century, rebuilt after a fire 50 years later, the famous windows weren't added until the 13th century, and the North Tower wasn't added until the 16th century.

The preceding Romanesque style produced buildings considered by some just as impressive as the gothic cathedrals such as Cluny, Mont St. Michel, and the many cathedrals of Normandy, and the gothic style developed organically out of the Norman without any dramatic breaks.

The cathedral of Nantes, the last one considered to be strictly "gothic," was begun in 1434, just about 300 years after Abbot Suger built St. Denis. The famous Rouen cathedral contains sections built during the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.

I mention these facts only to make it evident that the enthusiastic devotion that built the great gothic cathedrals in France did not arise from nothing, nor did it die away after a short burst.

Antoine Zhang said...

"It's disturbing that these clear and well known aspects of history are befouled by the purposefull lies of men like Needham."

Needham is hugely-respected in the scientific history community. He was a fellow of both the Royal Society and the British Academy, a recipient of the Companionship of Honour from the Queen, and the George Sarton Medal from the History of Science Society. He was one of the most impressive scholars in his field during the 20th Century, and while I don't doubt he made errors, the examples you provide (only two - gunpowder and the crossbow), without any citations from other sources, don't seem to me to bring the general quality of his scholarship into question.

As regards the reason why China fell behind the West, didn't industrialize or develop scientific method, (the so-called Needham Question, since he first posed it), I feel that it's perhaps the wrong question to ask - the question to ask is why these singular events occurred in a small corner of the Western world at the outset of the modern era.

That being said, I have heard some convincing arguments, and have some explanations of my own, as to why Chinese science and technology never developed.

I found Kenneth Pomeranz's argument - that a huge labour surplus made the need to invent labour-saving devices redundant, pretty compelling, if only because I've heard that many industries that shift to China often forgo the use of high-tech machinery, because labour costs are so low.

There's the argument that Europe's division into small, belligerent states abetted technological innovation, as well as prevented blanket bans on certain forms of enterprise and development. For example, when the Ming Dynasty government banned oceanic trade, that rule applied everywhere from Guangdong Province to Beijing. There's no way that such an rule could have been applied to Europe during the same time period.

I personally feel, however, that the absorption of all the most intelligent and capable members of society by the Confucian scholar-official class, and its exclusive preoccupation with morality and the liberal arts, were at least partially to blame for a want of scientific and technological development.

Antoine Zhang said...

What's really glaring on the graph is that the period where Dutch contributions to science and culture are absent happen to coincide with the peak years of the European Enlightenment.

David Davenport said...

Needham's work shows that much Occidental creativity was pre-dated by Oriental inventions and ideas.

Such as?

Here's a couple of counter examples: the compass. Viking navigators may have used them, and the Vikings probably never sailed to China.

The Romans used the abacus.

The Chinese were probably the first to have gunpowder, and they invented fireworks. Cannon and muskets, however, are Western inventions.

clem said...

van halen, perhaps the most creative guitar player ever, had a dutch father.

To the extent to which that credit for creativity is based on Eddie's famed use of the "tapping" technique in his playing:

"[Steve] Hackett has often claimed Van Halen told him he learned the technique after attending a Genesis concert in the early 1970s."

"One of the first rock guitarists to record using the tapping technique was Steve Hackett from Genesis. Two examples of Hackett's complex tapping can be heard on the song 'Dancing with the Moonlit Knight,' from 1973, and 'The Return of the Giant Hogweed,' from 1971. Harvey Mandel, well-known for his psychedelic guitar playing, also employed 2-handed fretboard tapping in the 1960s. Mandel was one of the first rock guitarists to utilize this technique, years before Eddie Van Halen and Stanley Jordan first appeared."

"Tapping was also used by Ace Frehley as early as 1975, for his live solo at the end of the song 'She' during Kiss's performance on the Midnight Special. The technique would remain a part of Frehley's solos from 1977 through the Kiss reunion during 'Shock Me.' Various other guitarists such as Frank Zappa, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, Brian May from Queen, Duane Allman from the The Allman Brothers Band and Leslie West from Mountain were using the tapping technique in the early 1970s as well. Ace Frehley and Frank Zappa used a guitar pick for their style of tapping."

"Eddie Van Halen helped popularise the tapping technique for the modern audience and influenced many guitarists in his wake."

clem said...

Regarding Joseph Needham and the invention of gunpowder:

"There was once a great deal of confusion and controversy surrounding the invention of firearms, but it is now generally accepted that firearms originated in China. Although there is no solid evidence for firearms in Europe before the 1300s, archeologists have discovered a gun in Manchuria dating from the 1200s, and an historian has identified a sculpture in Sichuan dating fro the 1100s that appears to represent a figure with a firearm. Since all the other evidence also points to Chinese origins, it is safe to conclude that this was in fact the case."

"The earliest known formula for gunpowder can be found in a Chinese work dating probably from the 800s. The Chinese wasted little time in applying it to warfare, and they produced a variety of gunpowder weapons, including flamethrowers, rockets, bombs, and mines, before inventing firearms. 'Firearms' (or 'guns') for purposes of this book means gunpowder weapons that use the explosive force of the gunpowder to propel a projectile from a tube: cannons, muskets, and pistols are typical examples."

Similarly:

"A book dating from around A.D. 850 called 'Classified Essentials of the Mysterious Tao of the True Origin of Things' debunks thirty-five elixirs. Of one it warns, 'Some have heated together sulfur, realgar and saltpeter [i.e., potassium nitrate] with honey; smoke and flames result, so that their hands and faces have been burnt, and even the whole house where they were working burned down.'"

Reg Cæsar said...

Another Dutch phenomenon shows two stark peaks centuries apart: emigration to America.

The first emigration peak coincides with the eminence peak in the 17th century. Though it should be remembered that what killed both New Netherland and New Sweden before it was that things were so good at home that no one wanted to leave: the Dutch and the Swedes were both outnumbered in their colonies. Without religious strife, English settlement might have suffered the same fate.

The second emigration peak predates the second eminence one by about half a century. They concentrated in western Michigan and Iowa. An inordinate amount of prominent "Dutch"-Americans today have Frisian surnames (look for the suffixes -stra, -sma and -ema, for examples). Whether this reflects the Frisian proportion in that second wave, I don't know.

Incidentally, the settlement of western New York a good century and a half after the eastern end of the state was financed by Dutch investors, which is why it's called the "Holland Purchase". It's like they felt they had to finish the job! One of the first landholders in Amherst was my Dutch-named ancestor, from an old New Netherland family, who bought from these investors; his grandson went to Michigan after the Civil War, making him Old Dutch among the New. Confused us for years!

Anonymous said...

"Shao Yong is considered a Neo-Confucian heavily influenced perhaps, by Daoist cosmology. Name me some eminent Daoist philosophers or statesmen after the Sui Dynasty - to the best of my knowledge, there are none. Religious Daoism became the preserve of quacks and conmen."

Shao Yong's Wheel is completely in the Daoist tradition.

How about Leibnitz? Jesuits showed him the I Ching right around the time he was working on the binary system. So does that make us computer users practicing Daoists?

"Any culture - mass culture especially, is standardized regardless of ideology. If a culture didn't possess consistent characteristics and benchmarks, it wouldn't be one."

Fair enough. The many follow the one.

Anonymous said...

"It helps to be annoying and egotistical to be creative."

What a crock! Einstein wasn't like this, neither was Watson, Smith, Nietzhe, the Wright Brothers, and many others.


I'm reading a popular account of the solution this decade, after 100 years, of the Poincare Conjecture.

Grisha Perelman, who completed Richard Hamilton's program in a burst of creativity, is extremely modest and so conflict-averse that he resigned his minor position at the Steklov Institute and has withdrawn from the mathematics community altogether.

But today, intellectuals effetes think they have to cultivate this persona in order to gain some kind of respect. Perhaps it's a way of distancing themselves from masses that they purport to identify with.

It's a complex issue. Steve shows every day (by breaking them) that the official pieties about human nature are extremely powerful, yet far removed from the facts of nature. What then do intellectual "issues" rest on?

dearieme said...

"the origin of zero (only now grudgingly acknowledged by Europeans as coming to them via Arabs from India)": that would be "now" in the sense of "back in the 1950s when Dearieme was in Primary School, or even before then if even the bloody Primary School teachers knew".

P.S. Steve, you have a commentator who appears not to know that Jim Watson is an annoying egotist. You have failed him in some way, I fear. He also thinks that Einstein was not an egotist. Dear God!

Anonymous said...

You know, the whole argument revolving around this theme: "East Asians have higher IQ's than whites - so why are white accomplishments so much more impressive - oh but they aren't - but yes they are!" and so on ad nauseum....

All rests on the assumption we are pretty much the same people that invented the mill (an incredibly important Medieval technology which did a lot more than grind grain) and built Chartes cathedral and painted the Sistine chapel and wrote any number of pavanes, galliards, toccatas, concerti, sonatas and sinfonias that make child's-play of modern music, wrote books like Gulliver's Travels or the Prince, and so on, while the Chinese were perfecting the art of calligraphy and passing the civil service exam.

I'm not sure that we really are the same people, genetically. But even if we are, I don't see any evidence that intelligence has much to do with the motivation to accomplish great things. Does having an IQ of 130 give you a little voice in your head saying: "no! I must not waste my life watching television...I must ACHIEVE!" Well no. How about 140? 150? Maybe at some point you will inevitably become a mathematician or theoretical physicist by sheer force of intellect - but even then, how much are you thereby contributing to posterity? Maybe a lot, maybe not so much, maybe nothing.

Where is the evidence that a high-iq population will not waste their lives doing something really stupid (but doing it ever so cleverly) while a lower-iq population actually does something worthwhile? You could ask me to define "worthwhile" before answering that question, but this is exactly the point: intelligence does not bring about a consensus definition on that.

Anonymous said...

"van halen, perhaps the most creative guitar player ever, had a dutch father."

posted by jody

...and an Indonesian mother, which, is mongoloid-ish, I presume. Care to rant some more in a confusingly hostile manner?

Sideways said...

"van halen, perhaps the most creative guitar player ever, had a dutch father."

posted by jody

...and an Indonesian mother, which, is mongoloid-ish, I presume. Care to rant some more in a confusingly hostile manner?


She was Indonesian like I'm native American (I'm white). She was probably ethnically Dutch, given that she was a white person from a Dutch colony.

Anonymous said...

Not bad article, but I really miss that you didn't express your opinion, but ok you just have different approach