December 1, 2013

Everybody Hates Malcolm, cont.

Chuck Ross writes in the Daily Caller:
President Barack Obama said he bought “books for every age group, from five to 52″ — including one on how race affects athleticism — in a trip Saturday afternoon to Politics & Prose, an independent bookstore in Washington, D.C. 
The semi-controversial book “The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance,” by David Epstein may have been Obama’s most interesting purchase – Epstein himself has acknowledged that the book tackles taboo topics such as race and the unsettled nature-nurture debate. .... 
Beside many other topics, Epstein explains in his book why track and field sprinters of West African descent tend to excel in the sport compared to other racial cohorts. Inborn differences in hemoglobin levels and limb length are part of the explanation for their dominance in the sport, he says. That topic is still taboo in most academic circles, says Epstein, for fears that it may lead to discussions on innate intelligence differences. 
“I’m pleased and certainly surprised he picked up my book, but not at all surprised he’s interested in the topics,” said Epstein, who was reached by The Daily Caller News Foundation via email. 
“I don’t think the president does nor should shy away from topics like gender and race — and certainly not from the science of genetics — that are important to Americans and humans generally,” said Epstein, adding that he wants to use the stage of sports to explore the deepest questions about “human biological diversity.” 
“I hope he enjoys using sports to delve into evolution, genetics, and questions about nature and nurture as much as I did,” Epstein told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

I've been trying to get up the energy to thoroughly read Gladwell's latest book, which looks from a skimming like a considerable improvement over his celebrated earlier efforts. Perhaps I could write a contrarian rave, but so far I just don't have it in me to dive in.

In The New Republic, John Gray hates Malcolm. (Of course, John Gray hates everybody.) But he makes some good points:
Yet Gladwell has more in common with his academic critics than either he or they realize, or care to admit. Academic writing is rarely a pursuit of unpopular truths; much of the time it is an attempt to bolster prevailing orthodoxies and shore up widely felt but ill-founded hopes. ... What is striking about Gladwell’s work is not its distance from academic theorizing but the uncritical reverence that he displays toward the academic mind. 

Gladwell is not unaware that he's highly trusting toward academics: he's stated that directly.

My guess is that people who have bought more than one Malcolm Gladwell book tend to be well-socialized college graduates who find that Malcolm reminds them of that really fun professor they had.

Personally, I'm all in favor of what Gladwell does as a genre, I just want him to do it better.

61 comments:

Gubbler of the Society of Reformed Chechenistics said...

"That topic is still taboo in most academic circles, says Epstein, for fears that it may lead to discussions on innate intelligence differences."

Not quite. While race + IQ topic is still controversial--more as a matter of public discussion than academic research(as the Jason Richwine case proved; he had little problem with liberal professors who read his dissertation and only got in trouble when someone tipped off Jennifer Rubin to go after him, which made it into a national issue; what I'd like to know is WHO tipped off Rubin on the Richwine case; I highly doubt if she found out on her own)--, it's small potatoes compared to the discussion of racial physical differences and crime/bullying/social violence.

True, Charles Murray got in some trouble because of Bell Curve, but he also had his defenders and didn't entirely become a persona non grata; he continued to publish books and work for influential institutions like AEI.

No, the real hot potato of the racial difference debate is connecting black athletic superiority with black crime.
If indeed blacks are stronger, tougher, faster, and very possibly more aggressive naturally, it means they pose a far bigger threat than other races as societal threats who go around knocking people out, robbing people, raping people, entering and breaking and doing what Willie Horton did. Beat up a white guy who wasn't able to defend his home and woman who was raped before his eyes.

If Americans come to understand the true nature of the bio-physical threat posed by blacks, 'white guilt' will begin to evaporate, and whites won't be so easily morally brow-beaten by political correctness. And whites will begin to feel that racial segregation is justified in the name of white safety and security, a realization that might imply that the Southern 'racists' weren't entirely wrong either. It was white 'racism' or black 'rapism'.

Epstein wrote about athletic differences in races as 'diverse' wonders to behold, something we can enjoy and celebrate as entertainment.
If indeed we could enjoy black athleticism on the TV screen, where indeed would be the harm, just like TV viewers thrill at the sight of powerful animals in nature programs? Big powerful animals live in nature and exist only through the TV screen; they are nowhere around where we live.

But do powerful and tough blacks only exist on the sporting fields and TV sets?
For every nasty tough black guy who makes it to the NFL or NBA, how many nasty tough blacks are there who turn to crime, roam around the streets looking for easy prey? A LOT MORE.

That is what really needs to be discussed. If blacks can whup whites on the sporting fields, why wouldn't nasty blacks in schools and streets and buses not beat up on whites and other non-blacks?

But even 99% of the Right will not touch on this issue. This issue and this fact will be the real game changer in racial politics and the possibility of white survival in the future.

sunbeam said...

"Beside many other topics, Epstein explains in his book why track and field sprinters of West African descent tend to excel in the sport compared to other racial cohorts. Inborn differences in hemoglobin levels and limb length are part of the explanation for their dominance in the sport, he says."

I've never read this book, but I found the hemogoblin thing very interesting when I read of it in various places discussing this book.

If you have ever been around blacks, American ones at least, playing sports or doing physical exertion in a hot humid environment, you find out something that just seems contrary to popular conceptions, including those on this site.

Namely blacks seem to be poorly adapted to heat. Black athletes cramp incredibly easily. They also don't have a lot of endurance, and seem to do poorly when exposed to the sun for a long time.

I'm not talking about sunburn or anything of the sort. But working in a high humidity environment in direct sun will kick your butt in a hurry. And it will do that to blacks quicker than whites.

I kind of suspect that black people from the East coast of Africa would perform far differently in this sort of environment, as opposed to the black people I have encountered whose ancestry is pretty much from West Africa. I'd also expect Mexicans to be much the same as East Africans.

The hemogoblin differences are for resistance to malaria from what I understand. The side effect is superior performance in the kinds of athletic efforts American society chooses to reward with viewership. But it is pretty much a side effect, not a primary trait.

I asked on this site in an earlier post in another thread, whether any other population of people in the world have the kind of performance in athletic events that require quick twitch and burst.

No one answered. I'd still like to know. I can think of a couple of populations worldwide that are famed for endurance and performance in things like marathons.

But as far as performing in the sprints, I can't think of any population that seems to have an advantage in that, except for the West Africans.

It just seems to me that running 100 meters quickly is just kind of evolutionary useless in almost any environment. Hit me with your tiger anecdotes, but if it is so useful why hasn't this sort of thing been selected for in another population?

Glossy said...

The big news here is that David Epstein used the term "human biological diversity". The chances of anyone coming up with that term independently or picking it up from a source other than this blog aren't great.

Harry Baldwin said...

That topic is still taboo in most academic circles, says Epstein, for fears that it may lead to discussions on innate intelligence differences.

Sounds to me Epstein knows exactly where those discussions lead.

Anonymous said...

>>"Personally, I'm all in favor of what Gladwell does as a genre, I just want him to do it better."




Steve. We're thinking you doth protest too much a little bit here. The correct sentence should read "I'm in favor of what he does as a genre, and I KNOW that I could do it better."



Know what? You probably could. Still think a head on debate either at Slate or some other venue should be organized on say, about, three different topics. Gladwell choses one, you would chose one, and Slate or whatever the venue is and the person who would moderate it (e.g. William Saletan for example) would chose the third topic.


You can do it, and most likely you're up for the task.

Anonymous said...

Well, didn't Obama already say that he used to play basketball in an aggressive attack-the-rim black style but since he got older and weaker he's been forced to play a weak white man jump shot style? I mean that in the sense that he specifically identified the youthful strong body style as black and the old weak man style as white, similar to how Gladwell claimed blacks were like boys and whites were like girls. Insanely racially offensive, if the press could add 2+2 I mean.

ATBOTL said...

When is the journalistic establishment going turn on the infinitely more objectionable Tom Friedman?

The mainstream is not going to have an epiphany about HBD anytime soon, but the collapse of the neoliberal economic orthodoxy is imminent.

Economic issue are a much better tool to advance sensible politics anyway, as we have seen in Europe.

dearieme said...

"fears that it may lead to discussions on innate intelligence differences": a thought has just occurred to me on this. What will the effect be of the one-child policy in China? In the West, feckless dole-bludgers outbreed working citizens: have the Chinese found a way to extend their lead, or has Chinese society been so backward that those at the top aren't much abler than those at the bottom?

Anonymous said...

The problem of 'leap-frogging', or maybe wander-compassion.

One might argue that conservatives are more 'natural' in their emotions since their loyalties and commitments are 'concentric'. Family first, friends and community second, , my race and my nation over other races and other nations, etc. (While loyalties in nature may be more concentric, some of the greatest rivalries are among the same species. Wolves are more likely to tolerate other species than enemy wolf packs, with which they have the most vicious battles. Likewise, humans are likely to feel more compassion for dogs and cats, members of other species, than for people of other nations. We know dogs and cats cannot harm us whereas other humans as potential enemies can. Dogs and cats didn't carry out the Holocaust or bomb Pearl Harbor. Dogs and cats don't knock out random strangers or rape women.)

To be sure, there are competing or overlapping concentricisms. If you have a close friend who is black and if you also wanna preserve the white race(as 'my race'), which is of greater concentric significance? Or if you're a black guy with a white friend(who happens to be fighting on the side of preserving slavery) and if you want your race to be free, which is the greater concentric priority? That was one of the interesting questions in RIDE WITH THE DEVIL.

At any rate, given the ways in which so many people feel about family and community, concentricism seems the natural default way of thinking about the world.
But such emotions were buttressed in the past by feelings of need, urgency, and survival. If your family and community had to toil from sunup to sundown just to have enough to eat and had to unite together to fight Indians(and other enemies), concentric loyalties were made emotionally compelling and righteously charged. I mean who wouldn't work with the family and community to feed the children who might otherwise starve? And who wouldn't pick up their guns and unite with other men of the community to fight Indians who might scalp and murder all the men and carry off the women, as in THE SEARCHERS.

Thus, old concentricism wasn't just an abstract idea but something of great emotional and moral power that imbued people with a sense of worth and purpose. And throughout most of human history--even in America prior to the economic boom following WWII--, survival and security were on the minds of most people. Concentricism seemed not only natural but morally justified since the family and community had to work together to eat and live another day and fight Indians or other enemy folks.
Also, life was busy since, without the conveniences of modern technology, it took all day to cook and sew and make butter and carry water and clean the latrine and plow and sow the fields, and etc. Thus, concentricism was a full-time activity and there was little energy left for anything else.

But look at modern society today, especially where affluent white folks live. There is no sense of urgency. There's a lot of privilege, plenty of food, safe communities, all sorts of amenities, and opportunities. The parents of affluent white liberals have good jobs and savings for retirement, and there's also social security or pensions. They have nice homes with clean water, central heating, air conditioning, automatic dish washers, washing machines, and lots of food in the fridge. There are no dangerous Indians hiding in the bushes--and not even many Negroes. And the entire community is doing well. And other family members go to good colleges and will have trust funds from grandparents. And friends go to elite schools and live in nice homes and may do well for themselves after college. Everyone enjoys all sorts of electronic gadgets and goes to fancy restaurants to eat sushi for $100.

Anonymous said...

In a safe and affluent community, concentricism is merely an abstract principle. There is no sense of urgency or purpose since everyone is doing so well and seems so well off.
White settlers in the West circled the wagons because Indians came after them, but without the Indians, there would have been no need for martial concentricism.

Indeed, if people in your community are doing so well, they don't need your help or compassion. And you don't need theirs since you grew up affluent, went to good schools, and could have a pretty privileged future. To insist on concentricism in such a setting may seem pointless and vapid, rather like calling for folks to circle the wagons when there are no hostile Indians as far as the eyes can see.
Also, it sounds emotionally shallow and selfish. I mean why talk about 'sticking together' and 'watching out for one another' when the community has so much(indeed so much more than what it knows what to do with it) and others don't need your help(and vice versa)?

There is also the problem of 'emotional boredom'. Some species and races--especially certain individuals among them--are simply more adventurous than others. While some people are happy to live in a small community all their lives, some people have to see new places and new people. They have the Lewis-and-Clark fever. They are like George Bailey in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE who wants to leave the town and lick the world. They are like David Treadup in THE CALL who wants to Christianize China. Just like men such as Columbus just had to travel to new worlds, some people need an adventurous purpose to living. It can be about finding new lands, coming up with new inventions, or saving new souls.
Some Christian folks are content to live in their own community and stick with other Christians. But other Christians are bored with the static Christian-ness of his own community. They feel no sense of purpose since everyone already is a Christian. They must go shopping for new souls to cure(if not new soles to wear). They seek excitement in looking for new peoples to convert and save. It's like some people with wanderlust just have to see new lands and new places even if they have face all kinds of dangers.

In olden times, even to survive concentrically was difficult, and so there was an emotional urgency to being concentric. It's like when his father dies, George Bailey feels an emotional obligation to remain in Bedford Falls. His family, his father's business, and the community really depend on him. So, he grudgingly stays. And since his passion for new adventures has been stifled, he channels those energies toward finding new ways to improve the lives of the less fortunate people of the community, even those of garlic eating Italians. It makes him feel significant and necessary in life, however on a small scale.

But imagine if Bailey household was rich, his father was healthy, and the whole community was thriving. Bailey would surely have taken off and looked for new adventures and causes in the larger world. There isn't much emotional or moral urgency taking care of a community that needs no taking care of. If your friend graduated from an elite university and is gonna make $300,000 a year, what does it matter what you wanna do for him or what you think about him? He's doing very well on his own, thank you.

Thus, in our times, there is no sense of urgency among the affluent within their own community; no need to circle the wagons. (While there were affluent classes in the past, they had more reason to circle the wagons since there was a much starker divide between the haves and have-nots. There was the chance of class warfare and social rebellion on a massive scale, and so, the rich tended to stick together. But the affluent in American and EU no longer fear the masses who are taken care of by the welfare state and who care more about video games and freaking out at Walmart on black friday than uniting to bring down the system.)

Anonymous said...

So today, there is no longer the unity between concentricism and urgency(emotional and moral). While concentric emotions are natural, so is the need for emotional urgency. We have this need to feel that our lives are meaningful. But in many affluent communities in the West, no such feelings of urgency exists since so many people are well-off and don't need your help to keep doing well.
And even among the less fortunate, there is the welfare state to take care of you. In the past, a Negro man and Negro woman stayed together to pull their resources together to take care of one another and their kids. But with the state feeding, housing, and clothing the women and the kids, there's far less moral incentive for black men to stick around(though, to be sure, blacks may be a special case since they are sort of 'crazy').

Thus, for those white people in affluent communities who crave a feeling of urgency and purpose, they look for poor, 'oppressed', 'marginalized', 'disenfranchised', 'forgotten', or some such communities in the West(such as gypsies and other minorities) or in dirt poor Third World countries.
If you're a member of an affluent white community and if you go to a family member and friend and say, "Here's a 100 dollars. I wanna help you out", they'll just look at you like you're an idiot. Why would they need you or your money when they got plenty of their own?
But if you offer $100 to an African, you will be seen as an angel/god from above. You feel that your life has great emotional urgency and moral purpose.

So, the problem with the modern affluent West is that it has disassociated concentricism with emotional urgency. Both feelings are natural--more in some people than in others--, but it's no longer possible for lots of white people to get both in one single package. So, they must 'leapfrog' to other communities to find this sense of urgency and purpose. It's one form of natural instinct acting against another form of natural instinct.

But suppose a massive comet hit the US, and things got out of hand, and suppose even the most liberal and formerly affluent white person had to struggle like crazy just to keep himself, his family, and his community alive. Suddenly, concentricism and urgency would be part of a single package again, and he might come around to being what we call 'conservative'. 9/11 had even white liberals waving the American flag and cheering for Bush(the dumbass who leapfrogged into Iraq).
The modern world with all its comforts and affluence has its blessings but also its curses.


Glossy said...

Dearieme, it's my impression that the one-child policy was disgenic.

From the Wikipedia: "rural families can have a second child if the first child is a girl or is disabled, and ethnic minorities are exempt."

City folk have to be smarter than farmers in China and Chinese ethnic minorities are definitely less intelligent than the Han.

Anonymous said...

"Steve. We're thinking you doth protest too much a little bit here. The correct sentence should read 'I'm in favor of what he does as a genre, and I KNOW that I could do it better.'"

No way Sailer can excel in such genre, and he knows it. Sailer's style isn't aggressive or firebrand, but it's blunt and direct.
It's like the time he said something to Jared Diamond, which made the latter run away like a mofo.
It's like the time he made the 'let the good times roll' statement and pissed off even conservatives who distanced themselves from him.

To succeed in such a genre, one has to be diplomatic, but Sailer isn't the diplomatic type(even if he isn't the rude/rowdy type either).

The problem with Gladwell is he came to buy into his own myth. He was a useful media gimmick but then began to see himself as a genuine guru and turned into self-parody. It's like if you're gonna sell snake-oil, you shouldn't believe in the hype you're peddling. If you're gonna deal in drugs, you shouldn't snort your own supply.

Gladwell did, and I suspect even Liberals began to feel that he was beginning to embarrass them with ever more ludicrous claims. I mean 10,000 hrs is just plainly ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

Off-topic:

The outpouring of grief on social media for actor Paul Walker among black people has been astounding. It seems there's a whole hashtag on Black Twitter called #WhiteBoo devoted to white people beloved by black women, and the late Mr. Walker (blond, affable Valley boy surfer) was the ur-white boo.

ironrailsironweights said...

"I'm sorry, Mr. Obama, but your credit card has been declined."

Peter

ironrailsironweights said...

If it's okay to venture a bit off-topic to the subject of height, which is of course a perennial interest on this site, earlier this evening I encountered the tallest person I've ever seen in person. I went into a convenience store, and there at the counter buying a lottery ticket was a young black man who absolutely towered over me. For a moment I thought that maybe he was from one of the very tall Niolitic tribes, which seemed likely because his skin was very dark, but when he spoke to the clerk he sounded completely American.

When I stood next to him at the counter, off to his right side, I was on eye level with his upper arm, closer to the elbow than the shoulder. This meant that the top of my head would have been at least a few inches below his shoulder level. Extrapolating from my height of 5'10" this would place him somewhere in excess of seven feet.

Note: he had a backpack from northern California's Notre Dame de Namur University. I figured that maybe he was a basketball player, though why the team would be in Long Island was a bit of a mystery. Anyway, I checked the university's site and their tallest black player is a "puny" 6'6".

Peter

Anonymous said...

Even some of the normally hardcore PC commenters at RadioLab bristle at the absurd cultural explanation for African running superiority. I'm mildly shocked. Steve, I think you are having an impact.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about something that I learned from Steve, about the children of really smart people tending to move back toward the norm in IQ, when I read a Tweet from former NBA player Steve Kerr effusively praising Gladwell's book.

Kerr's father was the president of American University's Beirut branch, where he was assassinated in 1984.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_Kerr_%28academic%29

So now the son regresses to the norm, and, instead of doing post-grad work at Oxford, talks on TV about sports and reads glib Gladwell to feel smart.

Reg Cæsar said...

...I mean 10,000 hrs is just plainly ludicrous.
Because the professional golf and tennis tours and top-flight orchestras are loaded with people who read The First 20 Hours and The 4-Hour Chef. That's all you need if you're born to it, and the other 9,980 hours are a waste of time better spent with wine and women.

Just ask anyone who can whistle Mozart's First Symphony.

Steeden said...

" “I don’t think the president does nor should shy away from topics like gender and race — and certainly not from the science of genetics — that are important to Americans and humans generally,” said Epstein, adding that he wants to use the stage of sports to explore the deepest questions about “human biological diversity.”

“I hope he enjoys using sports to delve into evolution, genetics, and questions about nature and nurture as much as I did,” Epstein told The Daily Caller News Foundation."


Yeah, that will be the day. The president and Holder sure have had an honest and fair conversation so far about race and gender.

He's entirely in damage control mode now after screwing up so bad, Epstein is on crack if he thinks Obama will actually read and change his views. Its all appearances for the public.

I'm surprised that I didn't see anything here about a couple of blatantly staged damage control for Obama episodes recently, Steve. The heckler and the handwritten letter to the teacher were staged so Obama could publicly proclaim he works within the laws, and re-iterate Obamacare as doing something politically harmful to himself for the good of the people.

Derb's Mossberg said...

"If you have ever been around blacks, American ones at least, playing sports or doing physical exertion in a hot humid environment, you find out something that just seems contrary to popular conceptions, including those on this site.

Namely blacks seem to be poorly adapted to heat. Black athletes cramp incredibly easily. They also don't have a lot of endurance, and seem to do poorly when exposed to the sun for a long time.

I'm not talking about sunburn or anything of the sort. But working in a high humidity environment in direct sun will kick your butt in a hurry. And it will do that to blacks quicker than whites."


-Makes sense to me. Hard exertion in high heat and humidity is dangerous. White people didn't have that selective pressure on them for 10,000's of years. So they may not be as finely tuned to it, so have a higher chance of just blindly keep on plugging away until they collapse from a heat stroke. Say what you will about the lazy black construction worker, at least he goes home in the evening after work, instead of to the hospital or the mortuary.

Reg Cæsar said...

Personally, I'm all in favor of what Gladwell does as a genre, I just want him to do it better. –SS

Why wait for Gladwell to improve, when you can read Geoff Colvin, Frans Johansson, Charles Duhigg, Daniel Coyle and David Sudnow today?

Even the on-the-surface wacky Timothy Ferriss has a number of good points to make in his most recent book; e.g., don't learn from the 'naturals', but from those who had to struggle to succeed. Ever notice how almost all the great baseball managers came from the stratum of just-good-enough players?

A Working Class American said...

quoting:
"Academic writing is rarely a pursuit of unpopular truths...."

Same goes for the media. And for hollywood. And for the blogosphere.

Almost without exception, they all only publish popular truths and small twists, deviations, and variations of popular truth.

They hew very closely to the conventional wisdom.

Why?

Because they want to make money.

Humans do not want to read truly radical ideas. And they won't pay for them. That is why I have two unpublished books, books I did not even try to have published. The act of writing them led me to these truths--that the books would not sell because they are radical, and not in any generally understood sense.

Reg Cæsar said...

The president and Holder sure have had an honest and fair conversation so far about race and gender.

I'm sure they have. Behind closed doors.

Anonymous said...

Easy for people to believe traits viewed as positive by a society (speed, for instance) is basically genetic while traits viewed as negative (slow in learning to read or do math) is basically cultural.

So, what's the big deal about Obama having bought Epstein's book? He's just looking to confirm his biases and should someone say to him, "But if X, then probably Y," he'll cling to his progressivism.

Steve Sailer said...

The great Jerry West was a successful coach of the Lakers in the 1970s, but it drove him crazy trying to teach players to see things on the court that were obvious to him, so he switched to scouting and draft picking.

Dave Pinsen said...

The outpouring wasn't limited to blacks. The man starred in a series of 6 hugely popular movies in the same franchise over the last 13 years. And he seemed to be a decent guy off camera - he was raising money for typhoon victims the day he died.

jody said...

can anybody who has actually read the epstein book tell me if he even attempts an intellectually honest examination of the topic, or is it just an entine style takedown? "Why White Guys Shouldn't Play Sports and Why I'd Like To Talk About It" would be a more accurate title to entine's book.

i actually have the epstein book sitting in my house right now. my brother got it for me in october. he's a professional track, swimming, and weightlifting coach. i've posted about him before. anyway, he mentioned this book back in september after hearing about it on NPR. i told him i probably didn't even need to read it to know what was in it. he couldn't believe it. we had a dumb 30 minute argument about it in the middle of a 10 mile run in the woods, mostly based on his incredulity that i could know what was in a book i never read.

apparently that bothered him, and he must have went on amazon later and bought the book and shipped it to me. i haven't even touched it for what should be obvious reasons: entine and epstein share a particular religion, the members of which are generally extremely hostile to one specific group playing sports and extremely supportive of another specific group playing sports. you might even say they tend to fancy one group as being a weapon with which to bludgeon the other group.

Dave Pinsen said...

OT, but this weekend's Lunch with the FT interview with a Korean heterodox economist at Cambridge touches on some things you've mentioned in previous posts.

jody said...

"If you have ever been around blacks, American ones at least, playing sports or doing physical exertion in a hot humid environment, you find out something that just seems contrary to popular conceptions, including those on this site.

Namely blacks seem to be poorly adapted to heat. Black athletes cramp incredibly easily. They also don't have a lot of endurance, and seem to do poorly when exposed to the sun for a long time."

i have posted about this multiple times. there is no contradiction here. sunlight creates two effects. burning and heating. african skin is optimized to resist burning. the tradeoff is heating. african skin absorbs light heat fast. once heated up, their bodies retain heat longer and shed it a lot slower than other groups.

to understand how this works all you need to think about are lines of paint on the road during a hot day in the summer. a line of white paint is a lot cooler than a patch of blacktop. simply measure the surface temperature at 6am, noon, and 5pm. there will be a big difference. or, you can try this out for yourself. wear all black clothes one day during the summer, then the next day, wear all white clothes. this is also why roofs are being painted white in california, to reflect light and keep structures cool, instead of black, which absorbs heat and is less efficient for the energy sector. in fact this is why photovoltaic panels are a very deep blue or black color. to absorb as much light as possible. for a scientific examination of this concept google albedo.

this is why african football players are more likely to keel over from two a days in the summer sun. in fact, not only should sports teams examine the difference between brain temperature between the different players during maximum exertion in summer sun, but the US military should also investigate this as well. the africans may need more time to recover and more water to cool off after several straight hours of exertion.

african lethargy is not a stereotype. there are some physiological reasons, if not psychological reasons. there's no good reason to be highly active in the middle of the day on the grassy hot savannah in africa, with low water supplies. you will overheat fast. moving around slowly most of the time makes more sense.

Dave Pinsen said...

I saw white guys and black guys pass out from heat exhaustion at Ft. Benning, GA. I don't think anyone is adapted to heavy physical exertion during periods of peak heat and exertion. Hence mid-day siestas. It's not surprising that men pass out during football training camps or infantry training in temperate August heat waves.

jody said...

"It just seems to me that running 100 meters quickly is just kind of evolutionary useless in almost any environment. Hit me with your tiger anecdotes, but if it is so useful why hasn't this sort of thing been selected for in another population?"

it would be useful in most environments, hence my reverse question, why were type IIB muscle fibers dropped to a lower ratio in most populations. or maybe a more accurate question would be, why the particular ratio between I, IIA, and IIB, in each population, and why did IIB stack up so high in west africa.

there's definitely extreme climates where energy hungry IIBs would not be what you would want and Is would suffice, such as places where it is cold and freezing year round, food sources are scarce, and energy conservation is more important. but in most places, you could use IIBs to great effect. it seems that nature decided having some IIAs were good enough in most places.

another interesting thing is how wide the difference is between africans from the west to the east of the continent. east africans are all type Is, and are some of the weakest, slowest, least athletic humans around. i doubt there's a kenyan or ethiopian who will ever even bench press 500 pounds, which is not even a world class press, and they are outsprinted by almost every group. east asians are WAY faster than east africans.

probably only indians are slower, weaker, and less athletic.

Anonymous said...

Steve, no post or comment on the Paul Walker passing?

jody said...

"The great Jerry West was a successful coach of the Lakers in the 1970s, but it drove him crazy trying to teach players to see things on the court that were obvious to him, so he switched to scouting and draft picking."

bird did good, in fact, he took his team to the finals. gretzky on the other hand didn't do as well. kidd is number 2 all-time in assists and seems to be crashing and burning.

jackson was great, riley was great, carlisle also got a title. perhaps the key is to merely be good enough to play in the league, but have the brains to go further. cowher was an average player but a great coach and perhaps one of the all time great drafters.

maybe baseball is where it is easiest for a good player to become a good manager. not that it is easy. but easier than basketball or hockey. football somewhere in the middle.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRPt7JvX9ag

When Stones sounded like Herman's Hermits.

Anonymous said...

"kidd is number 2 all-time in assists and seems to be crashing and burning."

Indeed. Jeff Hornacek seems to be doing well. One difference b/w the two is that Hornacek has been a retired player for 13 years and has several years experience as an assistant coach under his belt.

I think the observation of mediocre athletes succeeding more as coaches might just be a statistical artifact or selection bias. First, there is a much larger pool of average/mediocre players than superstars. By this I mean that there may be zero correlation b/w playing ability and coaching ability rather than a negative correlation. Second, the non-superstars have to genuinely want to coach. They generally have to earn the right by paying their dues as assistants and in the process gain experience and know-how as opposed to jumping in over their heads by relying on their super-stardom reputation.

Patrick Ewing is one example of a star player who has been a longtime assistant.

Anonymous said...

Steve, we would forgive you if you took 6 months off blogging to write the book Gladwell should.

You could use ambiguous wording, dress it up to make it less clear that you are a racist (as Cochran and Harpending did in in 10k Year Exp). I bet if you set up a kickstarter to get some motivation cash you could get us to donate $100k or so to do it. Just sayin'.

Jostein

DCThrowback said...

@anon 6:49

I have mixed feelings on Kerr. As a player, he's been a winner; at Arizona, w/ the Bulls (5x Champ) and he's been effective understanding his strengths (perimeter shooting) and having them utilized on winning teams.

Further, he helped build the Suns into one of the most entertaining teams in the late aughts - their run and gun style w/ Steve Nash was basketball artistry at it's finest. A shame the Spurs were their kryptonite...you should read Jack McCallum's book "7 Seconds or Less", a season with the '08 Suns if you're interested on the topic further, it's a great read.

However, Kerr references Nazi Germany when referring to SB 1070 is beyond ludricrous, but dare I say effective in the propagandistic way these things are often conducted.

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/suns/articles/2010/05/04/20100504phoenix-suns-los-suns-jerseys.html?nclick_check=1

I am sad (but not surprised) both Gregg Popovich and David Stern endorsed the "los Suns" v "los Spurs" angle to protest the immensely popular state law.

Having listened to Kerr many times on TNT and on Simmons' podcasts, I found him articulate and knowledgeable, so I am not so sure he has regressed all that much.

Dave Pinsen said...

A raw (I.e., without a shirt that does some of the work) 500lb bench press is world class at ~200lb body weight and is rare at any body weight.

Anonymous said...

>>"Patrick Ewing is one example of a star player who has been a longtime assistant."


Yes, but on the other side, there is Michael Jordan as owner. How's that working out? How many championships so far has he won as an owner?


If we expand it to superstars going into the front office (as well as coaching) we can see then that most superstar athletes will never figure out one of the main components to successful coaching and/or working in the front office and that is, the ability to put aside the ego and a willingness to admit error.

Most superstars, having a larger than life ego, simply will not do this. Therefore, they are almost doomed never to suceed at the job of coach/front office. They cannot put themselves second in anything in life, why should they now simply because they're no longer front and center on the court?

And that is why the vast majority of superstar athletes never ever ascend to the level of greatest coach, GM, and/or owner.

They simply cannot put aside and negate their ego, of which they have spent their entire careers developing and cultivating.

Anonymous said...

"No, the real hot potato of the racial difference debate is connecting black athletic superiority with black crime.
If indeed blacks are stronger, tougher, faster, and very possibly more aggressive naturally"

Early puberty = early athletic superiority (on average) followed by going to seed earlier.

Early puberty = more crime and violence also.

(It's not the only reason - there's also the various reasons for impulsivity plus a gang culture which has been selecting for sociopaths for at least 2-3 generations - but average age of puberty is relatively value neutral compared to the other two.)

(Average age of puberty is also a big class divider imo.)

Anonymous said...

sunbeam
"I asked on this site in an earlier post in another thread, whether any other population of people in the world have the kind of performance in athletic events that require quick twitch and burst.

No one answered. I'd still like to know. I can think of a couple of populations worldwide that are famed for endurance and performance in things like marathons."

I think hbdchick's theory about dancing may be the key here. If fast twitch is a side-effect of malaria protection then fast-twitch dancing would in effect be displaying your malaria protection.

So any other populations around the world (i assume tropical also?) who do fast-twitch type dancing?

The reason why it may be so rare is generally people from regions that require extreme malaria protection would never develop much so it's only relevant where people from regions like that were moved and taken somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

OT, but Steve, have you seen this: Gay lobby pushing harder than ever to life blood donation bans?

It doesn't help anxiety to read that an HHS panel is conducting the inquiry into latest scientific research affecting the policy:


http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/dec/1/with-new-hiv-research-fda-may-let-gay-men-donate-b/

Anonymous said...

I noticed last weekend that Gladwell is featured in November's in-flight magazine on United. Talk about frequent-flyer writing!

Anonymous said...

OT, but back to the Silicon Valley thread.

Here's a company that is the great intersection of Silicon Valley, D.C., guns, gang violence, and who knows what else:

Shotspotter

I'm not sure how altruistic this company is given their dependence on government largesse. Yet again, the VC community gets rich off the government teat. Check out the investor list, too.

Ray Sawhill said...

John Gray is a loose cannon but he's sometimes really great.

Anyone else notice that Paul Walker started, er, dating his longtime girlfriend when she was 16?

Anonymous said...

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/11/21/kennedy_and_the_heyday_of_overambitious_government_120735.html

Anonymous said...

OT,

They are having a debate about IQ in the London Evening Standard. The Mayor of London made comments suggesting that inequality exists because some people are too dumb to get on in life. Surprisingly the comments section has not been deleted.

pat said...

The comments about black skin in the sunshine are hardly new. All desert people of whatever race have skin with about the same degree of pigment saturation. The pigment may vary a bit in hue if it's a Chinese desert versus a South African desert but all such people are tan. Not white. Not black. Tan or tannish.

Black skin seems to be optimized for high humidity, hot climates with vegetation that protects from direct sun. This is called the jungle, the bush or the rain forest.

There is a belt of tropical rain forest around the world in which all the long term inhabitants are very dark. All deserts are likewise in two rough belts above and below the equator and all of their permanent inhabitants are tan.

Light skinned people are more northerly. Probably Vitamin D.

The last time I checked there was still some dispute about why blacks were so black, but the basic geographical patterns have been known for some time.

Albertosaurus

pat said...

How does it make you feel when you think about Mozart? Or about Gauss?

I think many people think its unfair. They shake their fist at the heavens and go out and buy a book by Gladwell.

Albertosaurus

ironrailsironweights said...

If indeed blacks are stronger, tougher, faster, and very possibly more aggressive naturally

Except they aren't, at least outside of blogospheric homoerotic fantasies.

Peter

Dave Pinsen said...

Here's an interview with Gladwell in Runner's World where he vacillates a bit on genetic potential WRT running ability. On the one hand, he notes that he realized at a young age his limitations as a runner and that 10k hours wouldn't have made him world class; on the other he suggests that if distance running became popular in China and India, an Indian or Chinese might break marathon records.

Dave Pinsen said...

My second link should have gone to this page of bench press performance standards. 500lbs is off the charts even for elite lifters who weigh over 300lbs.

Mika said...

John Gray has lots of heroes. Check out his book reviews for the New Statesmen to see how many positive reviews he gives, and all his books contain lavish praise of numerous writers he admires, as well as extensive quotes. He just happens to be the most edgy and unconventional thinker of this era, perhaps of many eras. John Gray probably hates everybody you admire, but that's because despite your conceit that you are unconventional, you just occupy a particular corner of the mainstream. John Gray is an example of a genuinely non-mainstream thinker. Interestingly, both the left and the extreme right (this corner of the blogopshere) cherish a self-image as daringly unconventional, yet both cherish a set of myths that give them a sense of meaning and purpose. John Gray is one of the few thinkers who tries to show how it is possible to live well without a sense of meaning, and that if we really want to understand the world we should accept that it is largely meaningless. But then of course, who wants to really understand the world? Most like to settle down snugly with a few myths and illusions and congratulate themselves on being the only ones who have a grip on reality. Of course, Gray accepts that we cannot escape this human need for myth, and tries to persuade no one; he merely writes for those few who feel dissatisfaction with the conventional view of reality found in blogs like this and all over the mainstream media.

Anonymous said...

on the other he suggests that if distance running became popular in China and India, an Indian or Chinese might break marathon records.

That's not implausible. Especially since both China and India populations that live at high altitudes near the Himalayas. There have been two Korean marathon Olympic gold medal winners.

Jerry said...

What he said!

Steve, we would forgive you if you took 6 months off blogging to write the book Gladwell should.

You could use ambiguous wording, dress it up to make it less clear that you are a racist (as Cochran and Harpending did in in 10k Year Exp). I bet if you set up a kickstarter to get some motivation cash you could get us to donate $100k or so to do it. Just sayin'.

Silver said...

John Gray is one of the few thinkers who tries to show how it is possible to live well without a sense of meaning, and that if we really want to understand the world we should accept that it is largely meaningless.

Oh, he's far from unique in this. Nihilists love to consider themselves the few, the proud who dare to look the abyss in the eye and come away unfazed - "didn't hurt!" - unlike the rest of us cowards, clinging to our cozy myths. The great irony is that nihilists derive considerable meaning from their tough guy pose.

Secondly, even if it's possible to live well as a nihilist, the more important question to me is: is it possible to live better as a nihilist compared to myth-maker? I really fail to see how I'd be better off giving up my myths of progress, human destiny, greater-things-to-come, and the role of a God-like (or many-gods-like) 'spiritual force' in it all. I don't ask that anybody accept my views as 'true,' but for those who'd like to improve their experience of existence I put them forward for consideration: they've worked for me, they may well work for you. How can a nihilist compete with that? "Oh, no, no, no, don't do that. Be like me. Reaffirm to yourself daily the meaninglessness and pointlessness of it all." Lol.

Dave Pinsen said...

If China thought it had a lot of potential distance runners, wouldn't it have cultivated them already?

Anonymous said...

Seriously? The President reads a book about genetics, and the only comments are incredibly bitter, abusive, and negative.

This is what you've cultivated, Mr. Sailer.

Mika said...

Silver, Gray isn't a nihilist. He doesn't deny that life has value and is very much worth living, he denies it has meaning, direction, purpose, or even that we are able to control it. He very strongly defends the notion that life is worth living and there is nothing of the tough guy pose in his attitude.

He isn't even opposed to myth making and illusions and in some places strongly defends the human need for illusions as productive of a better life. He just thinks one can live better by some myths rather than others, and that we should find our which myths are truly indispensible and which myths make us live worse.

The myth of progress can offer consolation but can be very harmful. Believing in it makes it hard to take pleasure in the moment. It fosters an attitude where only the future matters. The moment has little value. The result is a restless life of discontent. Life slip through your fingers, never really grasped. It can also make you wreck perfectly good arrangements out of a need for constant "improvement". It's probably one of the biggest reasons the West is so unhappy today.

Reaffirming that life is pointless and has no direction can be incredibly liberating. A great burden can feel like it has been lifted as you learn once again to take pleasure in the moment and in the many excellent things and pleasures that already exist and are not waiting to come into the existence in the future. After all, why constantly work for improvement if some things are excellent now? At some point you just want to relax and appreciate existing perfection instead of tensely awaiting the future.

But all this is so far from mainstream Western thinking, especially in America, as to be almost inaudible. No one wants to hear this stuff - like a cheap drug the myth of progress intoxicates without satisfying and leaves you craving more until nothing is enough. And you know what? For those that need that myth, that's great. It might be that pointlessness would be experienced by them as crushing despair. It might be that periods of relative happiness spent waiting a glorious future that never arrives is the best kind of happiness they can have.

Probably in the end we each choose the myth that we need. John Gray offers a perspective for those whom the prevailing myths fail to satisfy, like myself. For you and most of America and the West, the last thing he, or I, would wish to do is rob you of what "works" for you.

Steve Sailer said...

Marathon running is relatively diverse in terms of who wins, at least compared to the 5,000 meter or the 100 meter. It's a hard way to make a living, so the better athletes gravitate toward shorter races they can run every Sunday during track season in Europe, instead of peaking for two marathons per year.