March 18, 2006

The New Scientist on Cochranism

Editorial: Are we still evolving?
11 March 2006

Questions about the evolution of modern humans must rank among the most intriguing in all science - new insights are coming thick and fast

QUESTIONS about the evolution of modern humans must rank among the most intriguing in all science. Are we still evolving? If we are, what subtle pressures are changing us? In which direction are they pushing us and what will we be like in, say, 1000 years?

Fascinating as these questions are, they are also controversial, and the answers are likely to offend sensitivities over such things as the relationship between genes and intelligence, or genes and "race". Equally, negative memories of eugenics are never far away.

Oddly enough, negative memories of the tens of millions slaughtered by egalitarian ideologies are always far away.

In the face of such fraught political questions, some biologists would prefer to believe that our evolution more or less stopped before the emergence of modern humans some 50,000 years ago. That position is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain (see "And us"),

Are we still evolving?
11 March 2006 Kate Douglas Magazine

Some say no, but others believe the process is moving faster than ever - so which is it, asks New Scientist

"ARE humans still evolving? In the vernacular sense of improving morally and intellectually - by cultural changes - I think so," says Steven Pinker. "In the biological sense of changes in the gene pool, it's impossible to say." If pressed to come off the fence, however, the Harvard-based evolutionary biologist [actually, Pinker calls himself a [cognitive scientist"] knows where he stands. "People, including me, would rather believe that significant human biological evolution stopped between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, before the races diverged, which would ensure that racial and ethnic groups are biologically equivalent," he says.

It's an understandable position given the political implications of being wrong. And in one important sense Pinker is absolutely spot on: it's very difficult, if not impossible, to observe human evolution in action. But saying it isn't happening is an increasingly difficult position to defend scientifically. Recent discoveries show that we must reject the idea that human evolution stopped dead 50,000 ...

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Surprise! The Law of Supply and Demand applies to immigration!

Here's the abstract of a new paper by economist George J. Borjas:

Immigration in High-Skill Labor Markets: The Impact of Foreign Students on the Earnings of Doctorates

The rapid growth in the number of foreign students enrolled in American universities has transformed the higher education system, particularly at the graduate level. Many of these newly minted doctorates remain in the United States after receiving their doctoral degrees, so that the foreign student influx can have a significant impact in the labor market for high-skill workers. Using data drawn from the Survey of Earned Doctorates and the Survey of Doctoral Recipients, the study shows that a foreign student influx into a particular doctoral field at a particular time had a significant and adverse effect on the earnings of doctorates in that field who graduated at roughly the same time. A 10 percent immigration-induced increase in the supply of doctorates lowers the wage of competing workers by about 3 to 4 percent. About half of this adverse wage effect can be attributed to the increased prevalence of low-pay postdoctoral appointments in fields that have softer labor market conditions because of large-scale immigration.

It's amazing how few economists will admit that in public. The really funny thing is that Borjas has ridden this one basic Econ 101 idea all the way to an endowed chair at the Kennedy School at Harvard, in part because he has so little competition from other economists, the vast majority of whom want to pretend that, for mysterious reasons, the law of Supply and Demand doesn't apply to anything having to do with immigration. This is a fascinating example of market failure, and some economist should do a paper on why most economists are so reluctant to cash in on this massively important topic of immigration.

For a representative quote from the economic mainstream, Bryan Caplan of George Mason U. writes on his Econlog:

In "Educated Preferences: Explaining Attitudes Toward Immigration In Europe," Hainmueller and Hiscox confirm what I've been telling economists for years: Low-skilled workers are more opposed to immigration because they are less economically literate, not because they selfishly calculate that immigration is especially bad for their pocketbooks:

[P]eople with higher levels of education and occupational skills are more likely to favor immigration regardless of the skill attributes of the immigrants in question. Across Europe, higher education and higher skills mean more support for all types of immigrants. These relationships are almost identical among individuals in the labor force (i.e., those competing for jobs) and those not in the labor force.

As a professor, I work in one of the few labor markets that is almost totally open to foreign competition. How often do you think I've heard an American professor grumble that foreign Ph.D.s "Are taking our jobs!"? Try never.

In the Comments to this posting, various grad students say, "Yeah, sure, a professor would say that, wouldn't he?" One of many writes:

"Adding to the echo chamber, of course currently tenured professors aren't going to complain about it. That's like pointing out that undergraduates currently at Harvard aren't that exercised about Harvard's use of affirmative action."

In general, natives who have jobs requiring them to be highly skilled in their native language don't much fear that poor foreigners who don't speak their language are going to drive down their salaries. In contrast, natives who are better at working with their hands than at working with words rationally fear competition from immigrants who speak other languages. Unfortunately, almost all the published discourse is of course written by natives who are skilled with words, and thus have little to fear from foreigners.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Upcoming conference at the American Enterprise Institute on abortion and crime

Abortion Legalization and Crime Rates: Is There a Relationship?

Start: Tuesday, March 28, 2006 1:00 PM
End: Tuesday, March 28, 2006 5:00 PM

Location: Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor, AEI 1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036

In 2001, John Donohue of Yale University and Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago published a paper entitled “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime,” in which they argued that legalized abortion in the 1970s significantly contributed to decreased crime in America during the 1990s. The article sparked a fierce controversy which has yet to abate. The controversy further captured public attention when Levitt featured the argument in his bestselling book, Freakonomics. In this AEI event, nearly every economist who has studied whether there is a link between abortion and crime will weigh in on the available empirical evidence, including Professor Donohue and his leading critics. Is there a link between legalized abortion and crime rates? If so, in which direction is it?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

March 17, 2006

More on genealogical DNA testing

The point I wanted to make about paying for DNA testing to understand the racial admixture in your genealogy is that at present it's mostly useful for, say, African-American intellectuals like Harvard's Henry Louis Gates, who discovered he was about half white. Most white Americans, on the other hand, are over 95% white, and thus their nonwhite proportions are down in the margin of error for the test. For example, if the test reports that you are 98% Caucasian and 2% American Indian then you can be assured of, well, not much. You might have had a few Indian ancestors, or that might be an error caused by Siberian genes migrating into Europe, or who knows what else. So, the reason that racial admixture tests tend to be not very exciting for white Americans is because, in contrast to what we're constantly being lectured, white Americans aren't very admixed at all.

However, the tests are quite good at looking at large sample sizes of peoples. So, if they say that white Americans are x% American Indian on the whole, then that's pretty reliable.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"Pedigree collapse" due to inbreeding

"Pedigree collapse" due to inbreeding -- Genealogists use the term "pedigree collapse" (coined by Robert C. Gunderson) to signify the phenomenon that if you go back enough generations in your family tree, the number of unique individuals is less than the number of slots due to inbreeding so ancestors end up doing double duty as redundant forebears. The number of unique individuals per generation in your family tree forms roughly a diamond shape, expanding for a number of generations into the past, then collapsing the farther back you go.

The term "pedigree collapse" almost never ever comes up in discussions of race because American intellectuals don't grasp that race should be thought about in genealogical terms, but it's useful for understanding how racial groups are formed and fade away.

If you go back to ancestors alive 4,000 years ago, say, George W. Bush might indeed by descended by 1 path from n!Xao, a Bushman in the Kalahari, but he'd also be descended from Owen, a farmer in Essex, by 800,000,000 different paths. Add them all up and it's reasonable to say that George W. Bush is a lot more British than Bushman. Nobody actually doubts that, but when people like Steve Olson start talking about genealogy, they quickly get bogged down in essentially symbolic thinking, in which having one ancestor from ethnic group X is somehow just as important as having many millions from ethnic group Y.

Here's an interesting description of pedigree collapse from John Becker:

We all are blessed with two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents and so on. If the average generation is twenty-five years, in 1200 years (back to 800 AD, the time of Charlemagne) each person has 281.5 trillion grandparents. That's the way geometric progressions work. The number of grandparents doubles every 25 years and in 12OO years or 48 generations, 281.5 trillion names would be on your pedigree.

But hold on, you say! In 800 AD there were not that many people on the whole planet. How could I - or any person - have that many grandparents? The answer is that while you must have this number of grandparents, given the imperatives of human procreation, they are not all different people. Some names on your pedigree appear twice, three times or even hundreds of times in the 1200 years.

Cousins have married and, if they were first cousins, their offspring will have only six great grandparents rather than the normal eight. Those offspring will have pedigrees which have "collapsed" from 8 to 6 or 25% in the 4th generation back. That 25 % collapse will be present in each and every one of the 44 generations back to 800 AD. The same phenomenom occurs when 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th cousins marry although the percentage ‘collapse’ is not as dramatic. A dramatic collapse occurs when siblings marry as was the norm for Egyptian pharaohs and Inca kings. In those cases there is a 50% collapse (from 4 to 2) at the 3rd generation, the grandparents...

- King Alfonso XIII of Spain (1886-1941) had only eight different people as his great great grandparents rather than the normal sixteen, a 50% collapse of his pedigree at the 5th generation. [Cecil Adams says 10, not 8 unique gg grandparents.]

- Prince Charles' pedigree has been examined by Gunderson who found that 17 generations back when Charles should have had 65,536 progenitors, he only had about 23,000, a collapse to 35 % of the theoretical.

- A great deal is known about the family histories of the Amish who came to North America from Switzerland in the 18th century. It is estimated for one family about whom a very complete genealogy has been compiled that 21.5 % of 627 marriages in this family were between 2nd cousins or closer.

- Mr. K. W. Wachtel, a demographer cited by Shoumatoff, built a probability model for a child born in England in 1947. Around the time of King John who reigned from 1199 AD to 1216 AD, this 1947 child would have about two million grandparents in the same generation. This represents about 37% of the progenitors required 30 generations back. This is the first type of pedigree ‘collapse’ that occurs. The child would be descendant from 80% of all the people in England at that time.

- But now a ‘collapse’ in the absolute number of progenitors starts to occur for this 1947 child. The actual number of different grandparents would start to decrease at this point - 30 generations back. Theoretically the further one goes back from this point the smaller the number of different grandparents there would be until one reached one's theoretical ‘Adam and Eve’. Put in graphical terms and viewing the child's pedigree from the bottom (now) to the top (early), the number of names creates a diamond with one person at the bottom in 1947, two million people in the generation 700 years earlier and then an ever-decreasing number dwindling to the original ‘Adam and Eve’, say, several thousands of years before that at the very top of the chart.

Alex Shoumatoff''s 1985 book A Mountain of Names introduced Gunderson's concept of pedigree collapse to a broader public. Shoumatoff quotes prominent anthropologist Robin Fox (co-author with the similarly animalistically-named anthropologist Lionel Tiger):

"If we could only get into God's memory, we would find that eighty per cent of the world's marriages have been with at least second cousins," the British social theorist Robin Fox told me recently. "In a population of between three and five hundred people, after six generations or so there are only third cousins or closer to marry. During most of human history, people have lived in small, isolated communities of about that size, and have in fact probably been closer to the genetic equivalent of first cousins, because of their multiple consanguinity. In nineteenth-century rural England, for instance, the radius of the average isolate, or pool of potential spouses, was about five miles, which was the distance a man could comfortably walk twice on his day off, when he went courting- his roaming area by daylight. Parish registers bear this out. Then the bicycle extended the radius to twentyfive miles. This was a big shakeup." Even in today's much more mobile English society-according to an estimate in Fox's book "Kinship and Marriage"-the average isolate for any given individual, which is "to some extent determined by the previous marriage choices of his ancestral consanguines," varies from about nine hundred people to just over two thousand.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

March 16, 2006

Another student request

I believe that children are our future Department, International Edition:

hi, Steve Sailer, we are Sosa & Yasoura If you are a sailer or a fisherman please we need help from you we are bahrani students & we are doing an english project about the sea, so if you have information & pictures about the sea or about fishing please send them, if you can also, we want to make an interview with you about you sea life please answer quickly

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The good and bad of population genetics in Slate

The Good: John Hawks on DNA genealogy tests

The Bad: Science journalist Steve Olson on "Why We're All Jesus' Children: Go back a few millenniums, and we've all got the same ancestors." The quality of Olson's thinking can be guessed from his decision to aim his article at fans of The Da Vinci Code.

I reviewed Olson's National Book Award-nominated Mapping Human History, a popularization of the work of population geneticists like L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, on

In his book, Olson stops every few pages to tell you that there are no races that have been absolutely isolated genetically since the beginning of time because—you will be shocked, shocked to learn this—humans have been known to outbreed. (The reality of course is that for any human racial group, the inbreeding glass is both part empty and part full.) This makes Mapping Human History rather like a geology book that repeatedly admonishes the reader that the Earth is not flat...

Another curious feature that Olson's book shares with many other contemporary writings about population genetics is the author's apparent longing for the abolition of his own subject matter via universal random interbreeding. Although animal and plant biodiversity is routinely celebrated as a supreme good, the conclusions of books on human biodiversity tend to treat it as a temporary evil that will soon be gone, and good riddance to it. It's as if that geology textbook ended with an ode to the blessed day when the Earth will plunge into the Sun, thus happily eliminating the need for a science of geology.

Olson's new article is about his theory that everybody alive today is descended from everybody who ever lived who has descendents alive today. Okay, maybe, but the more functionally important question is where most of your ancestors came from. And for that, you need to think about the degree of inbreeding, which Olson refuses to mention explicitly.

He writes:

Imagine that you could identify all of your great-great-great-great- … grandparents 20 generations back—from about the time Columbus stepped ashore in the New World. (You would never be able to, of course, because no paper records connect you to virtually any of those people, but pretend that God handed you a perfect genealogical record.) Assuming typical human mating patterns, your direct ancestors 20 generations ago consisted of somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 different people. Taking the lower figure, perhaps 480,000 of the ancestors of the average African-American were living in Africa in the year 1492, and approximately 120,000 were living in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. For the average European-American, more than a half-million ancestors were living in Europe, with the rest scattered through Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

Let's do the math. Ten generations back (about 250 years at 25 years per generation), your family tree has 1,024 open slots for ancestors (2 to the 10th power). Twenty generations back (500 years), your family tree has 1024 times 1024 or 1,048,576 or one meg of open slots.

Olson claims, " your direct ancestors 20 generations ago consisted of somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 different people," but the higher end figure is obviously absurd. Your ancestors would have had to have been for each of the last 20 generations as outbreeding as Tiger Wood's immediate ancestors for virtually all the 1,048,576 slots in your family tree to be filled by different individuals. Olson's lower bound of 600,000 also seems absurdly high too.

Thirty generations ago, your family tree had one gig of open slots. Let's round these down from now on. So 40 generations or back around 1000 AD, you had one trillion open slots.

You can see where this is going. Back in about the year 1 AD, eighty generations ago, you had roughly 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 openings for ancestors. There weren't quite that many people alive back then, so the inbreeding coefficient (one minus the number of unique individuals in your family tree at that point divided by the number of slots to be filled) mathematically had to be over 99.99%.

So, inbreeding matters.

Now, it's theoretically possible that in your family tree just 120 generations ago, like Olson claimed, you number ever single living person in 1000 BC who has living descendents today. I doubt that's true -- there was just too much isolation of Andaman Islanders, Tasmanians, Tierra del Fuegans, New Guinea Highlanders, and so forth. But, overall, even if it were true, it's just a talking point. What counts is the distribution of genes, and those are driven by inbreeding.

And, as I've been pointing out for years, inbreeding is what turns an extended family into a racial group: a racial group is a partly inbred extended family.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"Thank You for Smoking"

opens in selected cities on Friday. From my review in the upcoming April 10th issue of The American Conservative (subscribe here):

As the average American ages, public interest in music and film declines while the obsession with politics grows. Baby boomers, who spent the 1960s arguing over the Beatles v. the Stones and then the 1970s debating De Niro v. Pacino, now call in to talk radio to harangue about Republicans v. Democrats.

Hollywood was slow to catch on, but since "Fahrenheit 9/11" it's been pushing leftwing agitprop like "Syriana." While plenty of money could be made with rightwing movies, the box office slump will have to get a lot deeper before Hollywood will stoop so low as to appeal to the 51% of the public that voted the wrong way in 2004.

In the meantime, fortunately, there's the witty centrist satire "Thank You for Smoking." It's a reasonably faithful adaptation of the 1994 novel by Christopher Buckley (son of William F.) about the chief spokesman for the tobacco industry, the "yuppie Mephistopheles" Nick Naylor. Produced by David O. Sacks, a research fellow at the libertarian-conservative Independent Institute, the film's plague-on-both-your-houses attitude toward cigarette companies and their killjoy enemies probably won't make it a huge hit, but it's smart and entertaining, although more amusing than hilarious.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

March 15, 2006

The Official Bad Guy of the Balkans is dead

In the fifth year of his trial for being "The Face of Evil" (as Newsweek declared him while we were bombing his country back to the industrial stone age in 1999), Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic died of a heart attack in custody in the Netherlands. Traces of another drug that would counteract his blood pressure medicine were found in his body, raising the possibility of suicide, murder, malpractice, or a complicated attempt to get himself to Russia by making his medical care look bad.

Demonizing Milosevic as the cause of all the carnage in the Balkans was a lot more enjoyable for all concerned than actually thinking hard about what caused the decade of troubles. Milosevic was a bad guy, but he was a symptom, not a cause of the circumstances. History has been falsely rewritten to turn him into the dynamic instigator of disaster in the mode of Hitler. As I wrote in in 2000:

In a lifetime of being boggled by the American press, I don't believe I've ever seen anything as baffling as their rote insistence that the last ten years of war in the Balkans were caused by "dictatorship," for which the solutions were "democracy" and "multiculturalism."

Folks, democracy is what caused the mess. Multiculturalism works fine ... under a real dictator, like Tito. He had multiethnic Yugoslavia locked down tight, nice and peaceful. But when the inhabitants got more say in their lives, they started killing each other. They wanted democracy. But they knew that to have it, they needed mono-ethnic states.

When the old multiethnic Yugoslavia cracked up, the rest of the world recognized the phony borders that Tito had concocted to minimize the size of the Serbian administrative unit within his empire. This left large numbers of Serbs living outside Serbia, where they were exposed to their historic enemies. The great Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn explained it all in The Times of London in 1997:

The bloody Yugoslav tragedy has unfolded before our eyes (and is it over yet?) To be sure, blame for it lies with the Communist coterie of Josip Broz Tito, which imposed an arbitrary pattern of internal borders upon the country, trampling on ethnic common sense, and even relocating ethnic masses by force. Yet blame lies also with the venerable community of Western leaders, who -- with an angelic naiveté -- took those false borders seriously, and then hastened at a moment's notice, in a day or two, to recognize the independence of several breakaway republics whose political formation they apparently found to be advantageous. It was these leaders, then, who nudged Yugoslavia toward many grueling years of civil war; and their position, declared as neutral, was by no means such.

Yugoslavia, with its seven estranged peoples, was told to fall apart as soon as possible. But Bosnia, with its three estranged peoples and vivid memories of Hitlerite Croatians slaughtering up to a million Serbs, had to remain united at all costs - the particular insistence of the United States Government. Who can explain the disparity of such an approach?

... Democracy also needs a "settled distribution of property." Britain's modern parliamentary system dates from the Glorious Revolution of 1688. This permanently confirmed Henry VIII's theft of the Catholic Church's properties, thus ending 150 years of turmoil. But everyone in the Balkans is convinced that somebody from another ethnic group stole valuable land from his father or grandfather or great-great-great-grandfather. These suspicions are usually accurate. (Of course, everybody conveniently forgets that the land he lives on was usually stolen from somebody else too.)

All this was well understood in the West during the century between the Glorious Revolution and the framing of the American Constitution. But it's been forgotten since, because we don't need to worry much about who owns what anymore. You don't have to worry that your house will be handed back to the descendents of the Indians who used to camp there. Your property is secure because the white race decided to steal the vast majority of the land from the red race, and then not worry about it much anymore.

That's why our leaders and media couldn't understand what was clear to the peoples of the Balkans: Tito's bogus borders left only two alternatives - redraw the borders or ethnically cleanse them.

Instead, we just decided that the Serbs were Evil. So, we had years of carnage in Bosnia until they finally ended up with a de facto three-way partition anyway. Franco Tudjman solved the problem in Croatia by ethnically cleansing all the Serbs. Kosovo was and remains a fiasco.

The good news is that, in the northern Balkans, we now are closer to normal (i.e. ethnically-homogenous) nation-states. Slovenia is a nice little European country. Croatia is calming down now that the Serbs are gone. They've at least stopped killing each other in Bosnia now that they have borders of sorts.

Also in 2000, I explained in Toronto's National Post how the NATO powers could have avoided all the bloodshed and expense of the Kosovo War for about $5 billion in buyouts.

But, nobody cares. It's just so much more satisfying to decide somebody is the bad guy and bomb them than to try to resolve problems peacefully.

A reader responds:

Your Kosovo recollections reminded me of this documentary on PBS that aired last year. It was surreal. They followed this Albanian-American (?) Businessman around as he raised money and bought weapons for the KLA. I kept thinking he'd have the FBI & ATF knocking on his door the next morning after it aired, but the documentary said it was all legal.

What I found unnerving was he alluded to fighting NATO troops, which I assume contain US troops.

His beef was that he wanted to see Kosovo re-united with Albania, and those pesky KFOR troops kept spoiling the fun.

Yes, but he wasn't The Face of Evil, so nobody cares.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Will the Senate set off another illegal immigrant baby boom?

The Senate is debating immigration. One of the biggest dangers is that any kind of quasi-amnesty for illegal immigrants will set off a baby boom among its beneficiaries like the one launched by the 1986 amnesty, which did grievous damage to the California school system, which had tremendous difficulty digesting this pig in the python bulge in births to amnestied illegals. Of course, the chance that anyone will actually mention this danger to the Senators is remote -- the whole topic is too politically incorrect to even think about.

Laura E. Hill and Hans P. Johnson of the Public Policy Institute of California wrote:

“Between 1987 and 1991, total fertility rates for foreign-born Hispanics [in California] increased from 3.2 to 4.4 [expected babies per woman over her lifetime]. This dramatic rise was the primary force behind the overall increase in the state’s total fertility rate during this period. Were it not for the large increase in fertility among Hispanic immigrants, fertility rates in California would have increased very little between 1987 and 1991.

“Why did total fertility rates increase so dramatically for Hispanic immigrants? First, the composition of the Hispanic immigrant population in California changed as a result of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. In California alone, 1.6 million unauthorized immigrants applied for amnesty (legal immigrant status) under this act. The vast majority were young men, and many were agricultural workers who settled permanently in the United States. Previous research indicates that many of those granted amnesty were joined later by spouses and relatives in the United States... As a result, many young adult Hispanic women came to California during the late 1980s. We also know that unauthorized immigrants tend to have less education than other immigrants and that they are more likely to come from rural areas. Both characteristics are associated with high levels of fertility. As a result, changes in the composition of the Hispanic immigration population probably increased fertility rates.

“Another possible reason for the sudden increase in fertility rates for Hispanic immigrants is also related to IRCA. Because many of those granted amnesty and their spouses had been apart for some time, their reunion in California prompted a “catch-up” effect in the timing of births...”

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

March 14, 2006

"The New Adventures of Old Christine:""The New Adventures of Old Christine"

A reader writes about the new sitcom starring Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, who was Elaine on "Seinfeld." Her father, by the way, is billionaire businessman Gérard (William) Louis-Dreyfus. Forbes estimates the family's net worth at $2.9 billion.

The premise is she is divorced and her husband’s new girlfriend is also named “Christine”.

The show comes off as a kind of liberal rich actress trying to reconcile her liberal views (which make her a good person) with the way she lives her life. In the pilot she is sending her young son to a private school and clearly feels conflicted. She tells her son that he shouldn’t think he is better than anyone. He responds by asking if he is better than “murderers”. She responds that yes he is better than murderers but no one else. Then he asks if he is better than “racists” and she has to admit that, yes he is better than racists. I think there is an implication of a moral pecking order here.

We next see them driving to school in a tiny hybrid (I assume) auto and the kid notes that all his classmates are in huge SUVs. He asks why everyone else has such a large car and Christine responds something to the effect of “they don’t believe in themselves”.

When the enter the classroom it looks like Hitler youth. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is the only brunette in sight. The kid asks, innocently, “where are all the black kids?” His mom responds that they had one in the brochure. Earlier in the show she reveals that he was accepted to the highly competitive school by claiming to be 1/16 Cherokee.

She displays a mild guilt throughout the show. The way I read this is that these people ... rationalize sending their kids to private schools, away from minority students by claiming they were somehow tricked and anyway they aren’t as “white” as most of the people in the school and they are still good people because they rate racists a step above murderers and care about the environment and show it by driving a consciously small car.

One of the striking anomalies of modern American life is the degree to which very wealthy Jews (even members of the Forbes 400 overclass) still feel oppressed by the supposed dominance of the old WASP upper class, even though fellow Jews typically make up at least a plurality of the ultra-elite circles in which they move.

I'm also dubious about the ubiquitous term "guilt." If a Julia Louis-Dreyfuss character, with her fabulous head of hair, is the only brunette in sight in a private school classroom full of blondes, then her vocal solicitude for the blacks excluded from the school probably doesn't have much to do with blacks per se, or her own sense of guilt, as with using blacks as props in her struggle for social one-upsmanship over the blondes. A lot of black anti-Semitism is motivated by their sense that Jewish expressions of racial liberalism have more to do with intra-white ethnic gamesmanship than with blacks.

On Gideon's Blog, Noah writes:

And the rabbi gave an interesting sermon apropos of Purim (which starts tonight). He compared the position of the Jewish community in America today with Queen Esther's position in King Ahashuerus's Persia: that is to say, a position of power or, more precisely, profound influence on those who wield power. And, he said, that power implies responsibility - specifically, the responsibility to use it to prevent grave wrong (as Esther did in acting to prevent the genocide of the Jews). He went on to urge the congregants to write letters to Congress to press for stronger action on the situation in Darfur.

Now, this is not an argument I've heard very often. Usually, when I hear a Jewish exhortation to the flock to do something about this or that injustice, and to be especially sure to take such action because you (the hearer) are Jewish, the reasoning takes one of three forms. Either (1) we Jews have suffered, so we should be acutely sensitive to others' suffering, and not accept the excuses of those who either perpetrate or ignore that suffering; or (2) as God liberated the Jews from captivity in Egypt, and as we are enjoined to imitate God in His striving for justice, we have a religious obligation as Jews to help the oppressed; or (3) Jews should be aware of our collective vulnerability, historical and continuing, and therefore for our own good always take the other side of the kinds of groups, movements and individuals who have victimized us in the past, and who could threaten us again in the future. Nothing wrong with any of these arguments. But you (or at least I) rarely hear a Jewish leader saying, in so many words, that Jews must act to prevent this or that injustice because we are powerful, and power implies responsibility.

That with power comes responsibility was apparent to Stan Lee (originally Stan Lieber, writer of Spiderman), but the notion that American Jews are now pretty powerful is usually dismissed today as an anti-Semitic canard.

I'm a huge fan of enlightened self-interest, so I'm worried that Jews, who need a realistic understanding of their own situation, are not getting an accurate picture due to the fear imposed on the media of having your livelihood ruined for one frank remark. Think of how Gregg Easterbrook, of all people, was fired from his ESPN football commentary job by Michael Eisner in 2003,for mentioning the moral responsibilities of Jewish movie studio executives in his blog on The New Republic, which is owned by that notorious anti-Semite Martin Peretz. And note how little protest Easterbrook's firing engendered.

In the long run, it not good for the Jews to be the one group immune from criticism.

By the way, totally changing the subject, speaking of former cast-members of Seinfeld trying to make it with new sit-coms, isn't it about time for the television industry to stop trying to figure out a new sophisticated "Seinfeld"-like vehicle to star Michael Richard, who as Kramer was perhaps the funniest supporting character in television history, and make this slapstick expert the star of a show for children?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Hollywood Heffalumps

Below I quoted from Annie "Brokeback Mountain" Proulx's diatribe against Academy Award voters for choosing " Trash - excuse me - Crash" over her ineffably wonderful gay cowboy movie. The most puzzling aspect of her rant was her twice referring to members of the Academy as "heffalumps." Quite a few readers have written in to explain the reference:

- I think “heffalump” is what they called the elephant in Winnie the Pooh. I suspect it is a cute way of accusing the academy voters of being Republicans…perhaps the ultimate insult in Hollywood.

- Heffalump=elephant=Republican. Thus she accuses the voters of being right-wing.

- Perhaps I'm remembering wrong because I wasn't paying close attention, but first Brokeback Mountain was the bold movie that would make the conservative USA confront its stereotypes about gays. Apparently Ms. Prolix believes the movie has completed its mission and now the motion picture industry is out of step with the new gay-tolerant, post-Brokeback USA.

- PS. Note her dismissive talk about films about “runaway slaves”. Sure sounds like racism to me……

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

"Bareback Mounting:" It's the gift that just keeps on giving ...

I'd deleted most of my Oscar postings below because, cinematically speaking, 2005 is, like, over, but the partisans of "Brokeback Mountain" just won't let it go. Now, E. Annie Proulx, author of the slash fiction short story the movie was based on, has penned this hilariously obtuse and envious rant in The Guardian:

The people connected with Brokeback Mountain, including me, hoped that, having been nominated for eight Academy awards, it would get Best Picture as it had at the funny, lively Independent Spirit awards the day before... We should have known conservative heffalump [huh?] academy voters would have rather different ideas of what was stirring contemporary culture. Roughly 6,000 film industry voters, most in the Los Angeles area, many living cloistered lives behind wrought-iron gates or in deluxe rest-homes, out of touch not only with the shifting larger culture and the yeasty ferment that is America these days, but also out of touch with their own segregated city, decide which films are good. And rumour has it that Lions Gate inundated the academy voters with DVD copies of Trash - excuse me - Crash a few weeks before the ballot deadline. Next year we can look to the awards for controversial themes on the punishment of adulterers with a branding iron in the shape of the letter A, runaway slaves, and the debate over free silver.

This woman really, really likes being on the winning team when it comes to awards, and hates losing them. She reminds me of Hank Hill's ultra competitive egomaniacal wife Peggy on the "King of the Hill" show. Dennis Dale can only shake his head at Untethered:

It seems there’s no gay element in Hollywood whatsoever; in fact, all the homosexuals are out riding the range, muttering sweet nothings in one another’s ears with husky John Wayne baritones. Those flamboyant creative types all over the film industry? Secret NASCAR fans ...

The author is shocked, shocked that studios engage in lobbying. How dare they throw themselves before our media stampede? Having just proclaimed the issue of race and segregation passé before the exigency of seventies era closeted cowboys, she still sees fit to chide the stuffy academy for its gated segregation, and sees no bigotry in declaring them a bunch of old farts. Age? Everyone gets old. Where’s the cache in that? So fire away, and heads up you wrinkly old coots.

But oh, that "yeasty ferment." As I reflect that this is a wealthy and respected author and I have to get up in the morning to go to a regular job, I'm relieved there are no guns or sturdy rope in the house.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

An Evil Twin defense for Claude Allen?

The President's former domestic policy adviser, who resigned because of charges of retail fraud, has an identical twin with a long record of legal trouble named Floyd. The NYT reports:

People close to [Claude Allen] said they were stunned at the charges. Friends described him as the "goody-two-shoes" of his family who never drank at fraternity parties and went out for ice cream instead. His identical twin, Floyd, a former football player at the Virginia Military Institute, never matched his brother's achievements.

If only their parents had named them Claude and Flawed ...

"It's just the darnedest thing," Renee Allen, their stepmother, said from her retirement home in Atlanta. "I actually started to call Floyd to ask him what happened, but then I saw it wasn't him."

Through his lawyer, Mr. Allen denied the charges, saying there was a mix-up concerning his credit card. Maryland authorities charged Mr. Allen, 45, last Thursday with trying at least 25 times over the last five months to return and collect refunds for goods he never purchased, including a home theater system, clothes and items worth as little as $2.50...

Like others who know him, his stepmother cannot understand the turn of events. "I simply have no idea where things could have gone wrong in his life," Mrs. Allen said.

Floyd was the twin who "kept running into bad times," while Claude Allen intervened repeatedly to help him, she said.

In 2001, Floyd Allen declared bankruptcy in Virginia; a year earlier he was ordered to pay $6,450 in a civil suit brought against him by a travel company, according to state and federal records.

The evidence against Claude Allen is apparently mostly security camera videotapes of him picking up items off the shelf that are the same as the ones he had bought previously and lugging them over to the Returns counter and getting a refund. If I was his lawyer, I'd ask the witnesses, "Can you be sure the man in the videotape is not Claude Allen's evil twin?" Or, if I had established that they were fans of "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey," I'd ask, "Can you be sure the man in the videotape is not Claude Allen's evil android twin from the future?"

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

New Book by Arthur Jensen Coming

Clocking the Mind : Mental Chronometry and Individual Differences, by Arthur R. Jensen - $96.95 - This item has not yet been released (June 14, 2006 appears to be the release date).

Mental Chronometry (MC) comprises a variety of techniques for measuring the speed with which the brain processes information.

First developed in mid-1800, MC was subsequently eclipsed by more complex and practically useful types of psychometric tests stemming from Alfred Binet. This class of mental tests, however, has no true metric relating the test scores to any specific properties of the brain per se. The scores merely represent an ordinal scale, only ranking individuals according to their overall performance on a variety of complex mental tasks. The resulting scores represent no more than ranks rather than being a true metrical scale of any specific dimension of brain function. Such an ordinal scale, which merely ranks individuals in some defined population, possesses no true scale properties, possessing neither a true zero or equal intervals throughout the scale. This deficiency obstructs the development of a true natural science of mental ability. The present burgeoning interest in understanding individual differences in mental abilities in terms of the natural sciences, biology and the brain sciences in particular, demands direct measures that functionally link brain and behavior. One such natural ratio scale is time itself - the time it takes the brain to perform some elementary cognitive task, measured in milliseconds.

After more than 25 years researching MC, Jensen here presents results on an absolute scale showing times for intake of visual and auditory information, for accessing short-term and long-term memory, and other cognitive skills, as a function of age, at yearly intervals from 3 to 80 years. The possible uses of MC in neurological diagnosis and the monitoring of drug effects on cognition, the chronometric study of special time-sensitive talents such as musical performance, and presents a theory of general intelligence, or g, as a function of the rate of oscillation of neural action potentials as measured by chronometric methods. Finally, Jensen urges the world-wide standardization of chronometric methods as necessary for advancing MC as a crucial branch of biopsychological science.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Bush ratings headed down again, and it's all the paleocons' fault

As the helpful Pollkatz graph shows, the natural trend of George W. Bush's approval ratings is down, except when helpful events intrude (9/11, the Iraq invasion, and the capture of Saddam). One exception is that Bush's rating rose gradually during the 2004 election campaign when the public could compare him to the unappealing John F. Kerry.

Then, they fluttered upwards slightly from a low base around the last New Year's. I assumed that there was a hard core of Bush supporters. But now they're going back down, perhaps because Bush has lately made so explicit his invade-the-world-invite-the-world philosophy, which alienates his hard core base. The NYT said:

The president who made pre-emption and going it alone the watchwords of his first term is quietly turning in a new direction, warning at every opportunity of the dangers of turning the nation inward and isolationist, and making the case for international engagement on issues from national security to global economics.

President Bush's cautions on the dangers of pulling back behind American borders — in trade and investment, in immigration and in his effort to make the spread of democracy the signature of his second term — first cropped up in his State of the Union address six weeks ago.

But it accelerated even before the Dubai ports deal was derailed by members of his own party, and before an unexpected uprising began among some neo-conservatives, who are now arguing that Iraq, while a noble effort, has turned into a failed mission that must be abandoned.

In interviews over the past week, Mr. Bush's aides, insisting on anonymity, they say, because they do not want to worsen the fissures, say they fear that the new mood threatens to undermine the international agenda for the rest of Mr. Bush's presidency.

"We're seeing it in everything," said one of Mr. Bush's closest aides last week. "Iraq. The ferocity of an irrational argument over the ports. Guest workers. China and India."

In "Cantankerous Conservatism. . . replaces compassionate conservatism, at least for a moment" in the Weekly Standard, Cheerleader-in-chief Fred Barnes blames Bush's deterioration on the damn paleonconservatives for being, well, right. Clark Stooksbury sums the article up:

What really upsets Barnes is criticism of his heartthrob. Paleos:

Attack Bush on issue after issue. This weakens the Republican base and, potentially at least, reduces voter turnout. Republican voters dismiss criticism by Democrats or the media, but they pay attention when other Republicans zing Bush, or when they attack congressional Republicans, for that matter.

What delusional drivel. Republican rule isn't threatened by the years of cynicism, corruption and incompetence. It's Pat Buchanan's Fault.

Daniel Larison responds in "Barnes: GOP Should Be the Party of Immigration, Imperialism and Insolvency."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Dog domestication and human evolution

The HapMap analyses are revealing a large number of genes that have been under relatively recent selection. The default explanation for this tends to be the development of agriculture, which certainly was important. But the domestication of dogs preceded that and may contribute an important piece to the puzzle. Several insightful people, such as Stephen Bodio, Jerry Pournelle, and the autistic animal sciences professor Temple Grandin, have suggested, in various ways, that our developing a symbiotic relationship with dogs might have helped humans progress to our present state. For example, Jerry has hypothesized that when we were able to hand the job of smelling when tracking prey off to our dog partners, we could then have devoted that expensive brain real estate to higher order thinking.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Female Casualties in Iraq - The Dog that Did Not Bark?

A reader writes:

I truly enjoy reading your columns on VDare. After I finish reading them, I often smack myself in the head and say, "Of course! Why didn't I see that before? He makes it seem so obvious!"

I'm writing because I was wondering if I am the only person to notice the LACK of media coverage on women casualties in Iraq. I remember reading somewhere that a sociologist did a study that showed murders of women got more airtime and more column inches of reporting than murders of men. You would think that the death and maiming of pretty young women in combat would be irresistible to the news media. Especially when the media is heavily anti-war.

Nevertheless, the only story I have seen recently about female soldiers concerned a brave combat helicopter pilot and the discrimination she faces from her male counterparts.

To me, this proves that American reporters are SO committed to promoting gender equity that they are willing to pass up juicy human interest stories AND the opportunity to stick it to Bush!

That's some commitment!

A reader writes:

Eh, maybe because there barely were any female casualties?

52 Americans, 2.15% of total. 17, that is one third died of
non-hostile causes.

Okay, but that's still 52 times more young American women have died in Iraq than have died while vacationing in Aruba, which, as I recall, got some publicity.

I suspect the media still feels burned by all the hoopla aroused by the Saving Private Lynch hoax of 2003, in which somebody in the Pentagon fed the Washington Post a tall tale about how the blonde beauty contestant had been a virtual Rambette, slaughtering Iraqis left and right until finally overcome by the dusky horde.

The War Nerd's new eXile column is timely: "Women at War & in Drag."

When I was a kid, girls didn't get to play soldier. War was a boy's game, played with dirtclods, with maybe a nice sharp rock stuck in the clod if you really hated the guys you were fighting. That was the Heroic Age, the Homeric era of Bakersfield. We had a code, damn it. One time Lisa Royster, this bucktoothed sister of a friend of mine, tried to join the wars and got herself dirtclodded back to her dollhouse by a rare united volley from both sides, which just shows you how chivalrous we were.

Now they tell us women have to get equal time, some Title IX deal where the feds have decreed girls not only have to get equal volleyball funding but a full and fair chance of getting blown up by an IED. Which is why we've already had 52 American women KIA in Iraq. Officially women aren't supposed to be in frontline combat units like infantry or armor, but nobody told the Iraqis about this frontline.

The fact is, any US soldier or vehicle, anywhere in Iraq, is a target, so banning women from certain kinds of service doesn't do a thing to keep them safe. It just means your Congressmember can send off a form letter saying he did his best to keep our daughters out of the Ramadi Inn where Jessica Lynch stayed before she got fake-rescued. In other words, it's all a crock...

What's really funny is how the liberals are running two totally opposite lies about women and war lately:

1. War is a mean, bad, sexist thing, and besides...

2. Women have always been brave soldiers who were right there on the battle front!

To prove #2, a bunch of professors have been collecting stories about girls who dressed up as guys and went to war. These so-called historians say all the big European armies of the 18th and 19th centuries were crammed with butchy girls passing as men...

This whole topic makes me kind of uncomfortable, so let's just move on to the Russian girls, who as far as I can tell are the only ones who were totally able to fight magnificently without turning into medical freaks who had to shave twice a day. I have to salute you Russian woman warriors for that. [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

March 13, 2006

Brad DeLong forgets his own advice

Brad DeLong forgets his own advice: back on 9/12/05, Berkeley economist Brad DeLong posted a self-satisfied mathematical " proof" that the distribution of genes around the world must be homogenous, even though they aren't. A lively argument broke out in his Comments section.

The eminent professor then went through his Comments section and deleted many posts by better informed individuals, such as Gregory Cochran, that undermined his worldview. Where does he find the time? Unfortunately, he forgot to delete the responses by his supporters attempting to answer the now-deleted heresies, making the experience rather like looking at those pictures from the Bolshevik Revolution that Stalin had airbrushed where Lenin is shaking an invisible Trotsky's invisible hand.

I posted some of the comments DeLong deleted here.

Later, DeLong ruefully posted:

"(And, while we're at it: never get involved in a land war in Asia; do not read My Pet Goat when death is on the line; never play poker with a man named 'Doc'; never accept a battle of wits where iocane powder is a factor; never blithely download and install a file from Microsoft without carefully, carefully researching what it will do beforehand; never get involved in an argument over Noam Chomsky; and never post about human genetics on you weblog.)"

He seems to have forgotten his own advice because he came back Sunday with a dismissive post about Nicholas Wade's NYT article explicating physicist turned evolutionary theorist Cochran's "dangerous idea" of accelerating evolution, claiming that:

"Yet neither Nicholas Wade nor Jonathan Pritchard nor Gregory Cochrane [sic] seem capable of doing even the simplest of math."

Hey, Brad, rude and wrong make a poor combination.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Does Hispanic immigration reduce crime?

My new column: Responding to the NYT op-ed claiming that Hispanic immigration lowers violent crime.

Ill-informed and innumerate theorizing about crime trends is a popular pastime among America's ambitious academics and pundits. The latest example: Open Doors Don't Invite Criminals, a March 11th New York Times op-ed by Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson claiming that massive Hispanic immigration has reduced America's crime rate in recent years.

It's easy to see why this silly theorizing happens. There are vast and highly un-PC differences in criminal tendencies among the different races—for example, African-Americans wind up in prison an incredible 33 times more often per capita than Asian-Americans. So the Mainstream Media almost never dole out enough information on crime trends to foster understanding...

Now, along comes Robert J. Sampson's theory in the NYT

"[E]vidence points to increased immigration as a major factor associated with the lower crime rate of the 1990's (and its recent leveling off)."

This makes Levitt's abortion theory look like Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. I mean, Levitt's theory at least sounds semi-plausible, if you don't actually know the historical facts. But Sampson's is self-evident flapdoodle. It has to be one of the sillier theories ever seen in the New York Times—and that's saying a lot!

Even the headline is hilariously self-refuting: "Open Doors Don't Invite Criminals."

Yes, in fact, they do.

The NYT editors should try an experiment—leave the doors to their homes and automobiles open and see what happens.

Why do we see such knuckleheaded arguments in favor of immigration in the prestige press? Because incisive thinking about the subject has been ruled off-limits. If you criticized this op-ed by pointing out that the Hispanic imprisonment rate is 2.9 times the white rate, as reported in The Color of Crime 2005, recently published by Jared Taylor's New Century Foundation, then you are an evil racist and nobody should listen to you. The Establishment's most effective ploy in eliminating debate over immigration has been to insinuate that only shallow (or sick) people think deeply about immigration.


A reader comments:

I looked at the General Social Survey to calculate the percent of males ever arrested by ethnicity. It was 30% for blacks, 28% for Mexicans, 16% for the largest white group (German), and I joined Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos to create a sufficiently large Asian sample. Six percent of this group had ever been arrested. The idea that immigration lowers crime might have some credibility if the bulk of newcomers were coming from the East instead of the South. The homicide rate of Mexico is about 4 times the American rate, but I guess crossing the border magically turns these guys into choir boys. And the really low rate of violence among Hispanics would come as a big surpise to the country's half million Latino gangbangers. A recent sutdy out of Denver estimated that half of Hispanic male youths belong to a gang. I guess gangs are teaching boys to macrame these days.

I suspect that crimes other than homicide are undercounted among illegal aliens and gang members because victims are less likely to go to the police.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

I'm sure this study will get a lot of favorable publicity,

because, judging from the abstract, it sounds intentionally stupid, and thus is likely to become part of the conventional wisdom:

Testing for Racial Differences in the Mental Ability of Young Children

Roland G. Fryer, Steven D. Levitt
NBER Working Paper No. 12066 Issued in March 2006

---- Abstract -----

On tests of intelligence, Blacks systematically score worse than Whites, whereas Asians frequently outperform Whites. Some have argued that genetic differences across races account for the gap. Using a newly available nationally representative data set that includes a test of mental function for children aged eight to twelve months [emphasis mine - I would refer to them as "infants," not as "young children," but Levitt knows how to spin a study], we find only minor racial differences in test outcomes (0.06 standard deviation units in the raw data) between Blacks and Whites that disappear with the inclusion of a limited set of controls. The only statistically significant racial difference is that Asian children score slightly worse than those of other races. To the extent that there are any genetically-driven racial differences in intelligence, these gaps must either emerge after the age of one, or operate along dimensions not captured by this early test of mental cognition.

I haven't seen Levitt and Fryer's paper, but their gimmick looks pretty obvious -- you make the IQ gap disappear, hesto presto, by pointing at something that's not an IQ test. There are no IQ tests that purport to measure IQ much below age 3, and even age 3 or 4 is pretty shaky. At "eight to twelve months," you are mostly measuring physical coordination and/or personality development, not advanced rational problem solving ability, which is the main point of IQ testing. It's been known for decades that black infants tend to be ahead of white infants on those dimensions, with Asians in third place on average.

I've got a great idea for Levitt and Fryer's next study. They could prove that the racial difference in long jumping ability seen in the Olympics can't be genetic by showing that for young children of 8 to 12 months old, there is zero difference by race in long jumping ability. The mean long jump distance for all three races among 8 to 12 month olds is zero, so that means any later differences that emerge can't be genetic. Right?

Then they could prove that the racial slam dunking gap can't be genetic because there are no racial differences in the ability to slam dunk among 8-12 month olds.

A reader writes:

Maybe I could pitch a study that seeks to prove group differences in IQ tend to disappear during periods of unconsciousness. Grant money, here I come!

Perhaps Levitt and Fryer got the idea for studying the IQ of 8-12 month olds from this article:

Study: Dolphins Not So Intelligent On Land

GAINESVILLE, FL—Although dolphins have long been celebrated for their high intelligence and for appearing to have a complex language, a team of researchers at the University of Florida reported Monday that these traits are markedly less evident on dry land.

According to study researchers, a group of 25 bottlenose dolphins removed from their holding tanks failed 11 exercises designed to test their basic cognitive abilities and reasoning skills.

"The dolphins were incapable of recognizing and repeating simple gestures," said study co-author Dr. Scott Lindell. "Their non-verbal communications were limited to a rapid constriction and expansion of the blowhole, various incomprehensible fin motions, and heavy tremors while they lay prone on the lab table."

After capturing the dolphins from the ocean, Lindell and his colleagues tagged them and placed them under the intense, high-wattage lights of a moisture-proof lab. The researchers then administered an extensive battery of tests designed to measure everything from the dolphins' self-awareness to their aptitude for writing and reading comprehension.

"Dolphins have a popular reputation for being excellent communicators," Lindell said. "But our study group offered only three types of response to every question we posed: a nonsensical, labored wheezing, an earsplitting barrage of unintelligible high-pitched shrieks, and in extreme cases, a shrill, distressed scream."

Even the dolphins' proven ability to navigate through a form of sonar called echolocation was ineffective on land.

"The military has claimed great success in training these mammals, utilizing their echolocation skills to detect mines that have been placed underwater," said Lindell, who conducted a similar experiment in a concrete parking lot. "We were unable to replicate this finding ourselves." -- The Onion

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

March 12, 2006

Tom Wolfe's next book is on immigration

Joseph Rago interviews Wolfe in the WSJ:

"I've begun the research for a book on immigration," he notes. "When people ask me what I'm doing, I always tell them that, and the response is always the same. 'How interesting'--and then their heads fall over. 'God, how dull can it be.' . . . But immigration I swear is an exciting topic." Don't worry: Tom Wolfe, the man of the world, will be back. "Of course," his voice touched with autumn, "I have to find some economical way to do the research that won't take forever. Careers don't last forever, you know."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Important New York Times think piece on

Greg Cochran's "dangerous idea:"

Ideas & Trends
The Twists and Turns of History, and of DNA

Published: March 12, 2006

EAST ASIAN and European cultures have long been very different, Richard E. Nisbett argued in his recent book "The Geography of Thought." East Asians tend to be more interdependent than the individualists of the West, which he attributed to the social constraints and central control handed down as part of the rice-farming techniques Asians have practiced for thousands of years.

A separate explanation for such long-lasting character traits may be emerging from the human genome. Humans have continued to evolve throughout prehistory and perhaps to the present day, according to a new analysis of the genome reported last week by Jonathan Pritchard, a population geneticist at the University of Chicago. So human nature may have evolved as well.

If so, scientists and historians say, a fresh look at history may be in order. Evolutionary changes in the genome could help explain cultural traits that last over many generations as societies adapted to different local pressures.

Trying to explain cultural traits is, of course, a sensitive issue. The descriptions of national character common in the works of 19th-century historians were based on little more than prejudice. Together with unfounded notions of racial superiority they lent support to disastrous policies.

But like phrenology, a wrong idea that held a basic truth (the brain's functions are indeed localized), the concept of national character could turn out to be not entirely baseless, at least when applied to societies shaped by specific evolutionary pressures.

In a study of East Asians, Europeans and Africans, Dr. Pritchard and his colleagues found 700 regions of the genome where genes appear to have been reshaped by natural selection in recent times. In East Asians, the average date of these selection events is 6,600 years ago.

Many of the reshaped genes are involved in taste, smell or digestion, suggesting that East Asians experienced some wrenching change in diet. Since the genetic changes occurred around the time that rice farming took hold, they may mark people's adaptation to a historical event, the beginning of the Neolithic revolution as societies switched from wild to cultivated foods.

Some of the genes are active in the brain and, although their role is not known, may have affected behavior. So perhaps the brain gene changes seen by Dr. Pritchard in East Asians have some connection with the psychological traits described by Dr. Nisbett.

Some geneticists believe the variations they are seeing in the human genome are so recent that they may help explain historical processes. "Since it looks like there has been significant evolutionary change over historical time, we're going to have to rewrite every history book ever written," said Gregory Cochran, a population geneticist at the University of Utah. "The distribution of genes influencing relevant psychological traits must have been different in Rome than it is today," he added. "The past is not just another country but an entirely different kind of people."

John McNeill, a historian at Georgetown University, said that "it should be no surprise to anyone that human nature is not a constant" and that selective pressures have probably been stronger in the last 10,000 years than at any other epoch in human evolution. Genetic information could therefore have a lot to contribute, although only a minority of historians might make use of it, he said.


There are two aspects to the Cochran theory. The first is the more obvious: when people who have evolved in one place come in contact with people who have evolved somewhere else, genetic differences can have a huge impact on history.

This is particularly blatant in the history of the New World, where a large fraction of the native Indians died soon after 1492 because they hadn't had a chance to adapt to Afro-Eurasian diseases. This allowed whites to conquer the New World easily, and it provided one major impetus for importing disease-resistant Africans as slaves.

You can also see the impact of genetic differences in northern South America and Central America, where you often find Africans living along the hot, feverish coasts, whites living at moderate, pleasant elevations (as in Costa Rica) or along the cool Pacific (as in Peru), and Indians living at extreme altitudes. Bolivian politics, which is much in the news lately, is largely inexplicable unless you understand that whites lose most of their babies to miscarriages at 12,000 feet on the Altiplano, so the high country remains largely Indian almost 500 years after the Conquest.

The second aspect is harder to feel confident about. That's Cochran's contention that even for rooted people whose ancestors have long lived in the same spot, that they have often continued to evolve over time so that they would be genetically different in key regards from their predecessors.

This is certainly possible under the genetic math, but it's hard to develop a lot of confidence in particular examples since it's much harder to observe the lives of dead people and compare them to living people than to contrast two sets of living people.

One promising possibility is the old chestnut question about why the personalities of today's Scandinavians don't seem all that much like their Viking ancestors. It's possible that the aggressive Viking personality was a winning hand in Darwinian terms back in the Dark Ages when other Europeans didn't have adequate defenses against Viking predations. But by the Middle Ages, Europeans had evolved the security system called feudalism and the Vikings were forced to stay home. The most aggressive then tended to slaughter each other in the kind of honor feuds described in Icelandic sagas, while the milder sorts kept their heads down, survived, and multiplied. (On the other hand, I'm rather skeptical of the notion that one group is more or less violent than another group, since humans seem to have a lot of capacity for violence. A nonviolent group probably wouldn't have survived. The obvious differences are in tendencies toward organized and disorganized violence.)

All this is speculation. At present, we don't know what most of the genome does, but eventually we should have a pretty good pictures. It's probably not impossible to to access an adequate sample size of DNA from cemeteries. If so, it's possible that in the second half of the 21st century, history books will read much differently than they do today.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer