Archive for the ‘General’ category

Freaky Sensitivity

February 6, 2009

Why science rules…


Racial Realism and Pipe Dreams

November 28, 2007

Slate embarrasses itself with its article here, which is based almost exclusively on this paper here.

To start off, Rushton and Jensen have a methodology that is not conducive to making the sort of strong claims on genetic correlation they want to make. The worst part is their conclusion, where they take their hypothetical 50-50 split between nature and nurture and tilt it all the way up to 80-20 in favor of heredity. By their own data, the impact of better education and environment has an average minimum 10 to a maximum 20 point effect on IQ, which would totally eliminate or nearly close the gap between blacks and whites. Also by their own data, the IQ impact of programs to improve those factors are strongest in childhood but diminish during adolescence. I guess they could deny that adolescence is the time of individual awakening to cultural roles and expectations, but it would be a ludicrous position. What they conjecture instead is that genetic phenotype asserts itself over cultural influence at puberty. So basically, flip a coin and heads it is genetics or tails it is genetics.

To his credit and my dismay, the conservative Thomas Sowell has documented and criticized the strong cultural bias of IQ tests. Despite that, Rushton and Jensen ascribe the difference between the average IQ of African and American blacks to racial interbreeding with whites. Because obviously, no difference between African and American environment. Also, IQ is based upon a small number of genes which are recombined in a simple fashion.

Flynn has documented that racially averaged IQ is not a stable phenomenon. All groups are making increases relative to their past performance, but also relative to other groups there are changes that have taken place. Rushton and Jensen don’t delve into this, but the role of environmental factors like malnutrition have a statistically significant effect on health up to two generations later. It would not be speculative on my part to assume that those factors could carry forward in a similar manner upon development of traits, which would skew the data between environmental improvement and substantial IQ changes by forty years or so.

The whole thing on brain size and/or weight is straight out of pseudoscience 101. As Einstein’s brain showed, structure matters exponentially more than quantity of brain tissue. That is the materialistic rebuttal of the argument, which oddly enough might be prone to a genetic cause. If you believe in strong dualism, the connection between immaterial mind and brain is irrelevant to begin with. If you believe in functionalism, IQ is a complex phenomenon with a large number of overlapping elements, and it measures only one tile in the total mosaic of social fitness.

Their apparent policy prescription of eliminating affirmative action is based on the premise that degrees of racial inequity are inevitable due to a largely genetic component of IQ. If we lived in a society where only IQ mattered as an obstacle to integration into mainstream culture, their proposal would carry some degree of argumentative force if all their theories were valid.  Since we do not live in that society and their theories are very wobbly to say the least, their proposal is unjustifiable.

My last point of contention is that the percentage of genes involved in ethnic differences are estimated about 1% of the total genome (or one tenth that number if duplicate genes are ignored). Given the intricacies of phenotypes, those genes may actually have an effect on IQ, but I like my odds.

King of Spin

October 3, 2007

You know that things in the pundit world have gone straight to the asylum when noted drug addict, serial divorcee, and prolific liar Rush Limbaugh is getting political cover from his pals at NRO. I am honestly stunned that anyone who has ever listened to his show would make the outrageously distorted statements McCarthy is making.

First things first though, the transcript of the “phony soldiers” remark and its context is opposed to the way McCarthy tries to spin it. Rush does try to dissemble a little bit later in the broadcast and makes reference to Jesse Macbeth who was convicted for fraud and falsifying records. But as an initial response to his caller, Rush is crystal clear that anyone in uniform who gives negative remarks to the media about the war is a phony soldier.

Secondly, if you have ever listened to Rush Limbaugh for more than ten minutes, to say that he is not interested in ideological purity is the most inane comment one could ever utter. He essentially tells his first caller on the transcript, the one he disagrees with, that he cannot be a Republican because he supports a time line for withdrawal. Apparently only Mr. Limbaugh gets to decide who is or is not a Republican and a conservative. Voting history and the various groups and factions that make up the base of the GOP are all void of meaning when Rush puts on his little authoritarian boots.

Thirdly, it is remarkable how quickly the Republican base can forget their own fake outrage. Not even a month had passed since the entire GOP was screaming bloody murder about the MoveOn ad in the NYT. Enough so that they got their congresscritters to declare all sorts of condemnations against the foul, treacherous liberals who besmirch the men and women in uniform. Sadly, the spineless and worthless Democrats went along with this retarded attack on free speech. With all the awareness and delicacy of a buffoon, Rush then provides the perfect silver lining to this whole sordid affair. Like Greenwald says, if we must live under these corrupt standards of acceptable criticism, it is imperative that they be applied consistently.

Lastly, the good works that Rush does for the military and their families, while deserving of praise, does not mean he is free to attack as phony or dishonorable anyone in uniform who disagrees with him. This is clearly what he is doing and what he will continue to do as long as his defenders ignore the blatant hypocrisy of it.

Hearsay and Heresy

September 9, 2007

At work this week, one of my fellow employees who is also a Sunday school teacher blessed me with her opinion of the Muslims.  To quote, “We should bomb them all.  If you read the Bible, you know those people are going to die anyway.”  I wanted to ask why her view was any less savage than a Muslim reactionary wanting to kill infidels.  Getting into heaven requires a lot of blood sacrifice for certain fundamentalists.  Good thing she is teaching the young to show compassion.

The problem for most religions is that they declare all others to be false while they each claim to be perfect and blessed by God.  It would be silly if it were not at the same time so easily corrupted.  Any honest look at the history of religion shows a rich tradition of zealotry combined with an apocalyptic prophecy.  We live on this tiny speck of dust in the middling area of the sprawling universe, but our vanity is so great that God must be intimately and ultimately tied to our fate.

Since I am more familiar with the Christian faith, it startles me how little adherents understand about the origins of their religion.  The nativity story is fabricated out of stories from other mythologies, there is hardly an original idea in the whole account.  Events in the life of Jesus are described with a minimal amount of background on a routine basis, people arrive in the story with no introduction and disappear into the mist.  The disciples who witness all these miracles seem remarkably dense as to who Jesus was, yet they are the people who were supposed to found a church in his name.  The anointing of Jesus (which is what makes him a Christ) was performed on two occasions by people with a mysterious relationship to Jesus, and both were clearly marginalized by the writers of the Gospels.

Almost every event connected to the resurrection is refuted by even the slightest amount of skepticism.   Jesus takes a drink from a sponge and immediately expires, even though the cause of death from crucifixion is exposure which takes days.  Only one Gospel even mentions an attempt to confirm his death, and that description is so implausible that the narrator actually implores the reader to believe his tale.  Then his “body” is quickly taken away to be buried.  After three days and nights, the same number needed for the resurrection of the Egyptian god Osiris, he is discovered by Mary who repeats the sentiment of Isis – “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.”  At the moment when Jesus has conquered death, he does not immediately reveal himself to his most devoted disciple, waiting until she accuses him of stealing the body.  This makes no sense at all within the context of the narrative.  What is to be gained from deception after Jesus has risen from the grave?  It serves no possible purpose, except to indicate that things are not at all what they seem to be.

Vintage Conservative

August 19, 2007

Unlike wine, which does get better with age, when you start fermenting in the juices of a traditional conservative like Lawrence Auster, everything goes rancid. He has attacked all the usual suspects: illegal immigrants, legal immigrants, Muslims, women, blacks, liberals, and anyone with critical thinking skills. Just your everyday, typical misfit who has surrendered his reasoning to paranoia and hallucinations of racial and gender supremacy.

Those type of guys are a dime a dozen in the fever swamps. What is special about Auster is his ability to be offended that people would try to make him a social leper for espousing his policies of Neanderthal intolerance. He sincerely feels that he is a civilized person, just trying to save Western society from its disastrous course.

He reminds me of those insurance commercials where the caveman is shocked, nay outraged, that modern people ridicule him for being ‘simple’. His recent dust-up with Mary Jackson over at NER has shown how pitifully inept he is. Mary is a conservative who is on Auster’s side when it comes to immigration policies, but she at least defends one basic notion of modern democracy. Auster gets all huffy and indignant that she would poke fun at his fear and loathing of women.

Whenever given sufficient time to proclaim himself a victim of the PC thought police, Auster reiterates his sad, oh so sad, story of betrayal at the hands of Horowitz. He probably sobs himself to sleep every night thinking about the injustice of it all. It was so traumatic for his fragile, delicate ego you see. He is such a major drama queen, too bad that Horowitz just isn’t that into him.

In order to provide a welcome distraction from his troubles, he should renovate his blog with a more honest and accurate name. Personally, I am fond of “A Whiter Shade of Stale“. Any reader suggestions are welcome in comments. Thanks.

Remember when…

July 22, 2007

This is getting ridiculous. Impeachment needs to start immediately. The days of anything other than slash and burn politics have passed and Congress needs to restore its coequal status under the Constitution.

Remember when Republicans believed in majority rule and hated obstruction? Like true quislings, they have supported this administration through every catastrophe and crime. Even though Bush has done nothing but show them contempt and demanded support for his divisive and misguided policies. Now that the reigns of power have shifted, the GOP cannot stand the idea of accountability. At their current rate, they will almost triple the previous record for cloture votes in the Senate. Hypocrisy is nothing new to politics, but with the GOP it ascends to new levels of disease and institutional rot.

Remember when Republicans believed in smaller government? Yes, you can stop laughing now, they really did say they believed that nonsense. Of course it was untrue, why would they ever be honest to the voters?

Remember when Republicans were willing to impeach a President over perjury and obstruction of justice? Now Bush is declaring, like all the kings before him, that Congress has no power to investigate his criminal activities once he asserts executive privilege. His concierge Alberto Gonzolas lies repeatedly to Congress about everything that occurs in his department. Vice President Cheney declares himself a fourth branch of government, beyond the reach of accountability. Last but not least, the entire GOP is willing to hold the troops hostage in Iraq rather than face the fiasco they helped create there. They will deny, obstruct, smear, and spin around with their fingers in their ears before they accept one iota of blame for the bloodbath until we leave. After we leave and the civil war starts in earnest, they will scream about the treacherous Democrats. It must be nice to live in their world of delusion, where nothing is ever their fault. It wasn’t the incompetence and lies and hubris of this administration, it was the weak will of the public and the Dhimmicrats. One thing is certain, the military is reaching its breaking point, and the generals will have to acknowledge that stark reality sooner rather than later.

Uncle Rico

July 4, 2007

What can be said about Scooter’s de facto pardon by the President? I say de facto because commuting the sentence actually achieves much more in the short term than a pardon and it leaves the door open for a full pardon after the appeals have run out.

As has been explored all across the internet, this has nothing to do with concepts like justice or fairness, it is instead based solely upon the impulses of power and loyalty. Libby was one of the High Council of neocon insiders, to allow him to serve time in prison like a commoner would allow the public to think the royal princes could be held accountable to the law.

The oft-repeated meme that this was a partisan witch hunt, led by GOP appointees all the way through, is purely risible. The secondary defense, that there was no underlying crime, has a slight bit of merit to it because of Richard Armitage’s role in the leak. His excuse was based on an internal memo that was labeled secret but did not describe Plame’s covert status. He cooperated fully with the investigation, indicating that his error, while substantial and worthy of punishment, was not made with malicious intent. Libby, on the other hand, certainly knew of her covert status from Cheney or some other source and told reporters anyway. That is the only explanation that makes any sense as to why he would repeatedly lie to the prosecutor in this matter.

Finally, it is amusing to me that Paris Hilton was capable of serving her time in jail, unlike a neocon charlatan who can never be held responsible for anything. A vapid and empty headed heiress has more courage than a neocon to face the consequences, which sums up the crisis of accountability in this country.