November 29, 2006

How the printing press made nationalism feasible

From Nick Szabo's Unenumerated blog:

Before book consciousness there had been no national languages, but only a range of often mutually incomprehensible dialects and in Western Europe the language of the tiny literate elite, Latin. With newly unified national vernaculars, organizations were able to coordinate and grow in an unprecedented manner. A much larger group of people, raised on the same written language, increasingly also came to look and speak similarly and become far more mutually trusted. It was the birth of national loyalty and nationwide webs of trust. The "tribe" to which we are instinctively loyal vastly increased in size.

The pool of already somewhat trusted "same tribe" people from which a bureaucracy could recruit new members vastly increased. National polities and militaries were able to coordinate political, economic, and battlefield strategies in an unprecedented manner. The 16th century saw the first major growth of the joint-stock corporation, enabling far more capital to be invested in the enlarging organizations that engaged in mining and manufacture as well as government and conquest. This development is probably a response to the new ability to form larger organizations, since the basic ideas (corporate law, shares of stock, etc.) had already been in use in Europe for quite some time.

Going along with this was the emergence of "national bards," beginning with Dante, who made the Florentine dialect the national version of Italian.

Europe ended up with a bunch of mid-sized nation states united by language, which proved about the right size for many tasks. Unfortunately, Europe's nation-states proved most effective of all at self-sacrificial war, and mutually exhausted themselves in WWI, discrediting nationalism, which had otherwise proved the most effective framework for human progress. (Similarly, the Chinese progressed the fastest during the Warring States era, which ended with the formation of the Empire 2200 years ago.)

In contrast, the Arab world shunned printing presses for hundreds of years. And, due to the sacred nature of the Arab language, the rise of national languages was largely prevented. So, the Arabs didn't really develop the nation-state. The pan-Arab or pan-Islamic caliphate remained attractive in theory, while, in reality, tribal and family struggles occupied their energies.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Dog Bites Man

From the New York Times:

Lawyers Debate Why Blacks Lag at Major Firms

Thanks to vigorous recruiting and pressure from corporate clients, black lawyers are well represented now among new associates at the nation’s most prestigious law firms. But they remain far less likely to stay at the firms or to make partner than their white counterparts.

A recent study says grades help explain the gap. To ensure diversity among new associates, the study found, elite law firms hire minority lawyers with, on average, much lower grades than white ones. That may, the study says, set them up to fail.

The study, which was prepared by Richard H. Sander, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and was published in The North Carolina Law Review in July, has given rise to fierce and growing criticism in law review articles and in the legal press. In an opinion article in The National Law Journal this month, for instance, R. Bruce McClean, the chairman of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, a major law firm, took issue with the study’s “sweeping conclusions” but not its “detailed data analysis.”

This is all utterly predictable from even a cursory knowledge of how the IQ bell curve works.

In the tournament to become a partner in a lucrative law firm, there are five hurdles, two of which have been corrupted by affirmative action and three of which are more meritocratic. Admission to law school and hiring by big firms is driven by quotas (just don't use the word "quotas," as the Supreme Court, in its majestic wisdom ruled in the Bakke law school admission case of 1977). In contrast, graduating from law school and making partner are less influenced by racial preferences, and passing the state bar exam remains, so far as I know, wholly objective.

In other words, there are some goodies the white elite is comfortable handing out using quotas, and others they feel are just too important to mess with.

Not surprisingly, affirmative action at the admissions and hiring levels lure in blacks who are less likely to make it over the meritocratic hurdles. Sander has shown that 53% of the black students who enter law school fail to become lawyers, versus 24% of white students. This is a really stupid way for society to misdirect and abuse its scarce resource of intelligent young black people.

The outcome for black lawyers hired by hotshot law firms who are in over the heads competing to become partner might be less dire, however, because affirmative action is also in operation in corporate law departments. So, if you start off working 70 hours a week at a Manhattan law firm, but soon realize that you aren't smart enough to make it to partner, well, that job offer to go work at Coca-Cola's legal department in Atlanta can start looking pretty good.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Polonium Poisoning Update: The Mysterious Professor Scaramella of Naples

This is getting pretty funny. Apparently, the man Alexander Litvinenko was having lunch with at the sushi bar where he was poisoned was Professor Mario Scaramella, a Neapolitan formerly of Bogota, is an expert on radioactive poisons, KGB agents, the Mafia, and who know what else…

Professor Scaramella of Naples -- is that the greatest name for a shady character in a tale of international intrigue and poison? It sounds like Arthur Conan-Doyle and Ian Fleming teamed up to create the good professor.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Dog and Man at Yale

A reader writes:

Nice story on NOVA last night about the evolution of Dogs and Man at Yale. Most interesting points for me were

1) how selection for tameness ended up yielding, as a surprise by-product, extraordinary variety of weird appearance characteristics in dogs, and

2) how man developed superb sniffers, hunters, runners, pointers, herders, etc., not by deliberately breeding in the modern sense, but simply by inevitably shaping the social environment, mostly food supply and mating chances, of the nearby hounds.

All implications for human evolution were passed over until a final bit on how dogs may help us identify genes for human narcolepsy and other genetic diseases.

And the Victorian invention of deliberate inbreeding for pure appearance, not performance, was characterized as "racist eugenics," of course.

Greg Cochran's theory is that just as selecting for new personality traits in wild animals that you are trying to domesticate often introduces new physical looks, the famous diversity of looks among Europeans (red and blond hair, blue, gray, and green eyes) are by-products of natural selection for new personality traits favorable to survival in Europe. Blue eyes, for example, might possibly be a by-product of selection for something like shyness.

Most theories of European hair and eye color focus on sexual selection (like the peacock's tale) rather than natural selection, but Cochran says he is averse to thinking about sexual selection on the grounds that it too often turns out to be a conceptual dead end. It's too random. Clearly, examples of sexual selection exist now and then, but Cochran believes that relying on sexual selection for explanations encourages lazy thinking, a little like in the Stanley Harris cartoon where a scientist has filled the left and right sides of the blackboard with equations but in the middle he has only written "A miracle happens here."

I'm not sure I agree, but, generally speaking, disagreeing with Cochran is not typically a winning strategy.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Blind kid uses echolocation to navigate

This TV news clip of a blind 14 year old African-American who listens to echoes from his tongue clicks to avoid running into things is fun to watch, especially the part where in a pillow fight he hurls a throw pillow across the room at the TV announcer man and -- bullseye -- nails him right in the crotch.

According to the movie "Ray," Ray Charles didn't need a cane because he always wore hard-soled shoes and the echoes were enough for him to avoid obstacles. Of course, it helps if your brain is wired for sound like Ray Charles's was.

Wikipedia has a short article on "Human Echolocation." The tongue-clicking makes me wonder if the famous click languages of the Bushmen, Hottentot, and two black African tribes had something to do at one time with echolocation, although I've never heard that. Perhaps it could be useful to echolocate to avoid stumbling into things while walking on moonless nights, especially in forests where there is no starlight and lots of tree trunks to run into. The Bushmen generally don't lived in heavily forested country today, but they've been around an awfully long time, so we shouldn't assume they never did. But it can be very dangerous to walk around at night in leopard country, so maybe people just stayed put.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

November 28, 2006

More on natural selection of New World blacks

A reader writes:

According to Galenson, the mortality rate on slave ships (a little more than 10% for both Slaves and Europeans) was constant per time unit regardless of the length of the journey. That is about 2 per 1000 per day died. More would die in longer journeys, but only proportionally. The incremental difference between other stops and Jamaica should therefore be all but negligible.

The fact that the European crew died at such a high rate (ships with only whites tended to have 4-5% mortality rate) indicates it was the mixing of disease that was the main cause, not “harshness” of the journey per say. The slaves for example had enough food, so testosterone would not help the strong ones get more than the weak.

Many more slaves tended to die when the ships contained slaves from different regions. Again disease is the likely cause. I guess testosterone increases immune defence somewhat. But the direct selection for disease immunity most be vastly more important than testosterone in the selection.

Another writes:

But in the larger picture, what Aiken is pointing to is being a slave was a new evolutionary environment. He's focusing only on the flashy middle passage environment, to be sure. But it seems to me that even once they got off the boat, the slaves were facing a distinctly harsher environment (in many ways) than they had in West Africa. If it is true that being a slave in the West Indies was different in terms of what was "fit" from being a random peon in West Africa, then we should expect natural selection to differentiate the populations. A selection bottleneck which selected along the same lines would, in this case, speed the process along.

Rather than the middle passage, what I think may be more important was the astounding death rates the slaves had even once here. Consider this:

"By the middle of the 17th century, British Jamaica and French Saint-Domingue had become the largest and most brutal slave societies of the region, rivaling Brazil as a destination for enslaved Africans. The death rates for black slaves in these islands were higher than birth rates. The decrease averaged about 3 percent per year in Jamaica and 4 percent a year in the smaller islands. The main causes for this were overwork and malnutrition. Slaves worked from sun up until sun down in harsh conditions and supervised under demanding masters, with little medical care. Slaves also had poor living conditions and consequently they contracted many diseases."

A 4% per year decrease in population is an impressively powerful selection environment!

Right. The sugar plantation regions of Brazil and the West Indies were much more deadly than the tobacco plantation region of Virginia. The sugar growers worked slaves to death and replaced them with cheap imports from across the Atlantic.

It was more expensive to import slaves all the way to Virginia. Plus, the climate was quite healthful for Africans -- cooler than the tropics, so tropical diseases were less virulent, but not frigid, so Africans didn't suffer as much from respiratory diseases in Virginia as they did in New England. So, Virginia slaveowners had economic incentives to make sure that the birth rate was higher than the death rate among their slaves. (By the time the deep Southern cotton belt opened up fully, the slave trade had been outlawed, so American owners still had an incentive to care for the health of their slaves.)

Off the top of my head, though, I can't see any particular traits that the sugar plantations selected for. Take sprinting ability: West Indians (sugar) and African-Americans (mostly not sugar) are both outstanding, while black Brazilians are not. Not bad, just not great.

On the other hand, a black Brazilian named Ronaldo da Costa set the marathon world record in 1998, which is almost unimaginable for an African-American or West Indian.

Why? A. There is less connection between looks and racial background in Brazil than in America due to the lack of a color line and preference for fair women. Consider two sisters in Brazil, one fair and one dark. The fairer one is more likely to marry a richer, whiter man, while the darker one is more likely to marry a poorer, black man. Repeat for 12 generations and you've substantially disconnected the genes for looks from all the other genes. (In the U.S., the color line largely prevented this process.) So, perhaps, even somebody as black-looking as da Costa could have the athletic genes of a Portuguese distance runner.

B. The alternative theory is that da Costa is largely descended from South or East Africans. Brazil got a lot of its slaves out of those regions that today produce so many fine distance runners. In contrast, the U.S. got most of its slaves from West Africa, which has the same imbalance today as African-American between outstanding sprinters and virtually non-existent distance r

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Black athletes and testosterone

From the Jamaica Gleaner:

The athletic prowess of Jamaicans
by William Aiken
Dr. William Aiken is the head of Urology at the University Hospital of the West Indies and president of the Jamaica Urological Society

The sprinting prowess of African-Americans and Afro-Caribbean people in general and Jamaicans in particular is legendary and is demanding of serious scientific enquiry and research. It cannot be coincidence that over the years the fastest men and women in the world were born in Jamaica. Herb McKinley, Arthur Wint, Donald Quarrie, Linford Christie, Donovan Bailey, Ben Johnson, Bert Cameron, Michael Frater, Asafa Powell, Merlene Ottey, Sherone Simpson, Veronica Campbell, Deon Hemmings, Bridgette Foster-Hylton and Sanya Richards come readily to mind...

While it is clear that good sport administration, excellent coaching, proper nutrition and adequate funding and facilities are vital to achieving athletic greatness, in the absence of raw athletic sprinting ability this will not occur.

I wish to propose a hypothesis that addresses not only the aspect of Jamaica's raw athletic talent, but also encompasses an explanation of seemingly diverse phenomena as our high incidence of prostate cancer (one study found it to be by far the highest in the world at 304 / 100,000 men / year), our high crime rate (murder capital of the world status earlier this year), our high road traffic accident and fatality rate, and our alleged high levels of promiscuity.

What do these seemingly disparate phenomena, characteristic of Jamaican life, have in common? On close examination these phenomena are manifestations of high levels of aggressiveness and drive, high libidos, highly efficient muscles from persons of lean body mass and black ethnicity.

On closer scrutiny all of these phenomena are either related to high circulating levels of testosterone or alternatively to high levels of responsiveness of testosterone receptors to circulating testosterone. It has already been shown that the testosterone receptors of blacks are different genetically to those of whites and this difference confers increased responsiveness to testosterone.

I've long felt that Occam's Razor points in the same direction. Differences in average levels of male and female sex hormones and in function of sex hormone receptors can parsimoniously account for many of the racial patterns that can't be accounted for by differences in IQ.

I'm not as persuaded, however, that Dr. Aiken's specific theory attributing differences to the Middle Passage is as plausible.

I propose that Jamaicans of primarily African descent have even greater testosterone responsiveness than blacks anywhere else.

But why should this be? I believe the answer to this lies in the slave ship routes within the Caribbean and the New World. First, let us assume that all Africans who survived the trek from the African interior to the West African coast and subsequently the middle passage would have been more or less subject to the same inhumane conditions which would have produced a severe selection pressure that enabled only the fittest slaves to survive the journey.

My hypothesis is that for each incremental increase in the journey travelled, once the slave ships entered the Caribbean, there was a corresponding selection pressure which ensured that only the fittest of the fit slaves survived and furthermore the traits which enabled survival were somehow dependent on high levels of responsiveness to testosterone. Characteristics such as aggression, determination, drive, strong bones, lean body mass, high surface area to body mass ratio, highly efficient and responsive muscles were probably all important for survival and are testosterone-dependent.

The math doesn't really work. Steven Levitt's partner Roland Fryer has revived a similar theory about African-American blood pressure problems being caused by selection for salt retention on slave ships. Greg Cochran explained to Fryer:

"The reason it wouldn't have an important effect is that you don't get a lot of genetic change in one generation unless you try _really_ hard. If they lost the bottom 15% of the people (in terms of salt retention) during the Middle Passage, a cutoff of about one std below average, the increase in salt retention would be about a tenth or so of a standard deviation, assuming a narrow-sense heritability of 50%. You'd never notice the difference."

Nonetheless, Aiken makes an interesting observation about clinal difference within the West Indies:

Since Jamaica was one of the last stops to be made by the slave ships it ensured that only the most resilient and fittest of slaves were alive to disembark in Jamaica. This hypothesis is supported by a number of observations. African-Americans and Afro-Caribbean people are represented far more frequently in sprinting events than persons from Africa. Even more interesting is that as one goes westward within the Caribbean, sprinting prowess becomes more prevalent and reaches its peak by the time Jamaica and Bahamas are reached.

West Indian countries are definitely better at sprinting than West African countries, although the weakness of West Africa at sprinting is often exaggerated. West Africa would be the strongest sprinting region in the world if not for the competition from the West African Diaspora in places like Jamaica and the U.S. I would tend to assume that the West Indian superiority over West Africa is due to advantages in health, nutrition, and social organization, rather than in genetic differences.

What about the clinal difference within the Caribbean? The most striking example is Barbados, whose citizens are renown for being the best educated and most civil of all the West Indians. Barbados was the richest and most easterly of the West Indies.

An alternative theory is that the clinal pattern is due to artificial rather than natural selection. According to the PBS series The Story of English, as the first stop for the slave ships coming from Africa, the wealthy slaveowners of Barbados had their pick, and they preferred to buy slaves from tribes they had found to be the most cooperative. Then they'd send the leftovers from the Bad Dude tribes on to be sold in Jamaica and the U.S.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

November 26, 2006

Michael Irvin on Tony Romo:

Back in the 1990s, in between getting arrested in the company of hookers and cocaine, Michael Irvin caught a lot of passes for the Dallas Cowboy Super Bowl teams. This year, a journeyman white quarterback named Tony Romo (who is half Mexican-American) has suddenly gotten red hot, throwing five touchdown passes in the Cowboy's Thanksgiving Day victory. On Dan Patrick's ESPN radio show, Irvin, who is employed as a broadcaster by ESPN, laughingly suggested that:

"He doesn't look like he's that type of an athlete," Irvin said of Romo. "But he is. He is, man. I don't know if some brother down in that line somewhere, I don't know who saw what or where, his great-great-great-great-grandma ran over in the 'hood or something went down."

Patrick tried to suggest to Irvin that he shouldn't go there, but Irvin was having none of it, continuing:

"If great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandma pulled one of them studs up out of the barn, 'Come on in here for a second,' you know, and they go out and work in the yard. You know, back in the day."

It's common for white announcers to lose their jobs after referring to the genetic differences between black and white players, such as Paul Hornung who lost his radio job on Notre Dame games after suggesting that ND needed to lower its academic standards so it could recruit black players fast enough to compete with the Florida powerhouses.

So far there hasn't been much of a controversy over Irvin's comments. It's worth noting that it reflect the view widespread among famous black athlete that blacks tend to be genetically superior athletes. It's politically incorrect, but, hey, they're black so the usual rituals of censorship and public humiliation seldom apply to them.

Ironically, this racial self-assurance comes at a time when blacks aren't doing as well athletically as in the 1990s. Three of the four claimants to the heavyweight boxing title are Ivan Drago types from the former Soviet Union. The US. Olympic Basketball tem got beat pretty bad in the 2004 Olympics, losing to Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Lithuania. A white Canadian has won the NBA MVP award two years running. A Chinese player is the best center now that Shaq is in decline. The two best 400m sprinters are white Americans. A Chinese runner won the 110m hurdles at the last Olympics. An all white team won the World Cup.

On the other hand, blacks continue to dominate the 100m sprint (in the last six Olympics going back through 1984, all eight men who made the finals have been of West African descent, an amazing 48 of 48). African-Americans also continue to dominate at tailback and cornerback in the NFL, holding all the starting positions, last I checked. Blacks continue to dominate most of the statistical categories in the NBA.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer