Peace and Understanding – Part 2

Assuming theo-political wrangling among cons doesn’t serve to wrinkle your reality tunnel,  I should mention that Razib goes on to point up this Reuters account of war-mongering Theravada Buddhists mixing it up with Sri-Lankan peaceniks. 

The backdrop, of course, is the ceaseless and medievally sanguinary civil war being waged among (primarily Hindu) Tamil Tigers and (primarily Buddhist) Sinhalese nationalists, but since I can never quite wrap my brain around that convoluted post-colonial mess, the polarity-tweaking headline will, for present purposes, be reduced to the delicious spectacle of Buddhist fisticuffs. 

Quoting CNN:

On Thursday, around 1,000 people marched in Colombo then gathered in
a park to urge an end to the fighting. Reuters journalists said
scuffles broke out between the peace activists and hardline Buddhist
monks who oppose concessions to the rebels.

The scuffles turned
into an open fight after the shaven-headed, saffron-robed monks took
over the stage, forcing religious leaders from Hindu, Christian and
Muslim communities as well as other Buddhist monks to flee.

were saying we should go to war," said pro-peace monk Madampawe
Assagee. "We like to listen to other opinions so we let them do that
but then they started fighting and we couldn’t control some of our

So tell that to the Dalai Lama.  Oh yeah, I forgot.

While the sight of  war-rallying Buddhist rabble-rousers will come as no surprise to students of the War Nerd , I’m betting it’s enough to send those patchouli-doused  hipster friends of yours into spasms of cognitive dissonance.

Which, as they say, is entertainment.  (But then, so is this).

Peace and Understanding – Part 1

After throwing off the gloves in a recent essay for The American
, the unrepentantly godless right-winger Heather Mac Donald  has brought the
good fight to those cloistered defenders of traditional piety at The
.  True to his increasingly invaluable evol-con creds, gene-geek extraordinaire Razib serves up a useful blow-by-blow, but
without minimizing any nuanced digressions in the thread, I think Mac Donald’s
perspective is well summarized with a couple of finely tuned

When Republican pundits and politicians link  conservatism with faith in a Christian or Jewish God, they are gratuitously  limiting its appeal. I
have heard it said repeatedly over the last six years that what makes
Republicans superior to Democrats is their religious faith. I
would counter that what makes Republican principles superior to
Democratic principles is that they are based on a more accurate
assessment of human nature.


don’t have to believe in a god to see yourself in the other. The golden
rule is based on empathy and  self-interest, not on divine revelation.
Will it break down? Of  course. It is no guarantee against  injustice,
mass killings, and torture, but neither is Christianity.

The bankruptcy of god-derived moral posturing being obvious to me, I see no reason to dwell in this particular fray.  But schisms among intellectual conservatives always make for good fun.  And at present the philosophical infighting seems to be verging on some kind of critical mass. Set aside the warmed-over disputation over God and State and the whole Darwin versus ID thing, and you still have the spectacle of pro-war hawks mixing it up with old right isolationists, or libertarians mixing it up with Kirkian traditionalists. And of course the brawl between nativists (or "citizenists") and the open-borders gang shows no sign of abating. 

I could go on, but that’s not the point.  The point is that in the absence of a universal enemy, Goldwater’s big tent is collapsing before our eyes.  My advice is, enjoy the show and think for yourself.         

Bradley and Andrea, sitting in a tree…

I’m currently sketching on a longish essay comparing the writing of the late anti-porn feminist cum literary memoirist, Andrea Dworkin, with work by the (still kicking) Holocaust revisionist gadfly cum literary memoirist, Bradley Smith.  It’s coming together slowly, but if anyone familiar with these two self-styled shit-stirrers has any insight to offer, I’m all ears.

Here is an excerpt from an unpublished early memoir by Andrea Dworkin.  And here is a piece by Bradley Smith that may surprise you.


“It’s exciting to show that the gap isn’t written in the stars”

As the expected chorus of incautious praise mounts in response to news of a forthcoming report by James Flynn  and company purporting to show a highly significant 4 to 7 point narrowing of the Black/White IQ gap over (roughly) the past 30 years, the stalwart brainforce at Gene Expression outlines some preliminary bases for skepticism.  Noting that "the gap between white and black children does indeed seem to be
decreasing over time," GNXP contributor Darth Quixote (who is well versed in the relevant literature) makes the important point  that the same trend does not hold for adult IQ.  While this may not seem significant at a glance, the potential  hitch, thus observed, arises from the long established finding that "the correlation between genotypic and phenotypic IQ increases with age."   And regression to the mean is a bitch.

Keep in mind the hope once attached to early rounds of intervention studies showing that early boosts in IQ tend to fade as people grow into their genes (pun semi-intended).  While Flynn has fashioned his findings after a meta-analytic rather than experimentally longitudinal review of test data, it remains likely that the observed gap-narrowing trends will prove similarly short-lived as the effects of wide-scale youth intervention are offset by the leveling effect of more genetically weighted adult returns. And of course, this isn’t the only criticism raised in objection to Flynn’s report, which is why Arthur Jensen and Phil Rushton’s forthcoming rejoinder will merit close attention. But genetic regression does strike me as potentially devastating.  Time, as always, will tell.      

Simply stated, the history of IQ research advises that caution should always precede celebration. Still, I suspect there may yet be reason to indulge in some guarded optimism about the big picture, and for this Flynn deserves some incidental credit. Regardless of whether the racial IQ gap is truly narrowing in any significant measure, it defies credulity to believe that the cumulative effect of a half century of nutritional and educational intervention — to say nothing of the less quantifiable (memetic?) benefits attributable to media-facilitated cultural immersion — shouldn’t manifest in some broadly observable cultural benefits for those at the greatest disadvantage.  While I tend to believe that the decade-long decline in violent crime is largely explained by higher incarceration rates, who’s to say that the cognitive effects of wide-scale youth intervention — even if such effects prove to be temporary — couldn’t play some complimentary role?  I don’t know of any evidence for or against such a possibility, but in the absence of a full-scale nootropic revolution, here’s to hoping.    

And for that matter, here’s to James Flynn. As the scholar who famously documented the  still controversial secular increase in IQ (commonly known as the"Flynn Effect"), the University of Otago political science professor has always struck me as a solid guy with a valuable bias.  While other scholars assume it’s infra dig to engage in informed debate with researchers who argue for intractable differences in aggregate cognitive abilities among racial groups, Flynn has always been there, slumming over the psychometric data in good faith and turning out enough original work to keep the hereditarians on their toes. Whether his latest volley stands to scrutiny, his efforts have consistently added value to the debate.  In this important respect, Flynn stands in admirable contradistinction to the late Stephen Jay Gould, who, for all his public honors,  never really played fair.