February 7, 2002

Edward Said, Jonah Goldberg, and "Orientalist" scholars

Jonah Goldberg in NRO defends the old European "Orientalist" scholars of Middle Eastern culture against the Palestinian-American literary critic Edward Said's celebrated attack on them as racists. But Jonah misses three key points.

First, as is so common among multiculturalists, Said prefers to write about Europeans who wrote about Arabs, rather than writing about Arabs themselves, because Said is bored and embarrassed by his own people.

Second, many of these European scholars were not only not biased against Arabia, they were in fact "desperately in love with the Arab Muslim world," according to the great economic historian David Landes (click here for my review of his last book.) The British archaeologist turned Arab guerilla leader Lawrence of Arabia is only the most famous "sand-smitten" example.

Third, more than a few Orientalists were not only in love with Arabia, they were in love with individual Arab boys or men. Arab culture's tendency toward bisexuality made it particularly attractive to gay Englishmen. When asked why he had fought for Arab independence, Lawrence replied, ""Personal: I liked a particular Arab, and I thought that freedom for the race would be an acceptable present." This particular Arab was apparently Dahoum, a teenage waterboy. In The Source, James Michener suggested that British rulers in Palestine tended to emotionally bond with the Arabs because they both shared a taste for Brideshead Revisited-style male-male "romantic friendships." In contrast, the highly heterosexual Jews and Americans found each other on the same wavelength.

The essential problem with the European Union

The essential problem with the European Union: It's not democratic, and it can't be - because Europeans don't speak a common language. Until they do, power will be in the hands of multilingual bureaucrats in Brussels, not of the people.

February 6, 2002

New Frontiers in Multicultural Sensitivity

New Frontiers in Multicultural Sensitivity: My 7th grader's Spanish teacher just announced that she does not want her students to develop correct accents because "some people think that would be making fun of my people." Man, I would have ruled if she had been my Spanish teacher, because I always sounded like W.C. Fields trying to speak Spanish. Unfortunately, my high school Spanish teacher, Mr. De Soto, had reactionary ideas about how the language of Cervantes and Borges should be pronounced. After I'd recite, he'd groan and call me "Super Gringo."

Why Canada admits so many immigrants:

Why Canada admits so many immigrants: It's not to fill up Canada's vast empty spaces, since a large majority of the newcomers crowd into Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. No, immigration and multiculturalism are the passive-aggressive revenge by English Canada and the bilingual elite on the monoculturalists of French Canada. Since few immigrants want to learn a declining language like French, the immigrant vote is all that keeps Quebec in Canada. Wouldn't it be simpler just to expel the French?

February 3, 2002

Is Human Evolution Finally Over?

Is Human Evolution Finally Over? asks the British Observer. Of course not. Some genes are always being selected for and some against. For example, Palestinians are having three times as many children as Israeli Jews. Thus, the gene frequencies in the Holy Land are evolving at a dramatic rate, with massive real world consequences.

Of course, the rate of current gene change pales in comparison to what will be happening not far in the future when genetic technologies mature. (Already, there are children alive today whose embryos were scientifically selected for being genetically superior to their sibling embryos.) This will have massive political and social impact.

Francis Fukuyama's next book Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution will try to predict these consequences. Unfortunately, I fear Fukuyama will ignore the single best tool for estimating the impact of future differences in gene frequencies: looking at the impact of current genetic differences between individuals and groups. He's always played it safe (in career terms) by ignoring race, even to the point of silliness in his last book, which was about crime and illegitimacy!

To see how understanding genetic differences today sheds crucial light on the genetically engineered tomorrow, read my Thatcher Lecture and my "The Future of Human Nature." 2/3/02

February 2, 2002

Tom Brady's Wonderlic IQ score

Superbowl Special! Are football players dumb? Actually, they are fairly smart. The NFL requires draft prospects to take the Wonderlic IQ test. Offensive guards averaged 107, centers and punters 106, quarterbacks and kickers 104. The speed positions averaged lower: halfbacks, free safeties, cornerbacks, and wide receivers averaged from 91 to 94. Still, at both the white positions and the black positions, prospects scored about a half standard deviation higher than the respective white and black national means.

Of course, IQ tests do a lousy job of measuring improvisational mental ability, which football players, especially the black ones, are particularly good at. (See my classic article "Great Black Hopes" for the full story.)

The Patriots are the underdogs, but they'd be favored if it was a debate tournament. Starting QB Tom Brady scored 126 (that's about what George W. Bush would score, judging from his 1206 SAT score), while backup QB Drew Bledsoe beat that with a 134 (Al Gore's IQ). 2/02/02

Richard Lynn's and Tatu Vanhanen's IQ and the Wealth of Nations

Irresistible upcoming book: Richard Lynn's IQ and the Wealth of Nations lists average IQ scores for dozens of countries.

C'mon, you know you want to to read its tables! For instance, those snotty French who think they are so smart? How do they really score? Or, if you've been wondering why so many people in so many Arab countries believe in so much dumb stuff, Lynn's book offers the most direct explanation: generally speaking, they ain't rocket scientists. Not surprisingly, the Northeast Asian tigers lead the world in average national IQ. (Lynn's mediocre score for Israel seems open to question.)

For the correlation between national IQ and per capita GDP, Lynn reports the kind of high number that social scientists normally only dream about finding. If all you know about a country is its average IQ and whether it has a free market economy, you can predict its income level with a surprising degree of accuracy. Of course, this doesn't solve the chicken or egg question. Are they rich because they are smart or smart because they are rich? From what I've seen so far out of the book, it looks to me like both are true.

Culture also plays a role. Lynn lists underachievers with high IQs and low incomes (e.g., perennial screw-up Argentina) and overachievers (e.g., Barbados, with its veddy, veddy English cricket-centric culture that makes it the best-run black country in the world.).

February 1, 2002

Zora Neale Hurston

Black History Month: Okay, I know your attention is wandering already. And, no doubt, having Black History Month immediately follow Martin Luther King day is overkill. Still, the topic can be fascinating, especially in the hands of someone with an independent perspective, such as, well, me. Here's my take on one of more delightful figures in American literature, Zora Neale Hurston. 2/1/02

My review of Nicole Kidman's Birthday Girl.