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The Twists of History and DNA 337

An anonymous reader writes "The New York Times has a piece today talking about the possible connection between genetic evolution and history." From the article: "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."
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The Twists of History and DNA

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  • by jibjibjib ( 889679 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @09:45PM (#14904619) Journal
    The summary was talking about *19th century* "unfounded notions of racial superiority." The *article* is talking about our 21st century notions of racial superiority, which are, of course, superior. :-p

    I expect in a while people will start complaining about our unfounded notions of temporal superiority, and we will have to stop believing we are superior to past civilisations.

  • by ross.w ( 87751 ) <rwonderley AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday March 12, 2006 @09:56PM (#14904659) Journal
    Nearby France is a rich country, overflowing with bountiful ressources. It followed Britain by constituting an empire, yes, but this was just for copycat purposes; it never vitally needed an empire just to survive, and the best illustration of this is, after World War II, when both Britain and France lost their empires, Britain sunk into decadence and decrepitude, whilst France had the highest economic growth during the 30 years following the War.

    DOn't forget that France and all the other countries in Western Europe that were occupied (including West Germany) benefited from Marshal Plan money that bought them new steelworks, railways, etc to replace the old ones that were destroyed. Britain on the other hand got squat from the Marshal Plan, and struggles to this day with pre-war infrastructure that in nearby countries was destroyed and subsequently replaced.

  • I don't buy it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by the_humeister ( 922869 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @09:58PM (#14904667)
    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."

    Surely if you were able to take a baby from ancient times and transplant him to the present, he'd grow up to really be no different than the rest of us.

    The most recent example of a society's possible genetic response to its circumstances is one advanced by Dr. Cochran and Henry Harpending, an anthropologist at the University of Utah. In an article last year they argued that the unusual pattern of genetic diseases found among Ashkenazi Jews (those of Central and Eastern Europe) was a response to the demands for increased intelligence imposed when Jews were largely confined to the intellectually demanding professions of money lending and tax farming. Though this period lasted only from 900 A.D. to about 1700, it was long enough, the two scientists argue, for natural selection to favor any variant gene that enhanced cognitive ability.

    This part I really don't buy. More like they weren't having children outside of their group, and so are more prone to genetic diseases.

  • Re:Germans (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thrillseeker ( 518224 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:01PM (#14904678)
    More generally, I think people are going to have to face someday that brain genetics are not somehow special. Just like certain races are shorter, taller, darker, lighter, faster, stronger, etc, certain races (and sexes...) are going to have bell curves that are different shapes. Of course, this doesn't preclude any individual from falling anywhere on the bell curve.

    Yet you would be drawn and quartered if you said that from any position of authority on a college campus, as Larry Summers discovered. Indeed, suggesting that there may be genetic differences to explain any collective group's below the average showing in any endeavor would preclude you from ever obtaining any sort of achievment in the academic world. However, if you can state that genetics might explain how one particular named group (better known as dead white guys) have unfairly gained advantage in history due to a gene of violence, or whatever, then you can write your own ticket.

  • Uh oh.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:03PM (#14904684) Homepage
    Here we go again. This reminds me of the not-incorrect observation by a certain Harvard dean that women, in general, tend to be better in areas not related to math and science. Regardless of the merit of such a claim, the current political climate is such that any observation other than the obvious is regarded as demeaning. Even obvious differences are often taboo. It would be fine to observe, for example, that asians tend to excell at math and science, but mentioning that they're generally shorter than their european counterparts would be considered insulting by some, regardless of the fact that being smaller has many advantages for survival.

    I suppose though, in light of our inability to view differences objectively, that it's probably for the best. Invariably, when someone points out differences, one group will use those differences to assert some sort of supreriority over the other. While it would be nice if we could discuss differences with scientific detachment and actually learn something, it seems that the most common trait among humanity -- our desire to be the best; to feel superior -- prevents such objectivity.
  • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:05PM (#14904686)

    Never trust work that moves from the digestion of milk (dependent on a single enzyme in adulthood) to broad cultural generalizations. Why would anyone think that East Asians have been selected for intelligence, unless they buy into a particular cultural stereotype that has been common only in the past few decades, as the East has sent its best and brightest to the West for education? A generation ago East Asians were considered much less mentally capable than Europeans. Both stereotypes are fact-free.

    Here's a real howler from the article:

    "It is easy to imagine that in societies where trust pays off, generation after generation, the more trusting individuals would have more progeny and the oxytocin-promoting genes would become more common in the population."

    Easy to imagine, yes, at least if you are completely ignorant of how societies have actually behaved in history. It's easy to imagine the Earth is flat, if you are sufficiently ignorant.

    Trust pays off most in societies that trade under the rule of law, like Rome. And we all know that generation after generation Roman families grew and grew, especially amongst the most properous classes, who benefited the most from trust...

    Except they didn't.

    Certain types of benefit to individuals result in decreased procreation, as we see in modern developed societies. Rome struggled with declining population amongst the middle and upper classes throughout most of its history, to the extent that laws and other social pressure requiring marriage and progeny were common features even during the late Republic.

    Local genetic adaptation to a rice-based diet I can believe. Adaptation to cow's milk is plausbile. But until you show me quantitative, unbiased performance measures of "cultural types" I'll say you're telling the kind of just-so story that faux-evolutionists have been foisting off on the public for generations, starting with Spencer and coming down to the present day in the form of statistically illiterate dunderheads like Charles Murray.
  • by MoralHazard ( 447833 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:06PM (#14904689)
    The OP is just on crack, man (although you're right on about the Marshall Plan). He's arguing two mutually contradictory theses:

    1) France has been an economic powerhouse in the second half of the 20th Century; AND

    2) In France, commerce and business pursuits are reviled and seen as dirty.

    How do those two add up, again? They don't--they contradict. And the OP is an idiot.
  • Re:Germans (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:08PM (#14904692)
    ...the extreme expression of that are the almost ridiculous levels of Nazi record keeping. I've often wondered if this is a cultural trait, or if it's something genetic in the brain. Given that I have pretty close to zero German cultural influence, I tend to by sympathetic toward a genetic possibility.

    Being that I am a German and have had alot of German cultural influence as a consequence of being a German (you know: 'knackwurst, bier und sauerkraut') I can tell you that this has nothing to do with genetics!! It is a cultural thing, an ancient German custom. Whenever we Germans feel that we might be about to do somenting galactically stupid we like to document the full extent of our idiocy for future reference. Think of it as a simple scheme, aimed at preventing us from making the same mistake twice, don't read to much into it...
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:09PM (#14904694)
    What the poster fails to mention is that the pendulum has swung to an opposite extreme that isn't good either. We're not all biochemically equal, and that should be at the foundation for our belief that all people are deserving of equal rights. Each life has its own individual existance, even twins.

    The tendency I have notice is that those who preach the idea that we're all equal, instead of all equally worth human dignity, is that they tend to favor control of others. In the name of "equality," people have been turned into cogs to fit into some sociologist's "scientific" organization of a corporation or society.

    That's why libertarianism is so hard for liberals to swallow. We don't believe that all people are equal. In fact we do believe that some are born with clear advantages over others, and the opposite is equally true. Instead, what should be emphasized is that no one is born with the inherent right to control others, and all arguments for controlling others ought to be based in the highest standards of morality and reason.

    Besides, I have been around enough foreigners to know that the majority around the world doesn't really believe this bullshit Western idea that we are all born equal, save for an equal right to be free from all arbitrary controls. Instead of focusing on equality, perhaps we should be focusing on the more pressing need to make the government work more efficiently and in a fairer way, that does not (as it has always happened in the past) end up making it simply a powerful means for the strong to control the weak.
  • Re:McEvolution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the_humeister ( 922869 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:10PM (#14904697)
    Well, it's interesting that native South Americans living in the rural Andes mountains are thinner than their westernized North American counterparts. This is mostly attributed to genetics where they have genes that allow them to store more energy in a low food environment. Place them in a high-food environment, and they become overweight.
  • by r00t ( 33219 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:11PM (#14904702) Journal
    Survival of the fittest does NOT mean survival of the smartest, least violent, most honest, etc.

    Fitness is purely a function of how well you pass on your DNA. This is mostly, but not purely, about making children. Protecting close blood relatives, including siblings and grandchildren, counts toward your fitness because your close blood relatives share lots of DNA with you.

    Our current environment doesn't typically feature starvation, so it's no problem to have more babies than most people consider sane. Welfare can help. You just need to make the babies. Major medical defects like diabetes are no problem. So, fitness today...

    • horny
    • horrified by abortion
    • careless or clueless regarding birth control
    • good at flirting
    • physically attractive
    • likes to get drunk
    • cheats on spouse
    • helps siblings get laid
    • OK with incest
    • wants kids even after age 50 (gets fertility treatment)

    Lovely world, huh? Evolution doesn't stop, and it sure doesn't obey our desires.

  • Equal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mike_n2em ( 639096 ) <(ude.urs) (ta) (nolnoc.leahcim)> on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:16PM (#14904719) Homepage
    > Not all men are created equal.

    > This is a big moral problem for liberal Western democracies. Most
    > European and North American states, and a good portion of nations in
    > the rest of the world, are founded on the basis that every person is
    > entitled to the same basic rights as the rest. The philosophical
    > rhetoric that underlies these claims needs the postulate that all
    > human beings are somewhat equal--nobody is so much better
    > equipped, morally or intellectually or otherwise, that he can
    > take away the political rights of self determination from other men.

    Well, actually it's not such a problem. To be "created" equal requires a creator. The idea is that, since none of us is the creator, we have no rights over the lives of one another, except insomuch as we mutually agree. Jefferson was not talking about intellectual, muscular, or moral equality--certainly he knew that some of us are smarter, more powerful, or more virtuous than others.
  • by dartarrow ( 930250 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:25PM (#14904742) Homepage
    ..with examples like
    men who had killed in battle had three times as many children as those who had not.
    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

    I have to say it is pretty badly written. Asians are indeed more community/ society-oriented than westerners who are more individualistic (look at our emphasis on personal freedom and privacy), but that may not all be based on genetics. The level of priority for an asian is Country-> Community -> Family -> ME whereas westerners are traditionally more of ME->Family -> Community -> Country. The asian argument is that without a strong country there cannot be a safe family. However the western priority list above is not something inherent in all westerners, it is just more obvious these days and mostly only in America which the researcher assumes applies to the rest of the western civilisation. A Glance through history would reflect that the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Vikings and even the more modern Britains and Americans have accepted that the country's welfare is in fact more important than their own personal ones, or else nobody (almost) would want to voluntarily enter the Armed forces.
    A community-based individual is the by-product or perhaps even the pre-requisite of ancient civilisations. The asians were amongst the first to realise this and never found any reason to change their believe. Thats why they are what they are.

    To attribute everything asian to rice is rather immature. This article tells us what we already know - adaptation and evolution happens. But nothing else is new or even believable.
  • Re:Asians? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stickerboy ( 61554 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:25PM (#14904744) Homepage
    "One can only wonder what evolutionary pressures caused well endowed Asian males do die out."

    One can also only wonder at the evolutionary pressures producing large numbers of white boys obsessed with comparing their penis sizes to males of every other culture.

  • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:32PM (#14904778) Journal
    Parent was pointing out a contradiction in the article, in which the statement "unfounded notions of racial superiority" is clearly refuted by the article's subsequent arguments which any thinking individual would interpret as a partial founding of the previously unfounded notions.

    The fact that you could not tell the difference between what the parent was stating the article supported and what the parent actually believes himself (which was neither stated or implied by any of the parent's statements) is telling. Especially given your apparant predilection toward antisemitism.
  • by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:41PM (#14904816) Homepage Journal
    21st century Jewish (ashiknazi) exceptionalism is just as much psudoscience as Nazi eugenics programs and racial BS of the 20th and 19th century.
  • by just_forget_it ( 947275 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:45PM (#14904830)
    incest? come on. Children resulting from incestuous relationships are more likely to have birth defects, which aren't condusive to survival at all. From a purely animal standpoint, people with defects are less attractive and are less likely to mate if they aren't sterile already.
  • by paeanblack ( 191171 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:51PM (#14904848)
    Yet somehow "all men are created equal" didn't stop France from imperial/colonial expansion in Africa, nor did it prevent France from trying to conquer Mexico, or the US the Phillipines.

    Bypassing that cognitive dissonance is dead simple...you just define the natives/undesirables as "sub-human" and continue on your merry way. Every successful* culture in history did and still does this.

    *I think most metrics of cultural dominance can be used here
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:52PM (#14904853)
    I think you've spent too much time reading the Declaration of Independence. That's the only document I know of in the West that says we're all created equal. Now, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Western drafted document established after World War 2, basically says what you say about equality - "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." The equality you speak of is just propaganda that we learn in schools to remind us how great "our" country is.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:57PM (#14904866)
    Educated people usually delay having children in favor of their careers and have fewer children overall than uneducated people. So natural selection favors the uneducated.
  • by liangzai ( 837960 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @11:00PM (#14904881) Homepage
    A few basics:

    1. genes govern everything we are and are not, and everybody has a different set of genes (with the exception of twins). Thus, no one is actually created equal, in the sense you are suggesting.

    2. although genes on the individual level can vary significantly from another (think John Holmes, think Albert Einstein), there is virtually no difference at all on the group level. This means that if you compare a distinct ethnic group (or "race" as they still call it in the US) with another, you will find a much larger variation within each group than between the groups. This is what scientists mean when they say we are all Homo sapiens sapiens (except for three tiny African tribes, who DO qualify as another sub-species (or "race" as they still call it in the US). What this basically means is that we are all the same on the group level; this is not just politically correct, but also scientifically correct. A few discrepancies such as resistance to malaria, skin color, hair color and other minute genome changes donät change this.

    3. we tend to categorize people by their looks. Japanese and Chinese are all small, and this must be because of their genes, right? Did you know that the average height for a European was 150 cm in the 1500s? That it is now 180 cm is of course because of altered diet, and we now utlizie our genetic potential to the maxium. The same goes for modern Japanese and Chinese to a certain extent (do you know who Yao Ming is?), but many Asians have low protein diets and thus don't maximize their genetic potential.

    4. TFA mentions that some warriors tend to have three times as many babies as non-warriors, and that this would have a social effect, making the tribe more aggressive on the whole. That is such rubbish that I can't even start to think about its national socialist roots; it doesn't work that way, since others still have babies at a significant rate. If you compare artificial selection measures like milking cows, you would see that one weeds out all the "bad" examples; that doesn't happen in real life, and that is why you don't see natural selection happen before your eyes.
  • of course

    in australia, a bunch of colonists from the murky british isles dropped on a brightly sunlit desert has meant soaring skin cancer cases. am i saying pale people shouldn't wear sunscreen because that would be racist? of course not. that would result in thousands of needless deaths in australia alone ever year

    less melanin means you should protect yourself from the sun in other ways. duh. and... what is this supposed to mean to me? what great lessons is supposed to be drawn from this? geographic variations in biochemistry exist

    so what? what does it mean? it doesn't have ANY SIGNIFICANCE WHATSOEVER. because race simply doesn't matter

    there are many medical conditions which can be shown to be confined historically by geography. sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, lactose intolerance, HIV immunity, rhabdomyelosis vulnerability when on statin drugs, tay-sachs disease, chilblains, vulnerability to gout, etc., ad nauseum. just like nose size (arid or humid conditions), finger length (hot or cold), and skin color (melanin protection from sun), etc., ad nauseum

    did you know that on the average, worldwide, men are about 10% darker than females because for females protection from the sun is less important than the critical need for folic acid during early pregnancy, and that can come from the sun? what does this all mean?



    it's little scientific tidbits that don't add up to a whole. all of these little different surface features and biochemical quirks all overlap with each other. you can't draw any lines in the sand that signifies anything meaningful, because all these little quirks you add up have different geographical ranges. it's simply genetic white noise, and it's a quiet signal

    meanwhile there is a strong solid tone that is a lot louder: the similarities. so how come the static of surface differences matter so much to some, when if you mapped them they would barely pierce the thick volume of similarities? to focus on these surface statistical perturbations is like someone looking at ripples on the surface of the lake, and completely missing the volume of water in the lake underneath

    this is the logical fallacy of racism: ripples on the surface have lessons for us about the volume of water underneath. race is a concept that is silly shallow antiquated nonsense, for if you really truly understood what you were talking about when you bring up medical quirks and statistical anomalies, if you truly had some wisdom behind your words, then the vast volume of medical knowledge and statistics would speak to you of the similarities more than differences, by orders of magnitude

    so what the fuck is this article supposed to mean? tell us how ripples on the surface of a lake means something. tell us racists, tell us the deep significance. tell me about sickle cell anemia... what is the lesson for us? what great significance are we supposed to attach to this?

    this article is nothing more than a window into the filthy soul of racism, and the fallacies in the reasoning of racists that they overlook to make the evidence fit their presupposed ideas about how much we differ

    when the real lesson of all medicine and biochemistry is how similar we are. focusing on the ripples on the surface, versus the volume of water underneath: the fallacy of the "logic" of racism
  • Re:Uh oh.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Catskul ( 323619 ) * on Sunday March 12, 2006 @11:07PM (#14904907) Homepage
    Sometimes that is the same thing. People who love what they do often do it best.
  • Re:Asians? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by de Selby ( 167520 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @11:12PM (#14904923)
    Well, not to accuse any culture of having an unusual history... there is a connection between reproductive strategy and penis size in the animal kingdom.

    Promiscuous creatures tend to have large penises. Big schlongs (especially with the shape of the penis head) can remove some competitor's man-juices while insuring ideal placement of his own; and greater numbers of sperm increase his chances of reproduction, rather than some of the other guys working the same womb.

    In contrast, creatures that force females into harems have smaller dicks. Males beating each other to gain alpha-male status is where all the pressure is at for these guys. The size of the penis and testicles atrophy to almost the minimum necessary in order to reproduce under nearly ideal (read: sole access to the female) conditions.

    While gorillas developed huge upper bodies to do the beating, human beings may have developed culture to do the same thing (kings and the wealthy get lots of women, etc.). /Not to say there is a real size difference or that this is how it happened.
  • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @11:14PM (#14904928) Homepage
    I believe that every human is equal mentally

    Sorry, but this isn't true. Genetics does play a major role in mental abilities. Take depression for example. It's a true medical condition that involves a serotonin imbalance. Depression DOES affect ones mental abilities. Thankfully however, the right medication can put your mental status and abilities in the "normal" range if treated. This is just only one example, and there are many more. Point is, everyone has slight differences in brain chemistry that is just enough to affect neural activity.

    So yes, some people are better off than others when it comes to processing and storing information. It's a fact of life.
  • in mirror image. libertarianism has as much a tenuous hold on reality as communism, and doomed to just as much miserable failure

    communism holds that altruism, working for the benefit of the group, as something that trumps human selfishness. bullshit. likewise, libertariams holds selfishness, working only for your benefit, as something that trumps human altruism

    the truth? human nature is a duality of altruism and selfishness, none superceding the other, and one ignored in favor of the other at the peril of creating a philosophy out of touch with real human nature, and therefore bound to fail as a valuable guiding philosophy in leading your life and building a society

    the wisest guiding philosphies for capturing the essence of human nature and harnessing it to maximize human wealth and happiness is to be both altruistic and seflish. capitalism, with social safety nets, as in the usa, or socialism, with a capitalist engine, as in europe.

    so beware dear impressionable souls: libertarianism is bunk of the same order and magnitude, in mirror image reverse, as communism. libertarianism is nothing but selfishness with a philosophical bumper sticker stuck on its ass that somehow purports to elevate it to respectability. libertarianism will succeed as soon as human nature is purged of empathy, sympathy, love for one's family, love for one's community, love for humanity itself

    in other words, never

    the only people who take this shit seriously are earnest but naive college students with too much philosophy classes under their belt and no real life experience, 40-something selfish assholes behind on their alimony payments, and nutjobs who horde guns in the woods and consider themselves to be part of the minutement militia, 2 centuries hence

    i wish libertarians and the residual communist idiots would get together on some south pacific island, and leave the rest of us more in touch with the altruistic AND selfish parts of our human nature in peace

    libertarianism = loud, useless nonsense, utterly out of touch with human nature
  • by LionKimbro ( 200000 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @11:26PM (#14904971) Homepage
    BUT... the problem, from a scientific perspective, is that the more we learn about genetics the more evidence exists that there ARE behavioral and personality traits linked to our genes.

    Not at all;

    Genetics is still in infancy, and all we're finding is statistical correlations.

    There is not a single good scientific explanation (I said scientific, not just materialistic -- that is, it has to be backed by experience and have stood to scientific criticism) alive that tells, mechanically, how you get from specific genes, to specific behaviors.

    Instead, what you have is a bunch of materialistic explanations ("This gene here, ... We think it increases chemical agent X, ... Which is statistically correlated with behavior Y..,") that are not scientific (because they have not stood up well to alternative, equally plausible explanations,) that appeal to people with pre-determined beliefs aka "pre-judgements" aka "prejudices." ...who then go on to say, "Because this is a materialist explanation, it is therefor scientific truth."

    That, my friend, is the state of things.

    Evolutionary Psychology is rife with fraud, and you can't throw a stone in a scientific establishment without (A) hitting someone who is passionately sure that it's real, and then (B) the stone riccocheting off to hit some other scientist, who'll say, "This is just wishful thinking on their part, and their literature leaks like a sieve."
  • Nobody's talking about master races or anything like that, but there's still a morally offensive (to some, at least) supposition there: Not all men are created equal.

    It's important to note that the concepts "All men are created equal" and "All men shall be treated equally" are *not* synonymous. Just because some individuals may or may not have better inherent abilities at some tasks is *not* justification for denying equal opportunities.

    Similarly, it would not be justification for excusing certain behaviour (eg: a predisposition towards violence used as an "excuse" for assault). It works both ways.

  • by tenchiken ( 22661 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @11:29PM (#14904985)
    The author goes to extreme ends to try and distance himself from the last people(s) who advocated this philosophy. Namely the Nazis as he himself notes.

    Yet for all that, I don't think that he learned the lesson of the Nazi's and their supposed "scientific evidence". Do not ask Religon for "How". Do not ask science for the answer to "Why". To the degree that he explains certain genetic traits, that is fine. But the dangerous application was when the Nazi's used science to justify their hatred of the Jews. This could easily go the same way.

    More to the point, I don't believe that genetics are destiny any more then I believe that Demographics are Destiny. Science may point out new characteristics and new theories, but that only answers the how, never the why. It may be interesting, but never a reason for segmenting people.

  • by geekotourist ( 80163 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @12:48AM (#14905205) Journal
    The tech conferences I've been to generally are high food environments, and the attendees are not thinner compared to their hypothetical low food dwelling cousins.

    Studies have found that we're wired to eat more food the more choices of food we see. Given unlimited refills we on average will eat just one or two servings if there's just one choice of lunch. But at a lunch buffet we can easily eat 3x or 4x the calories.

    Because all of us are just a few hundred generations (at most) away from our hunter gatherer ancestors, we all want to bulk up during the feast season. Its only been the past 10 generations that a very, very few of us have lived in a non-malthusian world, and 10 generations isn't enough time for any genetic selection.

  • Re:libertarianism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by linguae ( 763922 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:01AM (#14905396)
    a society that cares for its citizens is antithetical to libertarianism.

    You are making a classical statist mistake; conflating government with society. Government and society are two different beasts. Society is the collection of all of the human beings in a certain region. Government is a ruling body that makes and enforces law. Libertarianism is a political philosophy, not a societal philosophy. Even if libertarianism were a societal philosophy, there will be people who care for its citizens. Read below.

    libertarianism only works in a world where humans are so venal and selfish and lizard-like that they can, indeed, see someone fall down, break their arm, and starve to death and completely ignore them

    In a free society, there will be social institutions that will heal those who broke their arms and those who are starving. There are churches, volunteer organizations, families, community food banks, etc. The difference is that people voluntarily choose to donate to these causes. People aren't as selfish as you think they are. There will always be people willing to help.

    Socialist programs, on the other hand, require that the government steal money from its citizens to fund the programs. There is a huge difference between voluntary programs and government programs. In order for a government to support a social safety net, it first must rob from its citizens in order to provide the safety net. Governments are not charity cases. Governments are ruling institutions that use their monopoly of force to push any idea that the rulers want. Did you read the article in my last post?

    Socialism in any shape or form (from modern liberalism all the way to communism) fails to respect the freedom of its citizens. But socialism is the ultimate conflation of government and society, and that it what you seem to be pushing. Socialism is the complete ideological opposite of libertarian, not communism. (At least pure communism understands the role of reducing or eliminating government, even though communism is still completely flawed from the bottom up). Socialism is about government steamrolling individual freedom and free markets in order to promote government and social agendas. Socialism isn't about freedom, it is about governmental control. Government and society should be kept far apart from each other. Government should not be promoting social goals. Social goals are best left to society to manage, not a government to stick guns to the heads of its citizens and coercively enforce its goals.

  • Re:Germans (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Telvin_3d ( 855514 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @02:49AM (#14905526)
    The division of 'male' and 'female' into separate groups for the purpose of study are divisions 'created arbitrarily' ?
  • by smallpaul ( 65919 ) <paul@prescod . n et> on Monday March 13, 2006 @03:21AM (#14905599)

    Libetarianism is about civil liberties and free-market economics. The socialism that you are pandering doesn't work in the long run and restricts the freedoms of its citizens.

    When government takes money from a millionaire and uses it to educate an immigrant's son, it does several useful things:

    • It maximizes average well-being by moving money from where it is undervalued to where it is highly valued. An extreme example of this is those World Vision commercials about how the price of a coffee per day can save a third-world child from going blind.
    • It maximizes the overall size of the economy by improving the quality of the work force.
    • It minimizes the social tension that arises from extreme disparities in wealth and power.

    The benefits of this are obvious to the person on the street, from a high school drop-out to a mainstream economist. This is why libertarianism can never succeed. Furthermore, libertarianism is its own worst enemy. If it is ever close to succeeding it will just trigger a socialist reaction that will strengthen unions and communist parties.

    The "ideal" system is one that rewards people in proportion to their individual (not familial) contribution to society. When you get very far from this ideal (as under pure libertarianism or pure communism) people will cry fowl. Their sense of justice is much stronger than their dedication to any abstraction.

  • by Fred_A ( 10934 ) <fred@fredshom[ ]rg ['e.o' in gap]> on Monday March 13, 2006 @04:02AM (#14905727) Homepage
    Either you're with our stone heads or you're with the terrorists !
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 13, 2006 @04:10AM (#14905759)
    Do you want to know how to make an asian woman do worse then normal on a math test?

    All you need to do is ask them to check one: Male___ Female___

    And to do better?

    All you need to do is get them to answer: Race:_______

    Both of these are cultually based stereotypes, just like you were talking about. If you cue someone with a stereotype of a group they belong to, they will act in a more stereotypical manner.
  • Re:Uh oh.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Irene_Adler ( 960758 ) on Monday March 13, 2006 @09:06AM (#14906565)
    This reminds me of the not-incorrect observation by a certain Harvard dean that women, in general, tend to be better in areas not related to math and science. Regardless of the merit of such a claim, the current political climate is such that any observation other than the obvious is regarded as demeaning. Even obvious differences are often taboo. It would be fine to observe, for example, that asians tend to excell at math and science, but mentioning that they're generally shorter than their european counterparts would be considered insulting by some, regardless of the fact that being smaller has many advantages for survival.
    Ahem. Summers wasn't trashed because he merely observed that men and women aren't found in the same proportions at the top of math and science related fields. He was trashed because he spent a large and rather incoherent segment of his talk trying to say that innate, genetically determined ability was the CAUSE of a fair amount of this observation. And he based his argument on some bathroom reading, the heavy use of the term "standard deviation" (as if it gave his opinion statistical weight), and anecdotes with his twin toddler daughters who liked to play house with their toy trucks. Nobody would have cared about his sloppy thinking if he weren't the President of Harvard and therefore in the position to affect the future careers of many young woman scientists.

    You can read his talk here: http://www.president.harvard.edu/speeches/2005/nbe r.html/ [harvard.edu]

    Getting back to the original article, I am skeptical because the genome is huge and if you look hard enough you'll find coincidences. Of course I haven't read Pritchard's primary study so maybe they allowed for that.

    At your service,
    A short, asian, woman who is good at math and science (and staying at home to take care of a toddler)

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